Archive for the ‘news’ Category

Women In Stem speaker Zanethia Barnett

Posted on: October 26th, 2018 by kdbyrd

Ph.D. candidate, Zanethia Barnett, gave an inspiring 40-minute talk as the invited speaker at the U of MS Women in STEM fall dinner. She gave the audience a peak at crayfish diversity and the work of aquatic biologists. Congratulations are in order!!

Dr. Glenn Parsons Invents Device to Improve Fishery Operations

Posted on: October 18th, 2018 by kdbyrd

Design being tested by Gulf shrimpers reduces bycatch of untargeted marine life

Professor Parsons

Glenn Parsons

A University of Mississippi marine biologist has created a new device that could greatly improve shrimping operations and is putting the device to the test through partnerships with members of the Gulf of Mexico fishing industry.

Glenn Parsons, professor of biology and director of the UM Center for Biodiversity and Conservation Research, has invented a device that reduces unwanted fish and other creatures caught during the commercial fishing process – also known as bycatch – and thereby significantly increases the amount of shrimp caught.

“Bycatch slows down fishing, requiring extensive sorting to separate shrimp from bycatch,” Parsons said. “I have squatted on the back deck of countless shrimp boats, sorting shrimp from bycatch. It is back-breaking work – sort of like picking cotton.”

About a decade ago, Parsons noticed that previous bycatch reduction devices do not take advantage of flow quality changes that encourage fish to move to a place in the net where they can escape. With that in mind and through collaboration with Gulf Coast shrimpers and scientists at the Pascagoula Laboratory of the National Marine Fisheries Service, Parsons developed an improved version.

A typical catch on shrimp boats operating in the Gulf of Mexico contains many unwanted fish (bottom basket), known as bycatch, creating work for crews and reducing the amount of shrimp caught. Photo courtesy of Mark Kopsvywa

A typical catch on shrimp boats operating in the Gulf of Mexico contains many unwanted fish (bottom basket), known as bycatch, creating work for crews and reducing the amount of shrimp caught. Photo courtesy of Mark Kopsvywa

“Called the Cylinder Bycatch Reduction Device, it was developed to increase the amount of shrimp that is retained in the trawl and to eliminate a greater number of bycatch species,” he said. “This BRD creates a flow shadow that draws fish – but not shrimp – to it. The fish are then able to escape.”

Final design modifications of the Cylinder BRD occurred two years ago. The device has been tested by the National Marine Fisheries Service, passing with flying colors.

“A BRD has to deliver 30 percent or more bycatch reduction to be certified,” said Dan Foster, gear development specialist at the service in Pascagoula. “Ours came in at about 44 percent.”

Before administrative certification, Parsons and company decided that it should be placed on commercial shrimp boats to gauge its acceptance. It is being tested on about 10 boats in the northern Gulf of Mexico.

One boat captain using the CBRD gave it rave reviews.

Shrimpers using the Cylinder Bycatch Reduction Device have recorded dramatic decreases in the amount of bycatch (left basket), which means less work and more profitable catches. Photo courtesy of Mark Kopsvywa

Shrimpers using the Cylinder Bycatch Reduction Device have recorded dramatic decreases in the amount of bycatch (left basket), which means less work and more profitable catches. Photo courtesy of Mark Kopsvywa

“He said that it eliminated about half of the fish from the trawl and lost very little shrimp,” Parsons said. “The shrimp loss is a very important consideration for shrimpers.

“Most shrimpers in the Gulf of Mexico are using a BRD called the ‘fish eye,’ and it loses about 10 percent of the shrimp that enters the net. The Cylinder BRD enjoys superior bycatch reduction but only loses 1.7 percent of shrimp.”

The new BRD is fully developed and is being distributed, free of charge, to shrimpers in the Gulf of Mexico. While some changes will likely be required, early evaluation of the device by shrimpers has been extremely promising. Parsons will deliver the BRD to shrimpers wherever they are.

“Feedback from shrimpers is very important for gauging the performance of the device in a real-world situation,” Parsons said. “After using the device, we require a short questionnaire to be filled out. As an incentive, we’re offering a $250 honorarium to try the device.”

Parsons’ device is funded under his U.S. Dept. of Commerce, NOAA cooperative agreement No. NA17NMF4720254, “Application of a New Bycatch Reduction Device for Use in the U.S. Shrimp Industry.”

To evaluate the new BRD, contact Parsons at 662-915-7479 or Learn more about the device at

Congratulations to Drs. Colin Jackson and Ryan Garrick for their NSF award to study genetic, phylogenetic, and microbiome diversity in freshwater mussels.

Posted on: October 10th, 2018 by kdbyrd

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.


To read the full article click the link below.

Congrats to Zanethia Barnett!!

Posted on: October 10th, 2018 by kdbyrd

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.

To see the article –>

Congratulations to Dr. Tamar Goulet for her new NSF award to study the genetic makeup of coral colonies.  

Posted on: September 17th, 2018 by kdbyrd

“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.”

Congrats to Dr. Jason Hoeksema and Dr. Peter Zee!

Posted on: August 23rd, 2018 by kdbyrd

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.

Ph.D. student Zanethia Barnett featured in USDA article

Posted on: August 13th, 2018 by kdbyrd

Zanethia was featured in an article about women in science by the USDA. Check out the article,

Congratulations to PhD graduate student, Zanethia Barnett!!

Posted on: July 17th, 2018 by kdbyrd

PhD graduate student, Zanethia Barnett, gave a talk at the recent International Association of Astacology (crayfish) conference in Pittsburgh.  She won best student oral presentation for her talk:

Detectable Effects of Impoundments on the Genetic Structure of Crayfish (Faxonius spp.) in Alabama 43-Years After Dam Closure

Former Biology honors student thesis featured

Posted on: March 29th, 2018 by kdbyrd

Former Biology honors student, Taylor Patterson, and Dr. Carol Britson are featured in a blog post by Sina Walker. Sina is the Scientific writer and content developer at ADInstruments. Her blog, “Enjoying your Easter Egg? How the type of chocolate you like is linked to your eating behavior…” tells how Taylor’s research found that the type of chocolate your prefer is linked to textural attributes and eating behaviors.  Check out the blog post here.

Congrats to Stephanie Burgess and Chaz Hyseni!!

Posted on: March 26th, 2018 by kdbyrd

Congratulations to the winners of the 8th Annual Research Symposium, Stephanie and Chaz! The Graduate School Council hosts many events throughout the year, but Research Day is of paramount importance.

Stephanie took 1st place for STEM with her advisor, Dr. Ryan Garrick in the podium session. Chaz took second place.

Please see the attached document for the 2018 grant recipients for the podium and poster sessions for STEM, Pharmacy, Liberal Arts and Education, and Applied Sciences. GSC Recipients March 2018