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Marine Ecology and Evolution

Molecular ecology and evolution research encompasses studies of process on three different time scales - affecting individuals, populations, and species. People in the Baums laboratory test ecological and evolutionary hypotheses concerning all three time scales. We focus on research projects that can contribute to both our basic understanding of ecosystems and have applications in conservation biology.

We have two main focus areas in the lab. We study how shallow water corals may survive a warming and acidifying ocean via several mechanisms, including hybridization, acclimatization and adaptation. We combine molecular genetic and genomic methods with field experiments requiring SCUBA diving to understand these mechanisms. We also keep corals in aquaria at PSU for experiments. The second focus area are cold water corals in the deep Gulf of Mexico. We study how these corals were affected by the Deep Water Horizon Oil spill, the largest environmental disaster in recent history. Again we combine molecular methods such as transcriptomics and metabolomics with field and lab experiments to determine the response of cold water corals to natural and anthropogenic oil exposure. During field work, we use remotely operated vehicles launched from ocean going vessels. Corals are engaged in intimate symbioses with prokaryotes and small eukaryotes and thus we study these symbioses to gain a comprehensive understanding of the coral’s response to environmental stress. Undergraduate researchers with interests in molecular methods, computational biology and aquarium maintenance are invited to participate in these projects.

We are interested in undergraduate students who are willing to commit themselves to working in the laboratory for at least one year. You are expected to work for 10-12 hours a week during this time and so become a reliable and productive member of our team. A long term commitment from you is necessary to accomplish our joint goal of creating a rewarding research experience for you. In return for your hard work, you will receive training in cutting-edge research methods and reporting skills that will significantly increase your marketability after you have completed your undergraduate degree. You may receive research credits and in some cases financial support over the summer.

Current projects investigate the hybridization of corals through examination of their genomes and the interactions of corals with their microbiomes. We are interested in students with diverse educational backgrounds and experience in Linux, Perl, Python or R languages to participate in the bioinformatic analysis of these large data sets. You will gain computational skills to handle big data, which has become essential in life sciences research.

Number of undergraduates needed: 2 - 6 open positions for spring 2017
Minimum qualifications: Varies with project. Good organizational skills helpful.

Contact Info

Iliana Baums
213 Mueller Laboratory
Science, Eberly College