Meet Erin Cullather, ’19, a biomedical sciences: medical microbiology major from Highland Park, Illinois. We caught up with the stand-out Division I student-athlete as she prepares to return to Durham following a summer internship at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in Bethesda, Maryland.
Each spring the UNH Center for Social Innovation and Enterprise selects a handful of motivated, high-achieving, impact-focused student leaders for the Social Innovation Internship program.
My master thesis research is trying to determine the salinity tolerance of juvenile lumpfish, so that they may be used for different species in the aquaculture industry as a 'cleaner fish'. The second part of my thesis is looking at the spatial and temporal distribution of juvenile lumpfish in the Great Bay estuary.
My research is focused on examining how stress and the stress hormone, cortisol, impacts sex differentiation in black sea bass (Centropristis striata). Black sea bass are popular recreational and commercial marine species whose culture has been hindered due to the rapid, unnatural sex change that occurs when these fish are placed into an aquaculture facility.
Understanding sex differentiation mechanisms can be applied to try to understand similar physiological mechanisms associated with the sex change in this species. This research will provide insight into how stress impacts the sex differentiation of juvenile black sea bass with a specific focus on aquaculture, although the research can be applied to environmental changes as well.
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.
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.
Oxidized and reduced forms of nitrogen are the most common and costly input nutrient that often limits carbon assimilation in plants. The forms of nitrogen present in plants are nitrate and ammonium, which are very mobile in the soil. N (especially as NO3) is also the cause of significant environmental pollution. The dramatic increase in N fertilization, which plays a crucial role in increasing crop yield, has challenged the farmers to focus on the most effective ways of applying N while avoiding NO3 pollution.
As important as N is for the plant, the predominant component of the plant biomass is C. Carbo assimilation through photosynthesis plays a critical role in inorganic N usage in leaves and the partitioning of assimilated carbon between organic acids, starch and sugars is markedly affected by N availability.
Previous studies conducted in our lab has revealed the effectiveness of enhancing both N and C accumulation through genetic manipulation of a group of metabolites called polyamines in transgenic cells (of poplar NM6) and plants (of Arabidopsis thaliana) through increased putrescine production. The primary goal of my research is to produce transgenic plants of poplar with genes that regulate polyamine biosynthesis.
My master’s research focuses on the formation, persistence, and toxicity of deep-water layers of cyanobacteria in some of these clear-water lakes in New Hampshire and aims to answer an important part of the broader question of when do cyanobacteria blooms produce toxins. New Hampshire boasts some of the clearest, lowest nutrient lakes in the country.