Dr. Carlini's current research projects can be classified into 2 general fields of research: molecular evolution and molecular systematics/population genetics. I am interested in the functional significance of so-called "silent" (synonymous) genetic variation. While synonymous substitutions in DNA do not affect the amino acid sequence of the encoded protein, they may alter expression in at least three ways: translational accuracy/efficiency, mRNA secondary structure, or mRNA splicing. We have recently completed a phylogeographic study of the freshwater amphipod Gammarus minus, a species that is broadly distributed in caves and surface springs across Appalachia, and another study of Antrolana lira, the Madison Cave Isopod, a federally threatened species inhabiting the groundwater aquifers underlying the Shenandoah Valley.
Dr. Connaughton’s research interests encompass the disciplines of developmental biology (nervous system development) and neurobiology. Specifically, she is interested in examining the relation between visually-guided behaviors in larval teleosts and maturation of retinal neurons, circuits, and receptor mechanisms. She is also interested in examining how the development of neural connections could be altered due to mutations or drugs. She has performed experiments that address behavioral/ecological questions, as well as those that employ cell biology techniques to examine retinal circuitry in both developing and adult retinal tissue.
Dr. DeCicco-Skinner's research interests include cancer biology, cell biology, and immunology. Specifically, her research is focused on studying two of the major inflammatory pathways in the cell, MAPK and NF-kB, to identify how these pathways become inappropriately regulated as a normal cell transitions into a cancerous state. Her research uses a variety of immunological and molecular biology techniques in two separate cancer model systems, squamous cell carcinoma and multiple myeloma.
My research focus is on the ecology and evolution of groundwater-dwelling crustaceans, especially amphipods and isopods. The amphipod Gammarus minus is an especially useful model organism because subterranean and surface populations with different morphologies exist, allowing for comparative studies. Current ongoing projects in my laboratory include: 1. Long-term monitoring of the population dynamics of the amphipod Stygobromus tenuis potamacus and the isopod Caecidotea kenki from a seepage spring in George Washington Memorial Parkway. 2. Determinants of community structure in karst springs. This project examines the interactions of size-selective predation by fish and sexual selection on the body size of populations of the amphipod Gammarus minus, and the cascading effect of body size variation among populations on macroinvertebrate community structure in karst springs of West Virginia and Virginia. 3. Hybridization among surface and cave populations of the amphipod Gammarus minus for a QTL analysis of traits associated with cave adaptation. 4. Molecular phylogeography, and genetic adaptations to the subterranean environment, of different species of groundwater crustaceans, in collaboration with my colleague David Carlini.
Dr. Lydeard is interested in the evolutionary history and conservation biology of mollusks and fishes. He also uses molecular techniques to assess species boundaries of unionid mussels and pleurocerid gastropods.
Dr. Schaeff's main research interests are conservation biology, molecular ecology and behavior. She uses molecular DNA techniques in conjunction with behavioral data to investigate gene flow patterns within and between populations (e.g., right whales and gray whales), determine mating strategies (e.g., penguins, right whales), and understand the evolutionary significance of various behaviors (e.g., fostering). She is also conducting a number of studies on fluctuating asymmetry to determine whether morphological asymmetry is a useful tool for assessing population health in endangered species (right whales, manatees, Sable Island ponies) and recently began studying mate choice in gays and lesbians.
Dr. Tudge is primarily a reproductive biologist with particular interests in the reproductive biology of invertebrates. His research focuses on the reproductive cells and associated structures, evolutionary mechanisms, and reproductive behaviors of marine decapod crustaceans. He also has experience dealing with other invertebrate and vertebrate groups and his knowledge of reproduction in crustaceans can be directly applied to other taxa. He uses this interest in crustacean reproduction to investigate the evolutionary history (phylogeny) of particular crabs in the marine, freshwater and terrestrial environment.
Dr. Zeller's research centers on developing interactive laboratory experiences, which heighten interest and awareness of the scientific process and biological principals. She develops exercises for elementary through undergraduate level students which always consist of scientific accurate information. For example, she has prepared laboratories on the structure and function of DNA for fifth graders through college. Her expertise revolves around Genetics and Molecular Biology, but she has also written two General Biology Laboratory Manuals.