My research is focused on using intertidal species, such as mussels and copepods, as models to predict the consequences of climate change on various ecosystems. More specifically, I’m interested in the interactions between ecology, physiology, behavior, and evolution to evaluate the plasticity of an organism regarding its tolerance of varying temperatures, dissolved oxygen, or salinity levels and pH levels. For example, we’ve looked at the effects of chronic and acute salinity changes on thermal tolerance in the tidepool copepod (Tigiropus californicus). At an organismal level, we look at animal behavior to better analyze physiology and behavior interactions under stress. To look at the molecular level, we use FOX and ELISA assays to quantify oxidative lipid and DNA damage after heat stress, as well as PCR to investigate gene sequence differences that could be contributing to differential thermal tolerance. I hope that research of this kind will allow us to predict evolutionary patterns and the effects of climate change, ocean acidification, coral bleaching, etc. on marine ecosystems. Ultimately, the goal is to depict how species interactions, both within a species and with others, is influenced by evolution and functional phenotypes.
Summer 2016: My focus was to determine whether thermal tolerance in the sea mussel Mytilus californianus is genetically determined or whether individuals adjust to their environment through phenotypic plasticity. To investigate this, we analyzed acute thermal stress tolerance and growth rates of common-garden acclimated and reciprocally transplanted mussel recruits. (See Mussel Blog) Summer 2017: Keeping the same focus, I am now analyzing the tissue samples from the thermal stress tolerance through PCR and qPCR to determine the differences between individuals that may have lead to a higher or lower tolerance to stress.
My Future: During my time in research, I've become increasingly interested in organismal/physiological processes in both intertidal zones and tropical marine environments such as coral reefs. I want to explore genetics and evolutionary changes within a single species while interpreting any findings within an ecosystem context and keeping a focus on conservation and ecology. Ideally, I hope to pursue graduate work that entails a combination of field/sea work components and laboratory experiments.
Adult and Juvenile Mussels: Hopkins Marine Station, 2016.