Graduate Faculty Research Interests

 

Dr. Christopher Beachy

Amphibian Biology

Dr. Christopher Beachy
Faculty Bio

We work on two related areas: (1) life history biology and (2) metamorphosis. 80% of animal species have a life history that includes a metamorphosis. We use surveys and experiments with amphibians that allow us to understand the relationship between metamorphosis and life history evolution. We perform several kinds of studies but in particular we use (1) time-series collections of animals that allow us to elucidate life history parameters like growth rate, size/age at metamorphosis, and size/age at sexual maturation and (2) laboratory growth experiment with amphibian larvae wherein environmental variables that affect growth are manipulated and the outcome on timing and size at metamorphosis are observed.

 

Dr. Janice Bossart

Insect Evolutionary Ecology

Dr. Janice Bossart
Faculty Bio

Determinants and dynamics of community composition in habitat islands; Biodiversity conservation, especially traits related to species persistence versus extinction; Evolutionary ecology of insect life-history traits relating to host plant and habitat use; Integration of local genetic pattern at the scale of landscapes and species; Historical and contemporary determinants of spatial genetic structure (both molecular and quantitative variation).

 

Dr. Gary Childers

Environmental Microbiology

Dr. Gary Childers
Faculty Bio 

Bacterial source tracking, enhancement of methanogens in coalbeds, and anaerobic microbial nutrient transformations using classical and molecular analyses.

 

 

Dr. Brian Crother

 

 

Phylogenetic Systematics and Herpetology

Dr. Brian Crother
Faculty Bio

Evolution from a phylogenetic perspective; historical biogeography, historical ecology, patterns of gene evolution, patterns of species evolution, methodology and philosophy of phylogenetic analysis. In addition, engaged in survey work for the accumulation of long term data for amphibian and reptile populations in local wetlands.

 

Dr. William Font

Ecological Parasitology

Dr. William Font
Faculty Bio

My students and I study the parasites of estuarine fishes and invertebrates. Hurricane Katrina has provided a new focus for these studies and we now conduct research related to changes in parasite and host communities associated with wetland restoration. Currently, with funding from the United States Environmental Protection Agency, we are assessing the threat of exotic zebra mussels which may spread into Louisiana wetlands via Mississippi River diversions that provide freshwater and sediments to rebuild wetlands near New Orleans. We are studying biological factors such as parasites, predators, and native molluscan competitors that may mitigate the spread of the non-native zebra mussel.

 

Dr. Cliff Fontenot

Herpetology

Dr. Cliff Fontenot
Faculty Bio

My research interests include the behavioral and evolutionary ecology of amphibians and reptiles. My work focuses on salamander reproduction, alligator nesting and foraging ecology, turtle conservation, and garter snake ecology. In addition, my studies on the evolutionary ecology of garter snakes (Thamnophis) have led me in unexpected directions, e.g., how California paleogeology has influenced the evolution of amphibians and reptiles. My studies of garter snake foraging behavior developed into addressing how animals that have independently evolved eyes on land, have adapted to foraging underwater (because of the difference in refractive index). In addition, I am presently involved in a long-term study monitoring amphibian and reptile community assemblages in relationship to swamp degradation, focusing on the Lake Maurepas and Lake Ponchartrain ecosystems (in collaboration with Brian Crother).

 

Dr. Gary Howard

Environmental Microbiology

Dr. Gary Howard
Faculty Bio

Molecular genetics and enzymology of polyurethane degradation. Microbial ecology of anaerobes involved in polyaromatic hydrocarbon degradation.

 

 

 

Dr. Rick Miller

Plant Evolutionary Biology

Dr. Rick Miller
Faculty Bio

The evolution of ecologically important traits. Phylogenetic systematics of morning glories. Molecular genetics of the anthocyanin biosynthetic pathway.

 

 

 

Dr. Nick Norton

Cell Biology

Dr. Nick Norton
Faculty Bio

Scanning Electron Microscopy as an investigative tool supporting various interdisciplinary projects.

 

 

 


Dr. John O'Reilly

Neurophysiology

Dr. John O'Reilly
Faculty Bio

Relationship between molecular structure and electrophysiological function in voltage-gated Na+ channels. Role of ion channels from excitable membranes in health & disease.

 

 

 

Dr. Kyle Piller

Ichthyology

Dr. Kyle Piller
Faculty Bio

Systematics, evolution, ecology, and conservation genetics of North American freshwater fishes. Recent work includes systematic and taxonomic studies of darters ( Etheostoma) and suckers ( Ictiobus and Carpiodes) and conservation genetics of lake trout.

 

 

Dr. David Sever

Herpetology

Dr. David Sever
Faculty Bio

Dr. Sever is well-known for over thirty years of work on the secondary sexual characters of salamanders, including the anatomy, function, and evolution of their skin glands and cloacal glands. Other studies done by Dr. Sever have involved ecology and behaviour, and he also discovered and named the species Eurycea junaluska, a salamander restricted to the southern Appalachian Mountains. His most recent work has involved the morphology and phylogeny of sperm storage and other aspects of the urogenital systems of Chondrichthyes, amphibians, and reptiles.

 

 

Dr. Gary Shaffer

Wetlands Science and Statistical Ecology

Dr. Gary Schaffer
Faculty Bio

Isolating the mechanisms responsible for wetland health and habitat-state change through mesocosm and field studies. Landscape-scale restoration of swamps and marshes, bioremediation of small-scale oil spills, statistical modeling of ecosystem dynamics.

 

 

 

Dr. Penny Shockett

Molecular and Developmental Immunology

Dr. Penny Shockett
Faculty Bio

Lymphocyte development and differentiation, generation of antigen receptor diversity, DNA recombination and repair.

 

 

 

 

Dr. Volker Stiller

Plant Ecophysiology

Dr. Volker Stiller
Faculty Bio

I am broadly interested in how xylem structure supports xylem function. One aspect of this research is water transport and xylem cavitation in rice (Oryza sativa L.) and its implications for gas-exchange and growth.

 

 

 

Dr. Roldan Valverde

Vertebrate Physiology

Dr. Roldan Valverde
Faculty Bio

My main research interests are the comparative endocrinology of stress response, with emphasis in freshwater and marine turtles, and the nesting ecology of sea turtles.
Currently, my lab is focused on three different projects:

Impact of salinity on the endocrine stress response of the freshwater turtle in the Lake Pontchartrain Basin, the development of a quantitative assay to detect endocrine disruption in the red-eared freshwater turtle, and the global estimate of mass nesting olive ridley sea turtles.

 

Dr. Erin Watson

Forensic Entomology

Dr. Erin Watson
Faculty Bio

My research focuses on forensic entomology, carrion ecology, and the use of insects in determining postmortem intervals (or time since death) of human homicides and poached wildlife. Research interests include the carrion habitat, community structure, faunal succession, and development rates of necrophilous insects, animal and human myiasis, and interactions between Calliphoridae, microbes, and decaying remains.

 

Dr. Mary White

Molecular Systematics and Evolution of Development

Dr. Mary White
Faculty Bio

Systematics of squamates using multiple nuclear genes. Evolution of mechanisms of germ cell determination in vertebrates.