My students and I are actively engaged in researching the evolutionary relationships among taxa, patterns of speciation and diversification, and the development of informative classifications. These interests have focused increasingly on homoploid and polyploid plant hybridization as important forms of plant-plant and plant-human evolutionary interactions in both wild and semi-domesticated plant species. Research in my lab engages graduate and undergraduate students in aspects of molecular biology, integrative evolutionary biology, and plant taxonomy, with primary focus on members of the mustard and legume plant families (Brassicaceae and Fabaceae) involving studies derived from fieldwork, molecular biology, and morphology.
Our laboratory focuses on the study of the immunological aspects of the relationship between the Hawaiian bobtail squid, Euprymna scolopes and its beneficial partner, the luminous bacteria Vibrio fischeri. The interaction between these two organisms is very specific and limited to a specialized light organ located in the ventral cavity of the squid. Our research investigates the presence, diversity, and function of complement-like proteins in the squid E. scolopes and their potential role in beneficial symbiosis.
During development, the cells of a multicellular organism differentiate into thousands of distinct cell types. Remarkably, both selector genes and signaling genes are well conserved in all metazoans. In the Drosophila head the eye and antenna develop right next to one another. One focus in the lab is to understand how the eye and antennal selector genes are controlled. We are using genetics and histological techniques to find out what these signaling genes are and how they work. I welcome students who are interested in how an eye gets made, and how different cell types become different from one another. We will work together to design a project that utilizes both genetic and molecular techniques to address current and relevant questions about cell specification.
Research in my laboratory covers techniques in molecular biology, biochemistry, genetics and “omics” (genomics, transcriptomics and metabolomics). We are in the process of identifying genes important in various signaling pathways in the fungus Cryphonectria parasitica that control how this organism responds to external stimuli – an essential ability for pathogenesis but also a feature compromised by virus infection. We identify genes of interest via comparative genomic and classical genetic methods and test hypotheses about the functions of the proteins they make.
In the Hanley lab, we investigate the molecular biology, evolution and ecology of emerging RNA viruses like dengue and influenza, with the goal of using this basic knowledge to design better methods to control the spread of these dangerous pathogens. Students interested in an inter-disciplinary approach to the
study of RNA viruses are always welcome to contact Dr. Hanley about research opportunities in her lab.
The Hansen lab does cutting-edge applied- and basic research in molecular biology, molecular cellular physiology, and cell biology of disease-transmitting mosquitoes. We use the yellow fever mosquito Aedes aegypti and the West-Nile-Virus mosquito Culex quinquefasciatus as models for in our research.
We are primarily interested in the molecular mechanisms by which cells and tissues sense nutrients and in response activate signal transduction pathways which regulate expression and/or deactivation of mosquito genes. A second focus of the Hansen lab is on the regulation of water homeostasis in mosquitoes. We also have multiple ongoing successful collaborations with other groups in physiology, entomology, vector biology, physics, computer science, on and off-campus on related topics including sterile insect technique.
My interests lie in the very broad areas of the evolutionary biology of birds, and of mammals to a lesser degree and covers several areas. 1) Phylogeny reconstruction – the genealogical relationships of organisms to one another. I am most interested in ‘higher-level’ interfamilial and interordinal relationships. 2) Biogeography – the correlation of patterns of phyletic divergence and the origins of new taxa to the geographic distribution of species and the formation of geophysical barriers through time. 3) Macroevolution – the plasticity and polarity of morphological evolution within lineages. I address these diverse problems through the combined study of fossil vertebrates, comparative anatomy (particularly osteology) and DNA sequencing.
Enterohemorrhagic Escherichia coli (EHEC) is a food-borne pathogen that can cause diarrhea, bloody diarrhea, and kidney failure. There is an urgent need for new drugs to prevent or treat EHEC infections as conventional antibiotics are not recommended. EHEC carries in its genome “pathogenicity islands” and prophages that encode numerous virulence factors. Among these are the production of a potent cytotoxin called Shiga toxin and the assembly on the bacterial surface of a Type III Secretion System (T3SS) which is a true “molecular syringe” the bacterium use to disrupt intestinal function. T3SS are present in many Gram-negative pathogens of animals and plants. My research focuses on understanding the post-transcriptional mechanisms regulating the assembly of the T3SS and Shiga toxin production. The long-term goal is to isolate and characterize factors that could be used as potential candidates for antimicrobial therapy.
Giancarlo López-Martínez received his PhD from the Ohio State University and was a NIFA post-doctoral fellow at the University of Florida working with gamma irradiation, free radical damage, and antioxidants.
His current research program at NMSU Biology investigates comparative stress physiology and the long-term effects that short bouts of environmental stress can have on animals. He focuses on how free radical-induced oxidative damage mediates every aspect of animal life by utilizing hormetic approaches to study improvements in organismal performance, lifespan, and healthspan. He uses insects as his models because of the array of molecular and biochemical resources available. Additionally insects are cool, they offer the unique opportunity of turning basic lab research into real world application, and they make great models for aging research.
We are investigating how young animals navigate the complex social and ecological environments through which they must move during dispersal, by radiotracking the movements of both dispersing juvenile and resident adult brush mice (Peromyscus boylii) in their natural environment to answer the following questions: 1) How do pre-existing behavioral differences among individuals influence dispersal movements? 2) How do social interactions with resident adults affect the behavior of juveniles as they move through the landscape? 3) How are survival and reproductive success affected by the interplay of socioecological conditions and individual dispersal strategies? We are using a new automated animal tracking system, social network approaches, and genetic tools to develop a more complete understanding of dispersal dynamics in a natural population of brush mice.
Research in my laboratory focuses on the interface between population genetics, ecology, and evolutionary biology. Specifically, we are interested in quantifying the rates at which evolution proceeds and in elucidating the rules governing evolutionary change of ecological and molecular traits. Ongoing population studies address such questions as 1) at what rate does neutral evolutionary change proceed and how does that determine the balances between genetic drift, migration, and natural selection, and 2) how do population size, mating system, and the demographic characteristics of populations interact to determine the rate of evolution? At a larger evolutionary scale we are concerned with such questions as 1) at what rate do large-scale evolutionary changes occur, and 2) are changes in one trait influenced by changes in others?
My laboratory studies the mutualistic association between sepiolid squids (Mollusca: Cephalopoda) and their Vibrio symbionts which provides a versatile and experimentally tractable model system to study the population dynamics and cospeciation between bacterial species and their diversity among host squids. Since the symbiotic bacteria are environmentally transmitted to new hosts with every generation, this system is ideal for the study of specificity amongst the wide variety of bacteria that reside in the water column. We examine the mechanisms that drive host-symbiont recognition, and assesses whether environmental factors or inherent genetic characters affect speciation and diversity among Vibrio bacteria. We focus on aspects of molecular signaling, population genetics, molecularspecificity of symbiosis genes, competitive exclusion of non-native symbionts, phylogenetic relationships, and modeling of ecological associations.
The primary goal of my research is to develop educational theory and practice which aims to help students reach higher levels of biological literacy. Such literacy is characterized by the ability to critically evaluate, synthesize, and apply biological knowledge to personal, academic, and professional issues. This has led to projects involved in the design and assessment of specific techniques used within courses, as well larger scale educational reform in three areas: biology teaching laboratories, workshop biology courses, and science education outreach programs for K-12 students.
Our lab pursues several lines of research that share a common biophysical theme: the role of membrane ion channels in the reception and transduction of mechanical and chemical stimuli. Our interest in mechanotransduction is furthered through studies of the organogenesis of the mechanosensory systems for hearing and balance that reside in the biomechanical marvel we call the inner ear. Our interest in neurotherapeutics has prompted us to engineer neural cells in tissue culture to study the effects of medicinal plant compounds on membrane channels. Lab members develop independent projects that integrate methods from genetics, informatics, computation, bioengineering, anatomy, and physiology. Students with interests in the physical and mathematical sciences, neuroethics, science policy, research education, and the intersection between art and science are especially welcome.
Our lab is interested in the regulation of the cytoskeleton in embryonic and somatic cells. Our efforts are focused on understanding how the microtubule- and actomyosin cytoskeletons contribute to cytokinesis, the final separation of daughter cells during cell division. Proper cell division requires that chromosome segregation and cytokinesis be tightly regulated in space and time, but the mechanisms by which the cell cycle coordinately regulates these events remain unclear. In cells of the early embryo, is matters are complicated further by their large cell size, low surface area, and lack of functional cell cycle checkpoints. In an effort to approach these complicated questions, our lab uses several experimental models, mammalian tissue culture cells and sea urchin eggs.
My current focus is on undergraduate and K-12 education in the biomedical sciences, including projects in introductory biology, allied-health microbiology, cancer biology and K-12 science education & outreach. After training as a molecular biologist studying meiotic chromosome segregation in yeast and chromosomal rearrangements in oral cancer, I have found my niche in science education.
Environmental Detection of Microbial Pathogens. One goal of this research area is to understand how microbial pathogens are harbored in environmental reservoirs in between disease outbreaks, and to develop better techniques to detect environmental bioagents. We have developed a method to simultaneously concentrate bacterial, viral and protozoan pathogens from surface waters, and have used this to document prevalent pathogen occurrence in the U.S. / Mexico Rio Grande watershed. We are developing carbon nanotube-based sensor for detection of bio and chem agents, and currently we are applying the nanotubes towards rad detection. We are also developing a near real-time microbial detection method based on differential mobility spectrometry and microbial pyrolysis
The Throop Lab is broadly interested in understanding links between plant-level processes and ecosystem processes. We are especially interested in exploring how these organism-ecosystem links are affected by human activities. Most of our work explores the impacts of human activities on plant-ecosystem links within two general themes: (1) the patterns and mechanisms by which individual plants affect carbon (C) and nitrogen (N) cycles and (2) the patterns and physiological mechanisms by which plants respond to perturbations in the C and N cycles. We address these questions through research that integrates manipulative field experiments with modeling techniques. Our experimental approach spans a broad a range of techniques, from the physiological level to the ecosystem level, allowing us to explore links among different levels of ecological organization.
Research in the Wright Lab focuses on the function and evolution of vocal communication in parrots. Across the animal kingdom, the ability to learn vocal signals is restricted to a few evolutionarily distinct groups (songbirds, hummingbirds and parrots among birds; humans, bats and whales among mammals). Parrots are renowned for their vocal mimicry abilities in captivity, but less is known about how learning is used in the wild. Thus parrots present exciting opportunities for understanding how learning shapes communication behavior, how the function of learned vocalizations might differ between species, and how the underlying neural and endocrine mechanisms have evolved.
Research in the Unguez lab focuses on understanding how intrinsic and extrinsic factors influence the properties expressed by excitable cells that make up the neuromuscular system: skeletal muscle fibers and motor neurons. We place a special emphasis on studying the mechanisms by which these cells regulate the maintenance and plasticity of their diverse biochemical, morphological, and physiological characteristics. To address fundamental questions regarding the cellular and molecular mechanisms regulating the differentiated phenotype of neuromuscular components, we have been studying electric fish.
My lab researches Metagenomics of the mosquito gut ecosystem. Mosquito guts accommodate a dynamic symbiotic microbiota that is essential for various mosquito life traits, such as fecundity and immunity against malaria. We are using metagenomic and metatranscriptomic sequencing to characterize the genetic composition and functionality of the mosquito gut microbiome. The comprehensive understanding of the symbiotic relationship between mosquito and its gut microbial community will facilitate to develop novel ways to interfere with mosquito physiology and reduce vector competence.