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. 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 Pontchartrain 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. Teague O'Mara

 

Movement Ecology

Dr. Teague O'Mara
Faculty Bio

We work to understand how animals integrate strategies that span behavior, physiology, and immunology to compensate for unpredictable environments -- from regulation of heart beats, to social foraging, and migration. This is done using a synthetic movement ecology framework to discover how the physiology of individuals impacts groups of behavior of wild, long-lived vertebrates. 

 

Dr. Chris Murray

Comparative Morphology

Dr. Chris Murray
Faculty Bio

I am focused on the comparative morphology and physiological ecology of vertebrates in temperate, Neotropical and subtropical coastal wetlands. My questions address how the physiology of individuals alters relevant morphology, population or community ecology. Recent research addresses the interactions among aquaculture practices, crocodile sex ratio biases, and endocrine disrupting compounds in Costa Rica.  Research themes include physiological ecology that tends to incorporate population ecology, endocrinology, sex determination, stress physiology, and reproductive ecology. Further, I am interested in diagnostic and functional morphology, utilizing geometric morphometrics to identify diagnostic characters of undescribed and/or newly described species and assessing phenotypic plasticity in an ecological context. Lastly, I strive to contribute to biogeographic and evolutionary ontology and operation and novel metaphysical thinking regarding the existence and appropriate use of biological units.

 
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. 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. 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 Horzelski
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.

 

 

 

Dr. April WrightStatistical Phylogenetics

Dr. April Wright
Faculty Bio

The Wright lab is interested in statistical phylogenetics, particularly the integration of molecular and morphological information to answer evolutionary questions. For more information, including opportunities for joining the lab,  please visit the Wright Lab website.