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Faculty Research Interests

Adipoimmunology--Modulation of the immune response by adipokines, hormones made by adipose tissue

I study how to reduce adipose tissue (AT)-mediated inflammation through nutritional interventions. I am interested in elucidating how omega-3 fatty acids decrease AT-produced inflammatory molecules and if this decrease is mediated through the adipocytes or the macrophages residing in AT.

Evolution of species in Adder’s Tongue ferns

As a plant systematist, I am interested in studying how plants evolve, and how understanding their evolutionary history can help us classify them in more meaningful ways. My research focuses on primitive ferns of the family Ophioglossaceae (adder's tongue ferns), and I use both whole organism and molecular methods. I employ DNA sequencing to help understand evolutionary relationships among species, and a PCR based technique (ISSR markers) to evaluate genetic variation within and among populations of closely related species.

Vacuolar H+-ATPase assembly and function

Role of acid pumps in cancer metastasis using human breast cancer cells as a model system and assembly of these pumps using S. cerevisiae as a model system.

Amphibian ecology and conservation

My research focuses on understanding the habitat requirements of pond-breeding amphibians, as well as on expanding the ways in which effects of habitat loss can be measured and monitored. Wetlands themselves have gained some protection in recent years, however many wetland organisms, including amphibians, rely heavily on the terrestrial upland. It is crucial to the protection of native wetland species that we understand both the quantity and quality of terrestrial habitat required to support a healthy population. Many pond-breeding amphibians, particularly Ambystoma species, can live for a decade or more, and this long life span can make traditional population studies challenging. Developing alternative techniques that can supplement, or in some time sensitive cases, replace traditional population studies may aid in the relatively rapid identification of at-risk populations, as well as enable the implementation of more effective management strategies. To that end, I am currently planning several experiments including a long-term population study of a pond-breeding salamander (A. maculatum) and several studies of potential rapid assessment techniques for identifying populations at risk of severe decline or extinction at local ponds.

Gender, race, nation, and sexuality in public health discourses

She is an assistant professor in the Women’s Studies Program and the Department of Biology at Denison University. Her areas of research include critical race and gender studies, feminist studies of science and health, and media studies. In particular, she is interested in the formations of gender, race, nation, and sexuality in public health discourses. With respect to feminist science studies, she works with feminist science methodologies, laboratory practices, and activisms.

Axon guidance

I am using second-site modifier genetic screens in Drosophila to identify components of tyrosine kinase signaling pathways. Once novel genes are identified, they are characterized through classical and molecular genetic techniques.

The stability of plant-insect mutualisms

I am broadly interested in the interactions among plants and their environment and visitors.  In particular, I investigate how mutualisms such as plant-pollinator systems can withstand interruptions by other insects.   I do this in two main study systems, with opportunities to work both in the greenhouse and in field conditions.

Population & community ecology; aquatic ecology

I study the ecology of ponds and the organisms that live in ponds. On a broad scale I am interested in examining the interactions between fish, invertebrate, and plants and I also study community dynamics within small ponds. Often I compare ponds to each other or I study a single a pond across time (several years). I examine competitive and predation-linked interactions between different species of fishes, such as native bluegill and non-native mosquitofish and I explore the short- and long-term relationship between fish and their zooplankton prey (tiny crustaceans). I use a mixture of field surveys, mesocosm experiments, and lab experiments to address different research questions.

Neuroethology of social communication

I am interested in understanding the biological processes that underlie social communication, using the African clawed frog (Xenopus laevis) as my study species.  Xenopus are a fully aquatic frog native to sub-Saharan Africa.  They live in dense colonies and reproduce in the bottom of turbid ponds at night.  Thus they must use non-visual cues to establish their social structure and find mates.  We know they use a relatively elaborate (for a frog) vocal repertoire for social signaling, but they likely also use chemical and somatosensory signals as well.  I am interested in understanding what social signals they use, how they use them, and under what conditions different signaling systems may be employed.  My students and I approach these questions using a variety of techniques, including behavioral observations, endocrine manipulations, and neurophysiological recordings. My goal is to use a neuroethological approach, which is to say, I want to understand the neural mechanisms behind natural social behaviors in the context of their function and evolution.

Evolution of developmental mechanisms using a marine invertebrate, the sea urchin, as a model system.

My research is focused on understanding the evolution of diversity. That is, I am interested in the molecular basis of anatomical, physiological, and behavioral differences that exist among organisms. I address the question of “how the zebra got its stripes” from the perspective of developmental biology. This discipline focuses on how the genetic material (i.e. DNA) regulates the transition of a fertilized egg into an adult. Many developmental biologists, including myself, are specifically focused on understanding the functional consequence of changes in genes and/or their transcriptional regulation (i.e. how they are turned ON and OFF); such changes can alter the outcome of embryonic development, including disease susceptibility in humans. I use a marine invertebrate, the sea urchin, as a model system. Over the past few years, I have been analyzing genes that regulate formation of the larval skeleton in the "primitive" pencil urchin. Since publishing a major paper in 2016 (the culmination of a grant from the NIH), I have specifically focused on two genes that allow the skeletogenic cells to migrate to their appropriate destinations within the embryo; these same genes are associated with metastasis in humans. As always, undergraduate students are involved in my research program, often accompanying me to professional conferences held throughout the US.

Structure and function of insect coloration

I am interested in how animals, especially insects, produce specific colorations and use them in intraspecific communication or anti-predator defense. I use electron microscopy and histochemistry to identify the biophotonic structures that produce colors and optical spectrometry to determine their contrast with visual backgrounds to function as conspicuous signals, or blend with background noise and produce camouflage. Currently, I am exploring the function of intra- and intersexual signals of damselflies and how they are produced in the integument. I am also returning to previous work focused on how habitat preferences and tradeoffs shape the evolution of color patterns in tiger beetles and other cryptic insects.

Population and Community Ecologist

My research examines how the environment influences populations and communities, particularly of amphibians and reptiles. I am especially interested in how human-induced changes in the environment alter community-level interactions.

Molecular Geneticist

Molecular Geneticist — Investigations into the role of epigenetic phenomena in DNA damage repair, using the yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae as a model system.

Pathogenesis of Burkholderia cenocepacia

My goal is to find more effective ways to treat B. cenocepacia lung infections in cystic fibrosis patients. I use infection models to study how the bacterium Burkholderia cenocepacia causes disease and to use bacteriophages to block disease.

Tumor suppression and growth factor signaling

I am currently investigating the functions of several genes that are very highly mutated across multiple types of cancer. It is the goal of my research to understand the normal genetic functions within the cell so we can better understand how cancer develops.
Interested in studying how cytoskeleton networks coordinate to achieve the dramatic shape change during cytokinesis, which is a process that a mother cell divides into two daughter cells.

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Awards & Honors

2017-2018 Awards

This year's Margaret Ann Watkin Scholars, Senior Research, Senior Academic Excellence, and Senior Service awards.

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