Protein-protein interaction profiles of MADSbox dimer evolutionary variants

Biological processes are accomplished by proteins that depend on interactions with other proteins to carry out their function. These specific interactions are often maintained during evolution. The regulatory network that controls floral development is complex, and still is not completely understood, especially in monocots. Between the homeotic genes specifying floral organ identity, MADS-box transcription factors are key. MADS-box interactions between themselves and with other proteins form quartets, which are critical to DNA-binding.

How does corn use programmed cell death to develop flowers?

The goal of my research is to understand the function of genes involved in corn flower development. Corn plants have separated male and female flowers called the tassel and ear. Early in development, female organs (carpels) are suppressed in the tassel by programmed cell death (PCD), a tightly regulated form of cellular suicide. To understand how carpels are suppressed by PCD in the tassel, I am characterizing a genetic mutant that fails to suppress carpels that we call rapunzel (rzl). Several other maize mutants have been identified that fail to suppress carpels in the tassel.

The genetics and development of specialized floral tissue in grasses

The goal of this project is to determine the genes involved in the development of a specialized floral tissue type in grasses - the awn. The awn, a projection from the tissue that protects the developing seed, has diversified widely throughout grasses. Awns are specialized for a number of ecological roles, including photosynthesis to provide the seed with nutrients, as well as seed dispersal and establishment. Although the ecology of awns has been examined, the genetics and development of awns have not been well-studied.

Avian Bioacoustics - Urban Noise and Bird Song.

Noise affects how birds communicate. Conservation biologists have become interested in how anthropogenic noise may impact behavior and physiology, which in turn may impact population dynamics, evolution of behavior, and community structure. This project is investigating how nightingales and other species of European birds respond to anthropogenic noise. The investigation focuses on how noise might change the acoustic characteristics of songs.

The evolution of seed dispersal in weedy rice

Some plants have evolved to be troublesome weeds of human agriculture. A trait common to many weed plants is efficient seed dispersal. This project involves comparisons between cultivated rice, which does not disperse its seeds, and weedy rice, a bad weed related to cultivated rice that disperses its seeds efficiently. The undergraduate student involved with this project will assist a graduate student who is studying the genetic basis of seed dispersal.

DNA analysis of gall wasp inquilines

Outbreaks of the black oak gall wasp, Zapatella davisae, have been causing extensive tree damage and mortality to black oaks on Long Island, Cape Cod, Martha’s Vineyard, and Nantucket. This mortality is caused through the formation of galls – structures that plants are forced to produce to nourish and protect the insects developing larvae. Work in our lab has identified a suite of parasites associated with the galls of this important pest. These include two types of insects whose larvae develop within the gall structure, potentially killing the Z. davisae larvae in the process.

Wolbachia Screening of Winter Moths

o-evolutionary interactions are influenced by spatial and temporal variations. For host-parasite coevolution, these interactions may lead either to increases or reductions in antagonism. While a number of studies have examined the role spatio-temporal variables on coevolutionary interactions, few studies have been able to examine their influences in a natural setting. Understanding how hosts and parasites coevolve in natural settings is particularly important for studying the invasive potential of non-native organisms.

Wildlife ecology of residential yards and urban green space

We are seeking a student intern to assist with a quantitative literature review of urban wildlife papers to determine spatial and temporal trends, the proportion of research that takes place on different types of green space and whether these patterns have changed over time. Duties will include organizing and compiling relevant literature, reviewing research articles to collect information and entering data in excel. There may also be opportunities to assist with occasional field work in the local area (e.g. mist-netting backyard birds).


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