UH Manoa Seal
University of Hawai'i at Mānoa

BIODIVERSITY - REU


Dr. Stuart Donachie

Dr. Stuart Donachie

Research Focus

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.

Potential Projects

  • Who's in my water filter?
  • Quorum sensing in lava cave epilithic biofilms
  • Cyanobacteria phylogeny and secondary metabolites

donachie@hawaii.edu


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Dr. Marek Kirs

Research Focus

My research focuses on water microbiology and related public health issues, with the overarching goal of improving our water environments and public health. My research projects cover a wide range of aquatic environments, and are typically guided by the State’s needs and interests in water quality.

Potential Projects

  • Based on your own research interest in water microbiology
  • Bacterial and algal communities as indicators of stream health: a study focusing on periphyton in Manoa Stream
  • Rain, trees, and microbes: microbial fluxes in a rainforest
  • Sources of pepper mild mottle viruses in Hawaii

lab website
kirs@hawaii.edu


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Dr. Nhu Nguyen

Research Focus

My lab studies soil-associated organisms and how they interact in symbiosis with each other and their environment. The broad array of projects is aimed at understanding the functional contributions of microorganisms to their environments. We use a multi-disciplinary approach to understand their ecology, diversity, evolution, and place in the Tree of Life. Our experiments can be found in fields, forests, and greenhouses, and in both natural and managed ecosystems, with a focus on tropical environments.

Potential Projects

  • Join current project studying the community of microbes living in the rhizosphere of plants
  • Isolate and identify yeasts associated with Drosophila and other insects in rotting fruits and flowers

lab website
nhu.nguyen@hawaii.edu


Dr. Megan Porter

Dr. Megan Porter

Research Focus

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.

Potential Projects

  • Characterizing the expression patterns of visual pigments in crustaceans, including mantis shrimp or copepod species
  • Characterizing the opsin genes in native Hawaiian birds

mlporter@hawaii.edu


Dr. Alison Sherwood

Dr. Alison Sherwood

Research Focus

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.

Potential Projects

  • Characterization of airborne algae on Oahu. We have multiple ongoing projects examining the biodiversity of airborne algae, as well as their modes of aerosolization. Students will develop an independent study that is related to ongoing work, or assist with a project that is underway.

lab website
asherwoo@hawaii.edu


Dr. Robert Thomson

Research Focus

My lab's research focuses broadly on evolutionary biology and conservation. We're interested in phylogenetics (the study of evolutionary history), bioinformatics, and have a fondness for amphibians and reptiles (although we work with several other organisms also). We do a lot of different types of work in the lab, some involves doing field work, some involves molecular work and genetic sequencing, and some of it involves writing computer code. It's all united in its focus on making better sense of the history of life and conserving biodiversity.

Potential Projects

  • Field surveys to understand the history and patterns of amphibian and reptile invasions across Hawaii.
  • Biogeographic analyses of Hawaiian adaptive radiations
  • Genetic sequencing and bioinformatic analyses of turtles and/or lizards.

lab website
thomsonr@hawaii.edu


Dr. Masato Yoshizawa

Research Focus

Our team is interested in the Brain Evolution and related processes. Animals evolve sensory system and their behavioral strategy to survive and raise fecundity under the given environment. However, their genetic, molecular and neurophysiological bases are not well resolved. We are using the Mexican tetra, blind cavefish and its conspecies, eyed surface fish to understand how the enhanced sensors are well integrated into the central processing, and how internal state (appetite, sleep, mating motivation) co-regulates behavioral output. We are also investigating the regulators for the internal state by studying a set of autism-like behaviors (asocial, hyperactive, sleep-less, imbalanced attention), and gut-microbiota whose metabolites affects the brain activities. Overall, we use genetics, genomics, pharmacology, molecular biology, neurobiology, computer-aided behavioral assays to investigate the brain evolution.

Potential Projects

  • Imbalanced attention: cavefish are attracted to certain vibration stimulus (30-40 Hz) and adhere to it for longer time than surface fish. However, it is not known whether the sensory input or the internal state promotes this adhesion behavior. By using a fine physical ablation of mechanosensory system, pharmacological inhibition of neurotransmitter receptors, appetite hormone receptors, or different diet treatment (gut-biota reconstruction), the student will tackle to resolve the responsible factor.
  • Gut microbiota is likely tightly associated with Autism-like behaviors. However, it is not well characterized. To identify such genetic factors, the student will assist the behavioral phenotyping of F2 hybrids which have the mix of cavefish and surface fish genome and identify the strong association between behaviors and genes and gut biota.
  • Brain anatomy: Difference between cavefish and surface fish brains were briefly reported, however, we are not sure how the integration center for the enhanced mechanosensory inputs differs between surface fish and cavefish. This project will map the difference by using comparative and neuro-tracing methods.

yoshizaw@hawaii.edu


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Dr. Brandon Yoza

Research Focus

  • Biomass conversion - The problem of invasive algae is prevalent on the islands of Oahu, Maui and Molokai. According to the Hawaii Invasive Species Organization, invasive algae cost the State in excess of $20 million annually. In spite of efforts, invasive algae will likely never be entirely eradicated, generating waste over the long term. The primary goal for our research is to investigate the conversion of macroalgae commonly found in the ocean around Hawaii and asses its potential as biomass feedstock for energy production and for the generation of value added products.
  • Methane cycling - Methane cycling between the ocean and the atmosphere is an important component of the global carbon budget and has been receiving increased attention in recent years. The majority of productivity is concentrated along oceanic continental margins where large depositions of organic sediments exist, constituting an immense source. As a significant greenhouse gas, to understand the biological cycling of methane produced in these sediments and its subsequent oxidation before being released into the water column. Investigation of methane cycling in both sediments and the water column are an ongoing part of our research.
  • Biofuel contamination - Analysis and subsequent control and mitigation of microbial contamination of biofuels are important operational considerations. Such contamination leads to lower fuel stability, biofouling, and induced corrosion of fuel-related components. Biodiesel, however, is more likely to be contaminated by microbes than is petroleum diesel. Moreover, biodiesel’s chemical and biological hydrolysis to fatty acids provide labile carbon for sustained growth, which in turn results in acidification by metabolite production and then microbiologically induced corrosion (MIC). We currently isolate and characterize microbiological organisms for environmental samples to further understand its implication upon biofuel stability and its corrosive impacts.

Potential Projects

  • Determination of the potential mineral deposition during long term composting using waste macroalgae.
  • Characterize deep sea sediments collected from hydrate expeditions and determine their impact on repeatable DNA extraction processes used for molecular analysis
  • Characterize recently isolated seawater micro-organisms that have the potential to degrade biodiesel.

byoza@hawaii.edu

Questions? Email us at uhmreu@hawaii.edu