My scientific interests lie in the evolution of algae. More specifically my research is concentrated on groups of subaerial green algae and freshwater red algae. In order to study character trait evolution, my work is focused on the reconstruction phylogenetic trees based on DNA sequences. Inferred monophyletic or natural assemblages can then be used to elucidate algal biodiversity and taxonomy.
Voltzberg Dome - Suriname, South America
Phycology is the study of algae. Algae are not a monophyletic or natural group, they consist of prokaryotic cyanobacteria, green, red, and brown seaweeds, heterokonts, freshwater macro/microphytes, and even photosynthetic symbionts of corals. Because of its vast diversity, the study of algal systematics can be quite challenging. In addition to marine and freshwater environments, there are even algae that live on terrestrial and subaerial habitats. Algae can therefore be considered ubiquitous.
Unfortunately, algal organisms are commonly reported as nuisances or pests. While it is true that certain algal blooms can quickly overpopulate a given habitat, algae have many beneficial traits. For example without cyanobacteria, the earth would be without atmospheric oxygen. The polysaccharide carrageenan is extracted from red algae. Carrageenan is used as a thicken agent and additive for many commercial products including: ice cream, beer, shampoo, toothpaste, and some candy bars. The black colored wrap of sushi is made from the alga Porphyra yezoensis.
Although there have been numerous biodiversity studies on freshwater and marine algae, subaerial algae has been ignored by phycological researchers. Because of this fact, the main research goals of my Ph.D. dissertation at the University of Alabama were focused on subaerial algal systematics. My specific project specialized in microscopic, green, subaerial algae that inhabit tropical and subtropical regions of the Americas. Since many of these regions of the world are unexplored in reference to subaerial microchlorophytan diversity, there were many exciting opportunities for scientific discovery. Following collection, isolation, and culturing, DNA was extracted and sequenced. Phylogenetic trees were then inferred from an alignment of DNA sequences. These trees will provide insight on algal biodiversity and systematics.
Molecular Biology Bench Work
My current postdoctoral research project seeks to elucidate the systematics of freshwater red algae (Rhodophyta). This project is funded by a National Science Foundation "Tree of Life" grant. This research is conducted in Dr. Morgan L. Vis-Chiasson's laboratory at Ohio University.
Outside of work, I enjoy snowboarding, skateboarding, SCUBA diving, and going to independent music shows (punk, ska, hardcore, and emo). I am also a big Major League baseball fan.