I am interested in fungal ecology at the community level, particularly the factors that determine community composition, and how that, in turn, impacts community function. My research applies macroecological theory to microbial systems to address theoretical and applied questions with relevance to Hawaiʻi. I am also interested in the natural history and taxonomy of mushrooms in Hawaiʻi.
The focus of our research is to understand how bacteria have influenced the evolution of animals and how these interactions impact their ecosystem. Our group’s approach is to study the interaction between choanoflagellates, heterotrophic nanoflagellates which are the closest living relatives of animals, and their microbial community. We have established the colonial choanoflagellate Salpingoeca rosetta and its prey bacterium Algoriphagus as a new system in which to test hypotheses about the evolution of interkingdom signaling. Our goal is to elucidate the nature and function of the microbial signals that elicit morphogenic responses in choanoflagellates and how these signals impact the cell biology of other members of the microbial community.
My lab investigates the diversity and role of prokaryotes and eukaryotes in terrestrial and marine environments. Current projects explore potential relationships between bacteria and marine invertebrates, taxonomy, and genomics.
My research program is focused on understanding the molecular evolution of visual systems in invertebrates. Specifically, most of my studies investigate crustaceans, including crabs, mantis shrimp, and copepods. My research is integrative, and while it is based in molecular techniques, phylogenetic analyses, and tools such as PCR, I also incorporate studies of ecology, behavior, and physiology into my work for a more comprehensive understanding of visual system evolution.
We are a population genetics lab that combines molecular biology and evolutionary principles. There are two main areas of research interest right now. One is very focused and applied; this is to engineer underdominance (a type of “gene drive” system) in Culex mosquitoes, with a long term goal of being able to transform populations to block disease transmission to endangered Hawaiian birds. The other area is a general interest in the natural history of Hawaiʻi and pursuing various projects to learn more about the evolution species here in Hawaiʻi and across the Indo-Pacific. Currently this includes projects describing sponge (Porifera) and sea urchin (Tripneustes) diversity. We are also involved in teaching genetics and work to develop laboratory teaching models.
There are a wide-range of potential projects that could be done, so long as it involves genetics in a meaningful way. The most important component in my opinion is the student's motivation driven by their curiosity. Many successful projects have centered around developing teaching modules for the genetics laboratory classroom. This includes DNA barcoding for species detection and identification, experiments in Drosophila developmental genetics, testing the effect of various additives in a Drosophila cancer genetics model, and understanding the evolution of antibiotic resistance in bacteria.
The study of Hawaiian algae has a long and fascinating history. The projects in our laboratory span the freshwater, marine and terrestrial algal floras of the islands, and include a broad diversity of algal lineages. We have been characterizing the systematics of these algae as well as their biogeographic affinities, and are now beginning to examine their modes of dispersal to the Hawaiian Islands. We are also beginning to explore the purported link between toxin-producing cyanobacteria and avian botulism on the island of Kauai.