You are here
I am interested in biodiversity and the evolution and development of marine invertebrates, particularly ctenophores and cnidarians.
I'm a graduate student in Chris Amemiya's laboratory, studying the biology of chitin in cnidarians:
I've been involved in a number of collaborative projects on diverse invertebrate models:
Demonstrating that ctenophores possess a through-gut (i.e. Everybody Poops): In collaboration with William Browne's lab at the University of Miami, we used fluorescent food to track digestion in ctenophores (comb jellies), showing that they excrete food waste from their aboral pores and not through the mouth. This was exciting, because it shows that "simple" animals are not necessarily so simple, and that the ctenophore body plan (and its developmental processes) may be more complex than previously thought.
Some press about our findings and other cool ctenophore research:
Developing methods for ctenophore cell culture: In light of recent molecular studies suggesting that Ctenophora, one of the most ancient animal lineages, may be sister to the rest of Metazoa, ctenophores have gathered increasing attention as a crucial taxon for understanding the early evolution of animals. While molecular techniques continue to be developed and optimized in ctenophores, cell culture has not yet been widely explored, despite the pivotal importance of cell culture-based in vitro studies for addressing problems among the major developmental model systems. We have improved upon classic techniques for the isolation and maintenance of multiple cell types from primary cell cultures of the lobate ctenophore Mnemiopsis leidyi. These cells can then be utilized for a wide variety of studies that do not require whole animal assays. With our methods, we have enhanced current studies and widened possibilities for future cellular-level research on ctenophores.
Identifying threatened populations of Nautilus pompilius: The Swalla Lab is involved in a collaboration with paleontologist Dr. Peter Ward evaluating Nautilus population biology and species determinations in the Indo-Pacific using a combination of molecular and morphological data. Nautilus are harvested for their shells (most heavily in the Philippines) and the fishery was not regulated at all before 2016. Our data has helped classify nautiluses under CITES Class II protections for harvest and trade. We collected animals from Australia, Philippines, Fiji, and American Samoa. In American Samoa, our research team was joined by Josiah Utch (and the Utch family) and Ridgely Kelly, the founders of a conservation effort to inform the public about the plight of nautilus.
Examining the native range of Phallusia nigra: I collaborated with tunicate taxonomists in four countries to determine the native range of Phallusia nigra, a species that has been described globally in the tropics and is considered introduced in many areas. We examined historical literature and used population genetics to ascertain whether some populations are actually P. nigra or other species that look similar and may be native to those regions. We presented our findings at the SICB national conference in 2013 and have a manuscript in revision.
2011 - Graduate student
University of Washington
Department of Biology
B.S. University of Miami, 2008
Marine Science, Biology
2009-2011 - Research Technician
University of Miami, Miller School of Medicine
Departments of Endocrinology and Pharmacology
Suzy D. C. Bianco Lab
No publications found