Adopt a microbe! The microbiology of climate change

Climate change is the most pressing issue of people today, and while humans play an outsized role in the accelerated self-reinforcing feedbacks to climate, microbes can be a major source or sink for carbon. How microbes respond to climate change remains poorly defined, and this project is part of a larger endeavor to better link molecular data like genomics and metagenomic to climate and ecosystem data to better understand the role of microbes in ecosystem processes.

Spider perception

Our lab is engaged in several projects on spider perception. Students will be assigned to particular projects based on their skills and interests. At the start of the semester, we will spend a lot of time in the field collecting spiders for use in projects later in the semester. Projects include: (1) How spiders explore visual stimuli with their principal eyes. The principal eyes of jumping spiders are moveable, and we can track their movements with a specialized eyetracker. We are testing several species and their responses to various stimuli, including videos of courting male spiders.

Global Invaders

Invasive species reduce biodiversity and are considered a major threat to ecosystems worldwide. Despite general knowledge of their widespread impacts, we still lack a consistent list of which species are invasive, where they have been studied, and what sorts of specific impacts have been identified. This information is critical for understanding the conditions that lead to invasion and informing effective monitoring and management.

Armored scale insects

Our laboratory uses DNA sequences and morphological characters to investigate the diversity, evolution and ecology of armored scale insects (class Insecta: order Hemiptera: family Diaspididae), especially in tropical rainforests. Paid lab assistantships are available for students to prepare DNA and microscope slide mounts from individual armored scale insect specimens. For advanced students, independent research projects are also possible.

Developing a Model System for Studying the Plant Microbiome

Model organisms and model systems are a cornerstone of biological sciences, enabling researchers to control all factors but one for a mechanistic understanding of complex biological systems. There is not currently a model system for the plant-soil ecosystem, since soil is a complex natural system not easily replicated. In this project, a student will work primarily with Dr. DeAngelis (Microbiology) as well as with advice form Dr. Hazen (Biology) and Dr. Ma (BMB) to grow the model plant Brachypodium distachyon in an artificial soil matrix developed in the DeAngelis lab.

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.

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).

Urban Ecology of Backyard Bees and Arthropods

Student interns needed to prepare insect specimens for identification. Research is part of the "Alternative Futures for the American Residential Macrosystem (ARM)" project, a multi-city integrated assessment of local and regional-scale consequences of residential development. We are investigating how varied land management decisions influence the ecological function and communities, and structure of residential yards and other public spaces.

RNA-Seq Analysis of in vitro Transcription

RNA therapeutics are on the verge of impacting human health in dramatic ways. From gene replacement therapies, to regulating the dis-regulated, RNA can not only control the cell, but can encode proteins (for example, wild type, to replace mutant). However, the field is being held back by unexpected challenges in the delivered RNA (primarily an immune response from contaminant RNA structures within the RNA). We are studying those unexpected RNAs, characterizing them and coming up with solutions to overcome the barriers.


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