Our research seeks, using molecular genetic tools, to better understand human
interactions with aquatic ecosystems. Some of our current studies are:
conservation, ecological, and aquaculture genetics
public health metagenomics
riverine and estuarine ecosystem metagenomics
oyster nutrient assimilation
vertebrate and invertebrate strain evaluation for aquaculture
flow cytometric analysis of ploidy
Although we cannot see DNA or RNA with the naked eye, these molecules guide the function of all organisms on Earth and can serve as innate tags, gauges of activity, and evolutionary markers. Cataloging and comparing molecular genetic characters such as DNA and RNA across populations and ecosystems provides insight into how organisms develop and interact, a field of study known as ecological genetics.
One arm of my ecological genetic work is metagenomics, investigation of genetic material obtained directly from environmental samples. Major efforts include epidemiological metagenomics (detecting and monitoring for disease causing organisms in the environment), elaborating the effects of microbial community structure on ecosystem function and responses to environmental change (a collaboration with Rima Franklin, PI, at VCU), quantification and assessment of human DNA in dust (collaboration with Tracey Dawson Cruz at VCU), detection and quantification of parasites and disease-causing organisms in heterogenous environmental backgrounds (Kudoa and parasitic amoebae from fishes, Dermo and MSX in oysters, Bacillus in soils, and influenza from environmental isolates), and quantification of functional and taxonomic diversity of microbes in riverine and estuarine ecosystems.
Another arm of my ecological genetic research involves using molecular markers to document the dynamic genetic processes that characterize impacted and managed populations and to employ this knowledge in conservation, restoration, and aquaculture. Projects in this area include utilizing DNA-based molecular indicators of genetic variation to discern macroevolutionary and mircoevolutionary processes in fishes (e.g., American shad), mollusks (e.g., Eastern oyster), and threatened/endangered species (e.g., blackbanded sunfish).
The EGL provides services to the industry and government including genetic mixed stock analysis for estimating harvest composition, genetic biodiversity assessment, and ploidy confirmation by flow cytometry for diploid and triploid adult and larval fish and shellfish (grass carp, black carp, striped bass, trout, and oysters). Contact us at 804.828.1562 through 30 June and at 603.862.3205 effective 1 August for information on contracting these services.