Ph.D. 2004, Harvard University, Division of Medical Sciences (Experimental Pathology)
B.A. 1995, Albion College (Biology and German)
Concepts in Biology
I am studying the biology of two benthic marine animals: sea anemones and sea squirts.
Sea anemones are predators that use fishhook-like structures and tentacles to guide food to their mouths. Other sources of nutrition are also available to these animals, however. Many anemones, like corals, house single-celled, photosynthetic organisms called dinoflagellates. The dinoflagellates provide nutrients for the anemone while living protected from predators within the anemone tissue. Anemones are also host to a variety of bacteria. It remains to be seen if these bacteria, too, provide nutrients, or if they have other ecological roles.
My anemone research currently focuses on the bacteria and, to some extent, the dinoflagellates of the sea anemones Aiptasia pallida and Diadumene lineata. Aiptasia contains both dinoflagellates and bacteria, and is commonly used to model causes of coral bleaching in a lab setting. I am currently identifying the bacteria that live within Aiptasia, to better understand their role in anemone biology. MCLA students have also conducted projects with the dinoflagellates that live within Aiptasia, developing techniques to quantify the organisms and studying the effects of environmental conditions on the anemone-dinoflagellate symbiosis.
Diadumene lineata is an invasive species of anemone. It is originally from Japan, but now populates docks, pilings, and other structures along both coasts of the United States. I am currently growing these anemones in the lab. I will work with MCLA students to identify microorganisms living within these anemones and to examine various aspects of Diadumene ecology.
Sea squirts are marine organisms that live attached to hard surfaces such as rocks and pilings. Of particular concern is Didemnum, a fast-growing sea squirt that readily colonizes living and nonliving substrates. There are no known predators of healthy colonies, and other organisms rarely grow on Didemnum mats. This may be due, at least in part, to chemical defenses - Didemnum has a particularly low pH (that is, it is very acidic). I am working with Dr. Stephan Bullard of the University of Hartford-Hillyer College, Mary Carman of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution and MCLA students to analyze the pH of Didemnum and other sea squirts.
Students have the opportunity to present their research findings at the MCLA Undergraduate Research Conference each spring, or at other local or national conferences.
Goodwin AM (2007) Use of Renilla bioluminescence to illustrate nervous function. in Tested Studies for Laboratory Teaching, vol. 28 (MA O'Donnell, ed.) Proceedings of the 28th Conference of the Association for Biology Laboratory Education (ABLE), p. 183-192.
Office: Venable 308