2021 FACULTY MENTORS

Dr. Rosana Zenil-Ferguson

Dr. Rosana Zenil-Ferguson
Department:

School of Life Sciences

Email:

roszenil@hawaii.edu

Lab Website:

https://roszenil.github.io

Research Focus:

We develop new models and statistics to solve plant evolutionary questions. We are interested in addressing how plant traits interact and produce patters of speciation and extinction across the plant phylogeny. In particular, the lab focuses in the study of polyploid, the mutation that leads to the acquisition of extra sets of chromosomes, and its links to speciation and extinction.

Potential summer research projects:
  • Simulating how genes get lost after a polyploidy event
  • Diversification of ferns in the Hawaiian islands
  • Creating an interactive website of polyploidy data

Dr. Becky Chong

Dr. Becky Chong
Department:

School of Life Sciences

Email:

rachong@hawaii.edu

Lab Website:

Chong Lab

Research Focus:

Our lab uses molecular approaches to understand how interactions between animal hosts and their symbiotic microbes influence diversity across a range of biological scales including individuals, populations, and species. We focus on the evolution and genomics of nutritional symbiosis in plant-sap feeding insects in different systems including cave-adapted species found in Hawaiian lava tubes and invasive agricultural pest species such as aphids.

Potential summer research projects:
  • Population genetics of cave-adapted sap feeding insects
  • Additional studies on insects and their microbial symbionts

Dr. Bob Thomson

Dr. Rob Thomson
Department:

School of Life Sciences

Email:

thomsonr@hawaii.edu

Lab Website:

Thomson Lab

Research Focus:

We work on phylogenomic and population genomic approaches to understanding the history of life. Some of our work focuses on computational and statistical methods for analyzing genome scale data more robustly than current practice allows. We are also focused on the evolution, ecology, and conservation biology of several groups of reptiles. In particular, we study the phylogeny and macroevolution of turtles, an ancient and globally endangered clade, and several groups of lizards including the whiptails, which have one of the most complicated and reticulate evolutionary histories of any vertebrate.

Potential summer research projects:
  • comparative analyses of turtle diversification
  • population genetics and urban adaptation in Oahu’s invasive reptiles

Dr. Cliff Morden

Dr. Cliff Morden
Department:

School of Life Sciences

Email:

cmorden@hawaii.edu

Lab Website:

Morden Research

Research Focus:

We use molecular approaches to phylogenetic and population genetic questions related to the native Hawaiian flora, and address questions of biogeography and issues with endangered species. Hawaii has ca. 1000 species of native flowering plants, 90% being endemic, that originated from 270 colonization events. Some lineages have radiated extensively while others not at all. The reasons for this are diverse. Our research investigates these events to shed light on why and how this has occurred.

Potential summer research projects:
  • Phylogenetics of Hawaiian plant lineages
  • Population genetics of native Hawaiian plants, either common or endangered species

Dr. Megan Porter

Dr. Megan Porter
Department:

School of Life Sciences

Email:

mlporter (at) hawaii.edu

Lab Website:

https://www.portervisionlab.com

Research Focus:

Our lab is focused on the evolution of diversity, complexity, and loss in animal vision, particularly the molecular evolution of crustacean visual systems and development.

Potential summer research projects:
  • Studies of genetic relatedness and eye loss in cave adapted species from Hawaiian lava tubes
  • Characterization of the morphology and gene expression in copepod eyes
  • Gene expression patterns in amphipod eyes
  • Barcoding Hawaiian lava tube community diversity

Dr. Nhu Nguyen

Dr. Nhu Nguyen
Department:

Tropical Plant and Soil Sciences

Email:

nhu.nguyen@hawaii.edu

Lab Website:

Soil Microbial Ecology Lab

Research Focus:

I'm broadly interested in diversity of organisms and how they interact with each other, their environments and the environmental results of these interactions across time and space. My approach may start from molecules and scale up to ecosystems using the best available method to answer questions of interest.

Potential summer research projects:
  • Microbial contributions to the “terroir” of Hawai’i grown chocolates
  • Diversity of yeasts and bacteria in tropical flowers
  • Genome sequencing of undescribed fungi
  • Interactions between fungi and bacteria in soil

Dr. Mikey Kanter

Dr. Mikey Kanter
Department:

Tropical Plant and Soil Sciences

Email:

mbkantar (at) hawaii.edu

Lab Website:

https://mbkantarlab.weebly.com

Research Focus:

The Kantar lab is focused on the intersection of ecology, agriculture, and genomics. A focal research goal in the lab is to examine complex interactions so that everyone can work toward creating food systems that are more productive, healthy and sustainable. To this end the lab has initiated several projects related both to species demarcation, population genomics, and mathematical biology.

Potential summer research projects:
  • Breeding and genetics of crops and crop wild relatives
  • Biogeographic histories of culturally and economically important Native Hawaiian crops

Dr. Peter Marko

Dr. Peter Marko
Department:

School of Life Sciences

Email:

pmarko (at) hawaii.edu

Lab Website:

https://markolabhawaii.org

Research Focus:

The members of my lab investigate questions about how historical biogeographic and contemporary ecological processes together shape patterns of organismal diversity in the world’s oceans. Research projects focus on molecular phylogenetic and population genetic analysis aimed at characterizing the abundance, distribution, and interactions among species.

Potential summer research projects:
  • Metabarcoding of coral reef communities with eDNA analysis
  • Inter- and intra-island patterns of species diversity in Hawaiʻi
  • Genetic correlates of thermal tolerance in Hawaiian corals

Dr. Alison Sherwood

Dr. Alison Sherwood
Department:

School of Life Sciences

Email:

asherwoo (at) hawaii.edu

Lab Website:

https://sherwoodalgalbiodiversitylab.weebly.com/

Research Focus:

The study of Hawaiian algae has a long and fascinating history. The projects in our laboratory span the freshwater, marine, terrestrial, and airborne algal floras of the islands, and include a broad diversity of algal lineages. The Hawaiian archipelago provides a unique location for the study of biodiversity, adaptive radiation and island biogeography. We focus on characterizing Hawaiian algae at the species and community level.

Potential summer research projects:
  • Describing new species of deep water seaweeds from the Main and Northwestern Hawaiian Islands (primary project for the next few years)
  • Further studies on the species diversity or ecology of Hawaiian airborne algae

Dr. Rob Toonen

Dr. Rob Toonen
Department:

Hawai‘i Institute of Marine Biology

Email:

rjtoonen (at) gmail.com

Lab Website:

https://tobolab.org

Research Focus:

Our lab studies a wide range of topics related to the management and conservation of coral reefs and nearby watershed habitats. Research in our lab tends to focus on the wide diversity of marine invertebrates that inhabit coral reefs but are willing to acknowledge the occasional lesson from vertebrates as well. Much of our work has studied the processes that influence dispersal and recruitment as well as the evolutionary consequences of larval developmental modes among Hawaiian coral reef species to better manage our coastal resources.

Potential summer research projects:
  • Coral reef restoration - we have several projects currently underway to develop and test best practices for the growth and restoration of reef corals both in the lab and the field.
  • DNA of coral reef biodiversity - multiple projects use genetic methods to understand what species are present, what is the appropriate scale for resource management, and where the next generation will come from after harvest to develop sustainable practices.
  • Hawaiian ahupuaʻa restoration - through partnerships with site partners throughout the Heʻeia National Estuarine Research Reserve, we are studying the impacts of alien species removal and native restoration on coastal marine ecosystems.

Dr. Sladjana Prisic

Dr. Sladjana Prisic
Department:

School of Life Sciences

Email:

prisic (at) hawaii.edu

Lab Website:

www.prisic.group

Research Focus:

Dr. Prisic studies molecular pathogenesis of tuberculosis and regulatory mechanisms of protein synthesis in bacteria, including environmental bacteria. Recently, she has expanded her interests to include reverse zoonosis with the goal of understanding the impact humans have on animal health and microbiome diversity, which will be one of the projects offered to REU students.

Potential summer research projects:
  • Bacterial adaptation to environmental stresses via ribosome restructuring: Environmental microorganisms have been successfully studied by DNA sequencing methods (who is there?) and more recently efforts have been made to understand how microorganisms respond to changing environments, by RNA sequencing and quantification (what genes are expressed?). However, studying post-transcriptional regulation, e.g., translational regulation, has been lagging behind metagenomics and metatranscriptomics approaches. Therefore, in this project, the major focus will be (meta)proteomics as a tool to understand how bacteria use fine-tuning of ribosome function to adapt to certain stresses, such as nutrient depletion. Students will be able to combine both field and laboratory work for this study.
  • Reverse zoonosis: About 60% of all infectious diseases in humans originate from animals. Such diseases are called zoonoses and are well recognized and intensively studied in medical and biomedical fields. Although several examples of reverse zoonoses are known, the effect on animals and plants that come into contact with human microbiota is not appreciated. Even if no bona fide pathogens are transmitted from humans to animals, it is likely that human microbes that are not normally associated with wild animals change host microbiome and have indirect implication on their health. In this study, students will investigate how widespread contamination by human microbes is in pristine environments and to estimate the potential for reverse zoonosis. Students can choose their model animal (or plant) to study microbial communities.

Dr. Brian Bowen

Dr. Brian Bowen
Department:

Hawai‘i Institute of Marine Biology

Email:

bbowen (at) hawaii.edu

Lab Website:

https://tobolab.org

Research Focus:

Our research program is designed to serve conservation goals by illuminating the evolutionary processes that generate biodiversity. In terrestrial systems, populations are usually defined by discontinuous fragments of habitat. These populations may eventually develop intrinsic reproductive barriers, the starting point for speciation. Hence habitat discontinuities may explain most cases of speciation on land, but what about speciation in the sea, where few such barriers exist? In the sea, the evolutionary rules may be different, or they may operate on a vastly different scale due to the connectivity of a trans-global aquatic medium.

Potential summer research projects:
  • Phylogeography of Indo-West Pacific Fishes
  • Population genetics and conservation of economically and culturally important fish species in Hawai‘i
  • Analysis of community composition and dynamics through the use of environmental DNA