Graduate Student Profiles

Nicole Abate

Research Topic: Noise impacts on animal behavior
Email: nicole.abate@unh.edu

 

Anne Ewert

Research Topic: Lake Water and Aerosols as Pathways for Cyanobacteria Toxins from Lakes to Food Plants

 

Research Topic: The Effect of temperature pH on Five Species of Nudibranch and One Species of Sacoglossan
Email: scotland1978@hotmail.com

 

Lars Hammer

Research Topic: Movement and trophic ecology of Arctic fishes
Email: ljh2001@wildcats.unh.edu

 

Alexander Kulacki

Research Topic: Undergraduate Biology Education
Email: ark1031@wildcats.unh.edu

 

Kate Langley

Research Topic: Factors regulating the production of cyanotoxin in lake aerosols

Research Topic: Cholecystokinin and Endocannabinoid Receptor Expression in the Thalamic Reticular Nucleus
Email: slm10@wildcats.unh.edu

 

Katherine Odanaka

Research Topic: Native bee diversity

 

Sabina Perkins

Research Topic: Ecology and toxicity of deep-water layers of cyanobacteria
 

 

Medina Weerasinghe

Research Topic: Designing Poplar and Willow plants for increased Nitrogen and Carbon assimilation and Biomass yield
 

 

Jordan Bader
Advisor: Dr. Melissa Aikens
Research Topic: Biology education , conservation biology

A view from history shows us that the definition of science literacy is ever growing in both meaning and application. Currently, scientific literacy defines what the public should know about science in order to live more effectively in respect to the natural world (DeBoer, 2000).  Broadly, my research looks at science literacy within the non-STEM major student population and how we can increase their scientific literacy through authentic research experiences.
Socioscientific issues are controversial scientific issues containing multiple points of view from political, economic, sociocultural, and environmental stakeholders. Relevant examples of socioscientific issues are the vaccination controversy, climate change, stem cell research, and conservation issues. Through including socioscientific issues within undergraduate science curricula, students may learn how to critically assess the issue through evaluating multiple perspectives along with scientific content. Broadly, my research focusses on non-science major students and the mechanisms that they are using to make these socioscientific decisions. This research may provide insight into how to design science courses for non-major students so that they may be prepared to face these issues once outside of academia.

 

Jessica Briggs
Advisor: Dr. Daniel Howard
Research Topic:  Genetic and neuro-physiologcial impacts of noise on invertebrates

Communication is necessary to coordinate social interactions in animals. For communication to be effective, signals must be detected and assessed by a receiver, but background noise can interfere with the transmission of a beneficial signal leading to errors by the receiver. Acoustic noise alters behavioral responses for many species but the underlying mechanisms driving behavioral shifts has yet to be determined.

The Australian black field cricket relies on both substrate-borne and airborne signals for communication, making them an ideal model to investigate how the processing of beneficial signals is influenced by different types of noise. I am using a systematic approach to test the, neurological, behavioral, and endocrine response of female crickets under unfavorable acoustic conditions.

 

Wyatt A. Shell
Advisor: Dr. Sandra Rehan
Research Topic: Environmental and genetic signals of behavioral plasticity and social evolution

"I am broadly interested in understanding the evolutionary origins of eusociality, a highly derived and complex form of social organization and reproduction. To do this, I study facultatively social small carpenter bees (genus Ceratina), which represent evolutionary antecedents to the eusocial form. Facultatively social bees demonstrate multiple forms of sociality, and provide powerful models to empirically test social evolutionary theory. My dissertation research applies an interdisciplinary approach to address how variation in environmental factors, developmental processes, and molecular dynamics may influence evolutionary transitions in social complexity."

 

Brooke Woelber
Advisor: Dr. Carrie Hall
Research Topic: Biogeochemical cycling, microbial communities, and the burying beetle.

The Burying Beetle (Nicrophorus sp.) has a unique life history in that they rear young on vertebrate carcasses they have submersed beneath the soil. My research focuses on how the unique life history of the Burying Beetle influences the microbial community in the soil and its biogeochemical processes. In addition, I am broadly interested in the physiological mechanisms regulating the energetics of parental care, and how the environment interacts with species to influence their internal nutrient utilization during energetically expensive behaviors.

 

 

 

Grant McKown
Advisor: Gregg Moore
Research Topic: Salt Marsh Restoration
Research Description: I recently finished my B.S. in Environmental Engineering at the University of Georgia, and fell in love with the idea of Ecological Engineering or simply Ecosystem Restoration, combining engineering designs and ecological principles. The idea of taking environmental gains a step further from conventional environmental engineering was irresistible, so I find myself at the University of New Hampshire studying Marine Biology, with my primary focus on coastal ecology, hydrology, and coastal processes.
My research, though in its earliest infancy, focuses on the restoration design itself by improving monitoring techniques and applying the Restoration Performance Index (RPI) from the National Estuarine Research Reserve System.
Monitoring long-term "success" of "restored" salt marshes and beach dunes remains elusive, leaving questions around the true efficacy of specific designs  (sills with or without windows, groins, fill mixtures of varying organic matter, grass planting layout, etc.).

 
 

Kelsey Meyer
Advisor: Dr. Subhash Minocha
Research Topic: Microalgae involvement in Biofuel: Dunaliella

My thesis project has three objectives: (1) develop and utilize a reliable protocol for the transformation of Dunaliella, (2) see if nitrogen starvation accumulates more lipids, and finally (3) see if more nitrogen sequestration in polyamines also induce lipid production. Nutrient availability has a great impact on growth of microalgae and broad effects on their lipid and FA composition. Nitrogen is the most critical nutrient affecting lipid metabolism in algae.

 
 

 

 

Seth Goodnight
Advisor:
 Dr. Larry Harris
Research Topic: Interactions between a native herbivore and an invasive seaweed

Broadly speaking, I'm interested in how introduced species eventually become normal parts of invaded ecosystems. More specifically I am studying the introduced seaweed Codium fragile and the native herbivore Placida dendritica. By analyzing the life history of the herbivore and the phenology of both species I hope to understand how the two interact and if that interaction is complimentary or antagonistic. I am also interested in the use of online databases and historical information to explore the impacts of introduced species. There is a wealth of freely accessible data that can be used to answer ecological questions, but it requires new techniques and new ways of thinking.

 

Ben Gutzler
Advisor: Dr. Win Watson
Research Topic: Lobster behavioral ecology

I am interested in how decapod crustaceans interact with each other and their habitat, especially in relation to fishery pressures and changing environmental conditions. My work at UNH focuses on how shell disease and other chronic stressors may impact the mating and foraging success of the American lobster. I am also interested in developing novel technical methods such as accelerometers and other dataloggers for investigating behavior in the field. I consider myself a field ecologist and am always happiest when on a boat or underwater!

 

 

Brandon O' Brien
Advisor: Dr. Chris Neefus and Dr. Jenn Dijkstra
Research Topic: Biogeography and Ecology of Seaweeds 

Using a publicly available database of seaweed occurrence records dating back as far as the 1800s, I am investigating how the composition of seaweed communities in the Gulf of Maine has changed over time. This includes comparing species diversity among several sites in the region both historically and presently, as well as trying to detect shifts in the geographic range of individual algae species. I am also interested in studying the impacts that certain recently introduced seaweed species are having on their native competitors.