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Yale Institute for Biospheric Studies Offices

ESC, Room 132
21 Sachem Street
P.O. Box 208105
New Haven, CT 06520-8105
Phone: (203) 432-9856
Fax: (203) 432-9927

Oswald Schmitz, Director
Rose Rita Riccitelli, Assistant Director
LaToya Sealy, Sr Administrative Assistant

Current Projects in Ecological, Behavioural and Environmental Genetics

Our lab is involved in a series of projects in collaboration with PI’s from other laboratories working on a variety of projects. Our main input is to provide support for the collection and analyses of genetic data.

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Effect of climate change on the genotypic diversity of a dominant species, Andropogon gerardii.
Meghan Avolio, EEB graduate student

I am interested in understanding if genetic diversity of dominant species is affected by environmental conditions. Specifically, she is assessing whether the genotypic diversity of Andropogon gerardii is impacted by simulated climate change and how the genetic diversity of dominant species is affected by environmental conditions. Ultimately, she hopes to understand differences between genotypes of A. gerardii in their ability to respond to climate change, and what effects, if any, this has on larger community and ecosystem processes. 

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Meghan on the tallgrass prairie

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Relationships between genotypic and phenotypic ariation of a dominant species (Andropogon gerardii),
community diversity, and productivity in the tallgrass prairie.
Cynthia Chang, EEB graduate student

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My rearch examines the role of diversity at both the community and population level on invasion resistance and productivity in the tallgrass prairie. At the population level, I look at the relationship between genotype and phenotype variation in Big Bluestem, a dominant species in the tallgrass prairie. At the community level, I look at the relationship between species composition and trait variation. By looking at all levels of diversity, I hope to understand some basic patterns and mechanisms behind two important ecosystem processes in the tallgrass prairie, invasion resistance and productivity.

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Ecological stoichiometry and predation: Examining life history trade-offs in Daphnia
Torrance Hanley, EEB graduate student

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I am interested in Daphnia life history and stoichiometry, in particular the effects of manipulating resource quantity/quality and predator presence/absence on Daphnia life history response and elemental composition.  My research includes a lab experiment to tease apart the interaction of these often opposing forces, a mesocosm experiment to test these interactions in the field, and a comparative study of lakes to examine the applicability of these results in a unmanipulated context.  I ultimately hope to link genetic variation in intergenic spacer length (a marker thought to be related to growth rate) to Daphnia life history response and stoichiometry, thus adding a molecular perspective to an ecological question.

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Geomicrobiology of the volcanic sulphur springs of St Lucia, West Indies
Lisa Stout, Geology & Geophysics Postdoctoral Associate

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Dr. Stout  works in Ruth Blake lab using molecular biological techniques to address questions in microbial ecology in geologically active environments.  Dr. Stout’s research focuses on the volcanic Sulphur Springs of St. Lucia, West Indies.  She is studying how geochemical variations between hot spring pools may affect microbial diversity here.
In order to assess diversity of both domains bacteria and archaea at St. Lucia, she is studying 16S ribosomal RNA (rRNA) gene sequences.  The 16S rRNA gene serves as a stable marker used to fingerprint different bacterial types.  Because many bacteria and archaea are as yet unculturable, this provides a more complete picture of microbial diversity.  DNA is extracted from the total community, followed by Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) to amplify bacteria-specific and archaea-specific 16S rRNA genes.  Genes from different species are separated by molecular cloning, and DNA is then sequenced.  Dr. Stout is also currently working with bacterial isolates from St. Lucia that are tolerant to high concentrations of boron.  These isolates are also being characterized using DNA analysis including sequencing of the 16S rRNA gene.

Another project in the Blake lab is involves studying phosphorous cycling in the environment via phosphate oxygen isotopic ratios.  In order to fully understand how PO4-water O isotope ratios can tell us about the environment, we must calibrate this system over a range of conditions, such as temperature, pH, salinity, or nutrient concentrations that reflect the full range seen in the environment and in organisms.  Dr. Stout is growing microorganisms that tolerate a wide range of conditions, from domains bacteria and archaea, including Escherichia coli, Marinobacter aquaeolei, Thermus aquaticus, and Sulfolobus acidocaldarius, as well as several environmental isolates, including those from St. Lucia and from Arctic sea ice.

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Biomineralization of Karst Cave deposits
Sae Jung Chang, Geology & Geophysics Postdoctoral Associate

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Dr. Chang’s work in the Blake Lab involves studies of cave environments, and how microorganisms are involved in formation of apatite deposits in caves, specifically those in South Korea.  Dr. Chang has worked with Dr. Stout to identify types of bacteria in different cave apatite crusts as well as bat guano, a potential source of microorganisms in cave environments, with the goal of providing additional evidence for certain types of microorganisms being involved in formation of cave deposits.  Dr. Chang’s work also used the same 16S rRNA analysis to fingerprint different bacterial types.