Despite setbacks due to COVID19, our new collaborative project studying communities in the Lower Hudson-Raritan Estuary has launched. The goal of the project is to better understand what factors drive variation in this urban estuarine community and what methods best assess variation. Dr. Keith Dunton and Dr. Jason Adolf, along with their students, have started cruises to collect data on fish and phytoplankton. They will also be collecting physical data like salinity and dissolved oxygen.
Our lab will be adding to the project by using a different method to assess communities–eDNA. eDNA is environmental DNA left behind by organisms. We will extract eDNA from water samples taken on the cruises and using next generation sequencing to help sift through the DNA and identify organisms that are part of the community. Students Cameron Gaines and Lilia Crew will be working on this project this semester. You can read more about the project here.
Our Summer Research Program is breaking new ground this year. Our team of six undergraduates is working all online. We are busy learning about experimental design in preparation for some new projects in the lab. We are also welcoming some new members to the lab, Cameron Gaines, Elizabeth Gill, and Caroline Reverendo. Big thanks to Bristol Myers Squibb and the Urban Coast Institute for funding our summer research.
This year’s seniors have had remarkable success at Monmouth University and have shown so much leadership and resilience. David Grossi, Sean Kuback, and Tiffany Longo all earned Research Awards from the Department of Biology for their significant research contributions. David Grossi and Tiffany Longo also received the Tri Beta Chapter’s Chi Eta Award, our highest recognition for scholarship and academics. Tiffany Longo will also be graduating with Honors for her thesis on “Variation in Reproductive Traits among Mice from the Americas.” Finally, Sean Kuback received the first ever Biology Department Transfer Student Award for Academic Excellence and Research. Congratulations, we look forward to seeing you future success!
Dr. Phifer-Rixey gave a talk about her house mouse research as part of the Dept of Genetics weekly seminar series at the University of Georgia. It was wonderful to interact with the faculty, students, and postdocs and to return to a field site for the North American mouse collections.
Dr. Phifer-Rixey attended the first synthesis workshop for the RCN: Evolving Seas held at Shoals Marine Lab. The goal of the workshop was toe bring together ~40 researchers from marine science, evolutionary biology, and oceanography, to form groups to tackle open questions about response to climate change in the oceans. To learn more, see: https://rcn-ecs.github.io/
Nikole Andre graduated with her BS in Marine and Environmental Biology and Policy. She worked on our striper popgen project and was instrumental in getting the lab work started. She is heading home to West Palm Beach, FL and is looking for positions in her field.
This summer we have two teams of students participating in the Summer Research Prorgam. Jesse Bragger, David Grossi, and Tiffany Longo are on Team Mouse, working on multiple projects exploring phenotypic variation among mice from different wild populations. Sean Kuback, Karolina Szenkiel, and Chelsea Barreto are team eDNA. They are part of a collaborative project testing methods of detecting eDNA under controlled conditions. Chelsea teaches at Summit High School and is participating in the NSF Beacon Teacher Revolution program. Go Teams!
The annual Evolution Meeting was held this June in Providence, RI. Scientists from all over the US and the world came together to share their evolutionary research. This year, three undergraduates attended the conference and shared their research at a poster symposium. Tiffany Longo and Jesse Bragger presented their work on variation in reproductive phenotypes in wild mice. Sebastian Vera presented his work testing the relationship between body size, diet, and environment in mice. Tiffany and Jesse were funded by the Biology Department and the School of Science and Seb was awarded a competitive travel grant from the Society for the Study of Evolution. Carleigh Engstrom from Biotechnology High School also presented, supported by NSF Beacon Teacher Revolution. Carleigh was selected to participate in a program placing high school teachers in research labs for the summer and presented her research on population structure in striped bass. We had a great time and came back with ideas for future work!