Susan Bell’s research focuses on topics in marine ecology, especially landscape ecology of marine systems, restoration ecology and marine conservation. Many of her ongoing studies target questions related to ecosystem response to changing marine habitats. Her work focuses on seagrass habitats (quantifying large scale distribution and change) but includes investigations in other coastal areas including mangroves, salt marshes and sandy beaches. In addition, Susan collaborates with a group of researchers, mainly based at USF, that are working on issues linking urban ecology, watersheds and human dimensions.
Currently funded projects being conducted in Bell’s lab address:
- Using satellite imagery to assess seagrass habitats along the west coast of Florida
- Fish utilization of mangrove tidal creeks across the Tampa Bay watershed
- Food webs of sandy beaches across a gradient of anthropogenic impacts, including
the 2010 oil spill
- Restoration of mangrove rimmed habitats
- Mangrove/salt marsh plant interactions along moving boundaries
Office: SCA 332/SCA 112
Phone: (813)974-6229 or (813)974-2542
Tom Crisman and his graduate students focus on ecosystem responses to urbanization, human alteration of watersheds, climate change, invasive species, ecohydrology and the ecology, conservation and management of freshwater lakes, wetlands and streams in Florida and internationally. Current projects in Florida include studies of bird, fish, gastropod and amphibian communities along a rural-urban transect in Tampa and long term change in wetland plant communities relative to excessive extraction of groundwater. His Costa Rican research has focused on establishment of a field station in Guanacaste Province for implementation of a long term watershed management program. Elsewhere, he is assisting a regional ecotourism program within the Sava River basin of former Yugoslavia, restoration of lakes and wetlands of northern Greece and water management throughout the Balkans, Middle East and Central Asia.
Office: SCA 108
Stephen Deban, Graduate Coordinator
Research in Stephen Deban's laboratory is aimed at understanding the biomechanical and physiological mechanisms of how animals move, and how these mechanisms change through evolution. Researchers in the lab integrate biomechanics and physiology to understand the function of animal movement and to uncover general design principles. Researchers also take an evolutionary approach in many of their projects, in addition to studies of proximate mechanisms, so that they can gain insight into how present form and function came to be. The ultimate goal is to formulate broad principles about how complex systems evolve in the face of changing and conflicting functional demands, which is a key pursuit of evolutionary biology. Researchers are currently studying amphibian and reptile feeding, and dog, lizard, amphibian and insect locomotion, among other projects.
Office: SCA 334
Gordon A. Fox
Gordon Fox studies population biology and its applications in conservation, invasive species, and evolution, especially of plants. He focuses on two related areas: 1) population dynamics -- especially on how populations respond to environmental variability; and 2) the ecology, evolution and genetics of plant life histories. Gordon’s research has both field-based and theoretical components. Many of his studies have direct conservation applications.
Current and recent research in the Fox lab includes studies of 1) how fire frequency and seed dispersal affect re-growth of pine populations; 2) studies of mechanisms limiting gene flow between sympatric plant populations; 3) conservation and evolutionary consequences of among-individual variation in demographic properties; 4) studies of the ecology and evolution of long-term dormancy in plants; 5) studies of variation within populations of invasive plants; 6) studies on the species diversity of herbaceous plants in sandhill communities. Gordon works with his students to find suitable research projects, which does not need to be subsets of his own projects, and can be any mix of empirical and theoretical research.
Office: SCA 330
Bradford J. Gemmell
Bradford Gemmell's research is highly interdisciplinary and lies at the intersection of biology and physics. He is interested in the role of animal-fluid interactions in the marine environment and how these govern important biological factors such as predator-prey interactions as well as large-scale ecosystem processes and evolutionary relationships. His work includes a mechanistic approach to investigate how organisms function in fluid environments and extends to sublethal effects of environmental pollutants (e.g. oil spills). He specializes in the use of high speed imaging techniques such as particle image velocimetry (2D) and holographic cinematography (3D) to answer ecologically relevant questions regarding animal interactions with: fluid, predators, feeding, mating, migration, swimming and turbulence. Closely aligned with these studies of animal-fluid interactions is a general interest in the evolutionary arms race between predators and prey, convergent evolution in propulsive mechanisms and understanding biological propulsion for use in bio-inspired design.
Office: SCA 317
Valerie (Jody) Harwood, Department Chair
Valerie J. Harwood leads an environmental microbiology laboratory with research that focuses on the intersection of microbial ecology and public health microbiology. Pollution of water with fecal indicator bacteria (FIB) and associated pathogens has serious economic and public health consequences, but pollution sources are difficult to determine and many questions exist about the relationships among FIB, pathogenic microorganisms, and the public health implications of various sources of fecal pollution in recreational waters. Much of the lab’s research is directed toward identifying and utilizing genes from microorganisms that are specific to a particular host (e.g. cow, horse, dog, poultry, human) and identify the source(s) of fecal pollution in environmental waters. This field, generally termed microbial source tracking (MST), is a rapidly-growing sub-discipline of environmental microbiology.
The research efforts on fecal source identification naturally lead to questions about the ecology of the microorganisms used in MST. For example, what is their fate when they pass from a host to a water body, and how does that fate compare to that of conventional FIB such as enterococci and E. coli, and to the fate of waterborne pathogens such as Salmonella, E. coli O157:H7 and enteric viruses? This lab believes that a better understanding of these relationships, and correlation of these parameters with human health effects in epidemiology studies will provide better public health protection and a rational approach to environmental water quality monitoring compared to reliance on FIB alone. A second focus of research in the laboratory is the ecology and virulence potential of Vibrio vulnificus, a human pathogen that is native to and ubiquitous in Gulf of Mexico waters, and can be transmitted to humans via wound infections or consumption of raw shellfish.
Office: BSF 131
The overarching goal of Marc Lajeunesse’s lab is to understand the natural diversity of parasites and herbivores, and the forces creating and sustaining this diversity--in particular, his lab focus is on using available data to isolate which ecological or evolutionary concepts are applicable over a wide variety of contexts.
Marc uses a broad variety of techniques to pursue this goal; including meta-analysis, comparative phylogenetic methods, field and selection experiments and mathematical modeling. A variety of model systems also are explored: herbivorous insects and mites, plant anti-herbivore defenses, avian brood parasites (e.g., cowbirds and cuckoos) and ectoparasites of dragonflies.
Currently, the lab’s research has two major themes: (1) the development of novel statistics for synthesizing published research and evaluating sources of bias in this research; and (2) providing quantitative syntheses of key ecological and evolutionary principles on host specialization of parasites and herbivores.
Office: SCA 306
David B. Lewis
David Lewis’ lab investigates pattern and process in ecosystems, from distinct landscape elements to the regional matrix in which they are set. Researchers in this lab focus on soil and water element cycles (mainly carbon, nitrogen and phosphorus), and how they are related to ecological communities, land use, and hydrology. At present, the Lewis lab is investigating intermittently flooded freshwater wetlands and intertidal coastal systems, habitats that highlight the dynamic land-water interface. Researchers strive to address basic ecological questions that lie at the heart of applied problems, such as water management in urban environments, and nutrient retention in sensitive coastal habitats. Along with other ecologists, the lab’s collaborators in these efforts include hydrogeologists, remote sensing experts, social scientists and natural resource managers.
Office: SCA 328
Lynn B. "Marty" Martin
The Martin lab focuses on main themes, all revolving around how vertebrates cope physiologically with their environments:
1) Physiological mediation of animal invasions: Some species have been able to occupy habitats all over the globe but others have not. The lab is investigating what physiological adjustments facilitate invasions in one of the most broadly distributed avian invaders, the house sparrow. Collaborators from all over the world (HOSPnet) are helping researchers characterize the endocrine and immune systems of native and introduced populations, but they also are studying in detail the ongoing colonization of Kenya, an invasion that began just 50 year ago in Mombasa. Researchers are evaluating whether alterations in inflammatory responses and/or epigenetic and genetic changes in stress hormone regulations impacts which house sparrows expand the range of the species.
2) Stress and immunity: Generally, stressors are thought of as immunosuppressive, but the effects of stressors on immune functions are actually much subtler. In some situations, immune defenses may be enhanced by stressors and even redistributed to peripheral areas protect animals from infections after failed predation events or aggressive interactions. The Martin lab is trying to develop an eco-evolutionary theory for why stressors impact immune defenses at all.
3) The development of ecoimmunological methods and theory: One of the greatest challenges in ecoimmunology involves how to measure immune function in a meaningful way in wild animals. Researchers are developing diverse new approaches including spectrophotometric assays for anti-microbial activity in body fluids, surgical implant techniques for assessments of local leukocyte influx, ELISA-based assays for immunoglobulins, acute phase proteins, and other factors, and quantitative real-time polymerase chain reaction (QrtPCR) methods for quantification of cytokine and Toll-like receptor expression. The field also has begun to expand and diversify conceptually, and through an NSF support Research Coordination Network, Marty’s lab is working to facilitate this expansion.
Office: SCA 130
Earl McCoy, Associate Chair
Earl McCoy's research interests include conservation ecology, disturbance ecology, biogeographical theory and the philosophical basis of ecology. His recent work has focused on conservation and restoration of severely threatened sand hill and Florida scrub habitats; population biology and genetics of gopher and desert tortoises, Florida sand skink, and Florida scrub lizard; and introductions of biological control agents.
Office: SCA 314
Philip Motta's research interests are in functional and ecological morphology of feeding in fishes, as well as the evolution of functional adaptations for feeding. His graduate students work with Phil on anatomical, ecomorphological, functional morphological, biomechanical, or behavioral projects involving feeding in bony fishes, sharks, and rays. The goal of their research is an understanding of the comparative functional morphology of the feeding mechanisms in elasmobranchs (sharks, skates and rays), the relationship of functional morphology to their feeding behavior, and the evolution of feeding mechanisms in fishes.
The studies they conduct in the laboratory and field utilize a variety of techniques to understand feeding mechanisms in fishes as diverse as billfish, goliath grouper, king mackerel, sharks and rays. These techniques include: anatomical dissection, CT scans, biomechanical modeling, material testing (MTS), electromyography, high speed digital video photography, pressure and bite force measurement, underwater video photography, animal tracking, and evolutionary character mapping to unravel historical changes. Recent and current studies have investigated feeding in bull, blacktip, nurse, hammerhead and whale sharks, numerous species of rays, barracuda, billfishes, goliath grouper, and king mackerel. His research group has helped to elucidate the anatomy and functional morphology of the feeding mechanism in these sharks and rays, the behavior and kinematics (movement patterns) of prey capture, related bite force to jaw morphology, tested some of the functions of jaw protrusion, and studied the evolution and function of jaw suspension types in sharks and rays. Furthermore, their research has tested for modulatory abilities during prey capture (the ability to change or modify feeding patterns with different prey types), investigated ontogenetic patterns in prey capture kinematics and morphology, studied tooth structure and cutting biomechanics, discussed the evolution of their jaw mechanisms, and investigated movement patterns of elasmobranchs and bony fishes.
Past applied research involved an analysis of bite patterns of sharks and bony fishes on submarine towed arrays and material testing of underwater hoses and netting and their ability to resist puncture by bony fishes and sharks. Their research has been funded by the National Science Foundation, NOAA/National Marine Fisheries Service MARFIN, The Porter Family Foundation, and has been featured on numerous documentaries including those of Animal Planet, Discovery Television, National Geographic Television, and The Daily Planet.
Office: SCA 304
Luanna Prevost's research focuses on the development and use of formative written assessments in undergraduate biology education. Writing is an everyday practice in science. However, it can be difficulty to incorporate into classroom practice because of the time required to assess the writing and provide students with feedback. The Prevost lab investigates how text analysis and machine learning tools can be used to analyze student writing about biology concepts. These approaches are being used to understand how students connect ideas in biology and identify student misunderstandings. Additionally, researchers in the lab work with faculty to support the use of written assessments in large enrollment courses. Instructors receive feedback on student written assessments and participate in faculty learning communities. Current projects are focused on student writing in the areas of ecology, physiology, plant biology and genetics.
Office: SCA 318
Christina L. Richards
Christina Richards' research interests incorporate genomics tools and approaches into robust ecological experiments, which will be a critical component of understanding how organisms respond to the ecological and evolutionary challenges of human alteration of the global environment. The rapidly escalating amount of genomic tools developed for model systems grown in controlled conditions can be used to examine the mechanisms of phenotypic response in a broad array of wild organisms and biologically relevant conditions. Also, several epigenetic mechanisms have dramatic effects on phenotype, even in the absence of changes in genotype, and there is increasing evidence that epigenetic processes are an important component of hybridization events and response to stressful environments.
Hybridization and exposure to stressful conditions have been important in the evolutionary history of many plant species and especially in more recent, human mediated plant invasions. Therefore, investigating epigenetic effects in the lab's experimental studies could significantly improve the understanding of the mechanisms underlying phenotypic variation and the translation from genotype
to phenotype. Placing genomics and systems biology within a classic ecological genetics framework allows us to investigate these components of plant response to natural and human altered environments.
Current and future research in her laboratory include studies of: 1) ecological genetics and genomics in coastal salt marsh plants to address ecological interactions and response to climate change; 2) how epigenetic effects contribute to phenotypic variation and ecological breadth in native and invasive plants; 3) experimental evolution of epigenetic effects in Arabidopsis 4) phenotypic plasticity in natural and agricultural systems in changing environments.
Office: SCA 127
Jason R. Rohr
The research interests of the Rohr lab often fall at the interface of ecotoxicology, conservation biology, climate science, and community, population, behavioral, and disease ecology. The lab is particularly interested in how anthropogenic changes, mainly pollution and climate change, affect wildlife populations, species interactions, and the spread of disease. These effects are undoubtedly complex and dependent upon biotic and abiotic conditions. Consequently, the lab and associated collaborators have studied interactions among multiple natural and anthropogenic stressors and are making efforts to integrate its research across disciplines.
The lab's goal is to understand, and develop solutions to, environmental problems to enhance the likelihood of a sustainable existence for both humans and wildlife. Much of Jason's research has focused on amphibians because they are declining globally. However, the Rohr lab has worked with a diversity of taxa and tries to be more motivated by interesting questions, syntheses, and the quest for generalities in ecology and conservation than taxa-specific pursuits.
When possible, the lab's work integrates laboratory experiments, mesocosm studies, field experiments, field surveys and mathematical models to enhance the researchers' understanding of natural systems. Most recently,the lab has been exploring the relationship between amphibian chytrid fungal infections and both climate change and pollution, interactions between agrochemicals and trematode infections of amphibians and humans, the effects of chemical contaminants on freshwater communities and ecosystems, and generalities associated with the interactions among disease, climate and pollution.
Office: SCA 309
Kathleen (K.T.) Scott
Kathleen Scott is a microbial physiologist and very interested in the global carbon cycle. KT's research focuses on uptake and fixation of carbon dioxide and bicarbonate by microorganisms. She studies chemolithoautotrophic bacteria, which form the base of the food web at deep-sea hydrothermal vents, and can act as little 'carbon dioxide vacuums.' She also studies marine algae, which are responsible for approximately half of the carbon fixation on the planet. To study these organisms and processes, KT and her researchers use techniques ranging from bioinformatics to molecular manipulations to stable isotope measurements to whole-cell physiology, while considering
the organisms' activities in situ.
Office: BSF 132
Peter Stiling, Special Faculty Assistant in the Office of the Provost
Peter Stiling received his Ph.D. from University College, Cardiff, Wales, in 1979. Subsequently, he became a postdoc at Florida State University and later spent two years as a lecturer at the University of the West Indies, Trinidad. Peter is currently a professor of biology at the University of South Florida. He teaches graduate and undergraduate courses in ecology, biology and environmental science. He has published more than 100 scientific papers and is the author of Ecology: Theories and Applications, fourth edition. Peter's research interests include plant-insect relationships, parasite-host relationships, biological control, restoration ecology, global change and the effects of elevated carbon dioxide levels on native communities. His research group at the University of South Florida is involved in a variety of ecological investigations which focus on pure and applied ecology projects. The common theme which links each of these projects is plant-animal interactions.
Office: SCA 331