Congratulations to Drs. Colin Jackson and Ryan Garrick for their NSF award to study genetic, phylogenetic, and microbiome diversity in freshwater mussels.
The holobiont concept proposes that the functional organism is the sum of the interactions between a host and its microbiome (i.e., the consortium of microorganisms associated with the host). Department of Biology faculty members Colin Jackson and Ryan Garrick are studying these host-microbiome interactions as part of a recent National Science Foundation award to determine the processes that generate and maintain phylogenetic, genetic, and functional diversity of the freshwater mussel holobiont across multiple geographic scales. Freshwater mussels are a highly imperiled, diverse group of animals that play critical roles in rivers through their filter-feeding activities, and contribute to cycling of nutrients. Although the ecological value of freshwater mussels is widely appreciated, little is known about how factors like the genetic diversity within individual mussel populations, species diversity within mussel communities, or interactions between mussels and their gut microbiomes influence the ecological services they provide, across different environments. Similarly, little is known about how host-microbiome interactions have structured the evolution of both components of the holobiont over time. Dr. Jackson and Garrick’s research, in collaboration with researchers at the University of Alabama, will address these questions. The award, funded through NSF’s Dimensions of Biodiversity program, brings almost $800,000 to the Department of Biology and includes funding for graduate students and a postdoctoral scientist to work with Drs. Jackson and Garrick on the project.
The U.S. Forest Service (USFS) and other federal land managers are responsible for maintaining the productivity of aquatic–riparian ecosystems, the associated native biota, and the ecosystem services they provide.
In this article, Zanethia Barnett, University of Mississippi Biology Department PhD candidate and USFS Natural Resource Specialist, along with a team of USFS scientist describe how disturbance and portfolio concepts fit into a broader strategy of conserving ecosystem integrity and dynamism and provide examples of how these concepts can be used to address a wide range of management concerns.
The Bloomekatz laboratory is seeking a research associate to assist in their investigations of the fundamental mechanisms underlying cardiac morphogenesis and disease using
zebrafish. For more information see below.
Congratulations to Dr. Tamar Goulet for her new NSF award to study the genetic makeup of coral colonies.
"Corals constitute the core of coral reef ecosystems. In turn, coral reef ecosystems comprise an essential component for many countries, including the U.S., serving as barriers from ocean waves, providing food for the population, and income from the tourist industry. The majority of corals are colonies of creatures living in a cup, coral polyps, that are connected to each other with tissue. The underlying assumption about coral colonies, similar to the approach to cells in humans and other mammals, is that the polyps in a colony arose from a single coral genotype. But, what if a single coral colony was actually composed of multiple coral genotypes, which is referred to as a biological chimera? This study challenges the assumption of the genetic identity of coral colonies."
Biology professors Jason Hoeksema and Peter Zee, along with 19 other co-authors from five countries (including former Biology post-doc Megan Rua and former Biology PhD student Bridget Piculell) recently published a paper in the journal Communications Biology that resulted from a 15-year collaboration. The group was trying to understand why plants sometimes derive big benefits from associating with root-inhabiting mycorrhizal fungi, and sometimes do not (even occasionally suffering parasitism from those fungi). They analyzed results from more than 400 previously published papers and found that much of the answer lies in evolutionary history, with some of the original evolutionary origins of mycorrhizal symbiosis (e.g., in the bean family) leading to much less beneficial relationships with plants compared to others. In addition, evolution has led to specificity in plant benefits, whereby particular groups of plants benefit much more from being paired with particular groups of fungi. These results not only enhance our basic understanding of the variable benefits derived by plants from their relationships with soil microbes like these fungi, but may also aid in choosing which fungi to inoculate on plant roots for forestry, agriculture, horticulture, and restoration purposes. Read more about the history of the group's research collaboration in this blog post by Dr. Hoeksema.