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Graduate Program: Research Areas
Concentration in Ecology, Behavior and Evolution (EBE)
Faculty, post-docs, and graduate students in this concentration
work on diverse aspects of ecology, behavior and evolution,
including adaptation, animal movement and habitat selection, sexual
selection, social behavior, community assembly, stress, insect-plant
interactions, speciation, life history evolution, metamorphosis, and
wildlife management. Work in this area integrates fieldwork with
laboratory studies to identify key ecological patterns and
investigate the mechanisms generating those patterns. These studies
include work on plant, microbial, and animal systems in both marine
and terrestrial environments.
Faculty mentors accepting students in EBE:
The Lewis laboratory studies behavior from an evolutionary perspective, and is particularly interested in the ecological context of sexual selection in natural populations. This work uses a variety of model organisms to examine how sex ratios, population density, and parental investment may alter the predicted patterns of courtship behavior and the relative intensity of sexual selection on males and females. Studies on fireflies and the flour beetle Tribolium explore how pre-copulatory and post-copulatory behaviors interact to determine overall reproductive success.
Research in the Wolfe lab links ecological and evolutionary patterns in microbial communities with the molecular mechanisms that generate these patterns. Using tractable microbial communities from fermented foods, we address two broad research goals: 1) identify the molecular mechanisms that control the assembly and function of microbial communities and 2) determine how microbial species evolve within multi-species communities. Projects integrate experimental evolution, metagenomics, comparative genomics/transcriptomics, genome engineering, and in situ community reconstructions. Our work will help develop principles of microbial community assembly that can guide the design and manipulation of microbial communities in industry, medicine, and nature.
Researchers in the Pechenik laboratory are generally concerned with environmental influences on the development and behavior of marine invertebrates. Current projects include control of metamorphosis during development, impact of ocean acidification and other stresses on development and metamorphosis, delayed ("latent") effects of exposure to stresses during development and the underlying molecular basis for those effects, reproductive and physiological adaptations for development under thermal stress, and environmental causes of yearly variation in shell quality for marine hermit crabs.
Research in the Tytell laboratory focuses on understanding the neural control and biomechanics of locomotion in fishes. We aim to understand how neural circuits, body mechanics, fluid dynamics, and sensory systems work together to allow animals to move effectively through complex and unpredictable environments. The work is highly interdisciplinary, integrating neuroscience, sensory and muscle physiology, and functional morphology with quantitative, computational, and engineering techniques. We also use comparative techniques to understand the evolution of functional differences in locomotory performance in vertebrates.
Dr. Trimmer is interested in the control of locomotion and the neural processes that organize sensory and motor information. He is the head of two integrated research labs — the Neuromechanics Laboratory uses an insect (the tobacco hornworm, Manduca sexta) as its primary model system because it has a brain with fewer neurons and their activity can be monitored in freely moving animals and in isolated parts of the central nervous system. Manduca is used to identify how soft animals control their movements, looking at the neural active underlying crawling and defensive striking. This work also examine how a caterpillar "feels", what does it sense when it moves around in the world? The Biomimetic Devices Laboratory focuses on applying biological principles in the design, fabrication and control of new types of machines, including soft robots. These robots can be 3D-printed and used to test ideas about locomotion control and structural design. One of our long-term goals is to "grow" robotic devices using a combination of biosynthetic materials, cellular modulation, and tissue engineering. We are exploring how invertebrate cell culture can be used to structure muscles and supporting tissues on scaffolds of biomaterials.
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