February 28, 2015

Brown-MBL Alumni Gillian Galford Attends White House NCA release

Former Brown-MBL PhD graduate student Dr. Gillian Galford attended the release of the National Climate Assessment at the White House on May 8th. Gillian was a Brown-MBL student in the Geological Sciences Department at Brown University working with Professor Jack Mustard at Brown and Dr. Jerry Melillo at MBL. Gillian graduated in 2009 and is currently a fellow at the GUND Institute for Ecological Economics at the University of Vermont.

Read her story on the release on the National Climate Assessment and a related story on how the climate predictions will affect Vermont.

Brown-MBL Neuroscience Student Justine J. Allen Defends Dissertation

Justine Allen with her adviser Dr. Roger Hanlon

Justine Allen with her adviser Dr. Roger Hanlon

Justine J. Allen, a Brown-MBL graduate student in the Department of Neuroscience at Brown University and the Program in Sensory Physiology and Behavior at the MBL successfully defended her PhD dissertation entitled ‘Adaptive edge design for visual camouflage: Biomechanics of morphing 3D skin papillae in cephalopods and changeable cryptic body patterning in the slender filefish’ on Monday March 24th, 2014 at Brown University. She is advised by Dr. Roger T. Hanlon, Senior Scientist, at MBL.

Justine studied the functional morphology of the changeable, 3-dimensional skin papillae in several species of octopus and cuttlefish and found that most types of papilla are muscular hydrostats where movement and structural support are provided by muscles. One type of papilla was found to function by a buckling mechanism. Justine also performed a comparative study on the fixed, 3-dimensional dermal flaps of the slender filefish. This work contributes to our understanding of soft tissue actuation and the use of complicated skin projections for camouflage.

Justine’s research was supported by grants from the National Defense Science and Engineering Graduate Fellowship, National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship and the Brown University – MBL Graduate Program.

Several publications have already been published on Justine’s research. For more information on her work see the following three citations:

Allen JJ, Bell GRR, Kuzirian AM, Hanlon RT. (2013) Cuttlefish skin papilla morphology suggests a muscular hydrostatic function for rapid changeability. Journal of Morphology. 274: 645-656.

Allen JJ, Bell GRR, Kuzirian AM, Velankar SS, Hanlon RT. (2014) Comparative morphology of changeable skin papillae in octopus and cuttlefish. Journal of Morphology. 275: 371-390.

Allen JJ, Akkaynak D, Hanlon RT. (In Review) Adaptive camouflage body patterning and dermal flap morphology in the cryptic slender filefish, Monacanthus tuckeri, on a coral reef. Biological Journal of the Linnean Society.

Brown MBL Alumni Lindsay Brin Publishes Research in L&O

Brown-MBL alumni Dr. Lindsay Brin recently published her PhD research on denitrification and anammox potential rates in estuarine and continental shelf coastal sediments in the Association for the Sciences of Limnology and Oceanography (ASLO) Journal of Limnology and Oceanography.  The paper entitled  ‘Environmental controls of anammox and denitrification in southern New England estuarine and shelf sediments’ was co-authored by her advisors Anne Giblin of MBL’s Ecosystems Center and Assistant Professor Jeremy Rich, Brown University, and conducted in research labs at MBL and Brown.  Lindsay was a student in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at Brown University and graduated in September 2013. Her publication can be found on the ASLO website.

Citation:  L. D. Brin, A. E. Giblin, J. J. Rich (2014). Environmental controls of anammox and denitrification in southern New England estuarine and shelf sediments’ Limnol. Oceanogr., 59(3), 2014, 851–860.

New Research by Brown MBL Graduate Student Published in JGR

Xi Yang, Brown MBL graduate student, collects leaf data on seasonality on Martha's Vineyard, MA

Xi Yang, Brown MBL graduate student, collects leaf data on seasonality on Martha’s Vineyard, MA

Xi Yang, a fourth year graduate student advised by Jim Tang at the Ecosystems Center at MBL and Jack Mustard in the Geological Sciences Department at Brown University, recently published his work on plant phenology in the Journal of Geophysical Research: Biogeosciences.  Xi and the scientists from MBL and Brown University set up a digital camera in a deciduous white oak dominated state forest on Martha’s Vineyard in the spring of 2011 to discover more about the relationship between canopy level camera phenological metrics and leaf properties and the relationship between remote sensing data and camera phenological metrics.

Digital repeat photography has become a popular tool to track the seasonality of tree canopy color. Yet how this technique can be used for the studies of ecosystem functioning is unclear. Yang et al. (2014) found that there is a mismatch between the canopy greenness and the leaf biochemical content such as chlorophyll concentration. While in the fall, the canopy redness can be used as an indicator of fall senescence.

For more information on his research and findings go to the MBL Blog or read about his work in the Vineyard Gazette and in his recent publication in the Journal of Geophysical Research: Biogeosciences.

Citation: Yang X, Tang J, Mustard J (2014) Beyond leaf color: comparing camera-based phenological metrics with leaf biochemical, biophysical and spectral properties throughout the growing season of a temperate deciduous forest. J. Geophys. Res. DOI:10.1002/2013JG002460

Brown MBL Student Lindsay Brin Defends PhD Dissertatation and Receives a NSF Postdoc Fellowship in Canada

Brown-MBL student Lindsay Brin successfully defended her PhD dissertation on September 6th, 2013 at Brown University. Lindsay, a student in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at Brown University, conducted her doctoral research in the labs of Brown University Assistant Professor Jeremy Rich and MBL Ecosystems Center Senior Scientist Anne Giblin.

Brin’s research focused on the relationship between environmental factors and microbially-mediated nitrate reduction processes in coastal sediments, particularly denitrification, anammox and dissimilatory nitrate reduction to ammonium (DNRA). The rates and relative importance of these processes affect how much nitrogen (N) is available in coastal ecosystems for primary productivity and eutrophication, and are linked to climate through global marine N cycling. Understanding the controls on these processes is essential for predicting the effects of climate change and other environmental alterations on coastal ecosystems.

Brin illustrated the role of temperature, organic matter and nitrate in determining rates of nitrate reduction in New England coastal sediments, providing some of the first seasonal data on these processes and the first measurements of anammox and DNRA in these sediments. She demonstrated that warming and changes in organic matter availability could affect positive feedbacks on primary productivity by altering fluxes of N between the sediments and the water column, and further showed that DNRA may be an important unappreciated process in temperate continental shelf sediments.

During her graduate studies, Brin’s research was supported by a National Defense Science and Engineering Graduate Fellowship, a Stanley Watson Graduate Fellowship in Environmental Studies, and a Sounds Conservancy Grant.

In October, Lindsay will begin a National Science Foundation Postdoctoral Research Fellowship in Biology at the Potato Research Centre in Fredericton, NB, Canada, to study the effects of climate change, particularly altered snow cover, on N cycling in agricultural soils. Through a two year field study she will address the question of how does altered snow cover affect soil N cycling and microbial communities in the winter and through the following growing season.

Former Brown MBL Student, Pedro Flombaum, Publishes Article in Oecologia

Former Brown-MBL student Dr. Pedro Flombaum recently published a new journal article entitled Interactions among resource partitioning, sampling effect, and facilitation on the biodiversity effect: a modeling approach.  Pedro was a 2008 graduate student in the Brown University EEB Program and a former student of Dr. Ed Rastetter at MBL.  He now works at the Centro de Investigaciones del Mar y de la Atmósfera (CIMA) in Buenos Aires, Argentina.  His journal article can be found here.

Brown MBL student Cassandra Bilogan successfully defends her dissertation

Cassandra Bilogan defends her dissertation at Brown University

Cassandra Bilogan defends her dissertation at Brown University

Cassandra Bilogan successfully defended her dissertation on August 5th, 2013 at Brown University in Providence, RI.  Cassandra described her doctoral research that was completed in Dr. Marko Horb’s lab at the MBL’s Bell Center for Regenerative Biology and Tissue Engineering. Cassandra’s research focused on elucidating the molecular mechanisms involved in endoderm development and pancreatic organogenesis in Xenopus laevis. Specifically, she identified a novel role for a well-conserved RNA-binding protein during endoderm development. This research provided new insights into a previously unappreciated role of the spatial-temporal regulation of germ layer patterning during gastrulation. During her graduate studies Cassandra published two first author papers and a second author review paper.

Cassandra is also the first Ph.D. student to graduate from the Bell Center. Her research was supported by grants to Dr. Horb from the National Institutes of Health and a Canadian Institute of Health Research fellowship to Bilogan.

In October, Cassandra will start a postdoctoral fellowship at the Cleveland Clinic in the lab of Dr. Takuya Sakaguchi.

For more information on Cassandra click here

New Harvests for Research on Agricultural Intensification

CN Mbola 17-01-12091 compress

Photo by Chris Neill

Agricultural activities are changing globally in response to increased demand for foods and other goods, but how are these changes occurring and affecting people and ecosystems differently across the planet?

From 14-16 January 2013, postdoc Rebecca Ryals of the Marine Biological Lab (MBL) and the Brown Environmental Change Initiative (ECI) convened a workshop at MBL for faculty, researchers and graduate students working in Brazil, Africa, China and North America to share recent findings from research on agricultural change, spanning natural and social science fields.  Participants hailed from numerous ECI-affiliated departments at Brown, including Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Geological Sciences, and Sociology, the Marine Biological Laboratory (MBL), the Woods Hole Research Center (WHRC) and institutions across the country, including The Earth Institute at Columbia University and the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies in New York, and the University of Virginia.

Researchers presented projects on facets of agricultural intensification from Brazil, East Africa, North America and China.  For Brazil, presented research showed surprising dynamics of the fate and transport of fertilizer-added nitrogen and phosphorus through soils, differing seasonal variations in soil moisture across land use areas, impacts of riparian forest buffers on stream water quality, innovative satellite remote sensing techniques for studying extents and patterns of double-cropping, and relationships between national currency valuation, markets, social dynamics and agricultural production.  For East Africa, preliminary results demonstrated relationships between seasonal patterns in nitrogen transport dynamics through soils , new multi-satellite-based approaches for mapping land cover in complex, small land-holder dominated landscapes, and impacts of fertilizer use on soil microbial diversity.  Research in North America focused on range and livestock management impacts for watershed biogeochemistry, and web tools for increasing public awareness of how personal food choices connect to ecosystem nitrogen losses.  Research in North America and China highlighted relationships between fertilizer rates, and CO2 and N2O losses from soils to the atmosphere.

Together, presentations highlighted that agricultural intensification, the increased use of technology (e.g. fertilizers, mechanization, new cultivars) to improve crop yields per unit area, has progressed in starkly contrasting patterns between places such as Brazil and East Africa.  Environmental and social consequences such as fertilizer-applied nitrogen losses and local food security were shown to matter differently across continents. Discussions stressed that factors from a region’s economic development status before intensification occurs, to soil texture, must be considered integrally for scientists across disciplines to pursue appropriate future research.  The workshop produced outlines for interdisciplinary research papers, watershed-scale research projects, conference proposals, and new senses of camaraderie among participants.

Brown-MBL Student Research on Phosphorous Budgets in Soybean Agriculture in Bioscience and Science Daily

Brown-MBL student Shelby Hayhoe-Riskin’s work on phosphorous uptake and release in soils and associated environmental impacts in the three largest soybean growing regions of the world will be published in an upcoming issue of Bioscience.  Brown-MBL joint faculty Stephen Porder and Chris Neill are co-authors on the paper as are Meagan Schipanski of Pennsylvania State University and Elena Bennett of McGill University. Science Daily reported on the research on December 17th. Read more…

Brown-MBL Graduate Student Priya Dutta Defends Dissertation

Anupriya Dutta. Photo by Jessica Mark Welch

On December 5, 2012, Brown-MBL Graduate Student, Anupriya Dutta, successfully defended her PhD dissertation, ‘Recognizing microRNAs (miRNAs) in Microinvertebrates and Confirming their Absence.’

Bdelloid rotifers are aquatic microinvertebrates that have several outstanding qualities among metazoans. They make up the only ancient asexual animal lineage. Bdelloid rotifers are also incredibly robust to DNA damage, which is a necessary adaptation for life in desiccation-prone environments.  During desiccation, they are capable of incorporating foreign DNA into their genome. An investigation of a class of noncoding small RNAs, called microRNAs (miRNAs), reveals that the unique characteristics of bdelloid rotifers are reflected in their miRNA repertoire. miRNAs are involved in post-transcriptional gene regulation and have been implicated in numerous cellular processes. Some miRNAs are believed to be indispensable due to their integration into many gene regulatory networks.  For this reason, many miRNAs are easy to identify across diverse animal phyla. However, the  conserved miRNA repertoire of  bdelloid rotifers is exceptional in this regard. The surprising miRNA repertoire of bdelloid rotifers not only provides important clues to understanding the asexual evolution of bdelloid rotifers, but also reveals new insights into miRNA evolution in animals.