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Biology Faculty

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Women faculty across the College of Science and Engineering are doing exciting research..........


Department of Biology - Faculty Research

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  • http://www.bio.txstate.edu/about/Faculty---Staff/faculty/Caitlin-Gabor.html

    Research Interests

    Animal Behavior, Behavioral Endocrinology, Behavioral Ecology, Sexual Selection in the context of speciation and predator-prey dynamics

  • http://www.bio.txstate.edu/about/Faculty---Staff/faculty/Dana-Garcia.html

    Research Interests

    Research in the García lab has historically been oriented toward understanding the mechanisms through which light- and dark-adaptation are accomplished in the retina of fishes. Of particular interest are those processes involved in regulating pigment granule movements in the retinal pigment epithelium (RPE). As reflected in the publications and theses listed below, much of our effort has been oriented toward discovering how acetylcholine activates light-adaptive pigment granule dispersion in retinal pigment epithelium, both in terms of the cell surface receptors involved and the downstream signaling processes.

    Our research using RPE isolated from green sunfish and bluegill supports a model in which acetylcholine activates a muscarinic receptor, activating a G-protein, which in turn activates phospholipase C, leading to release of calcium from intracellular stores and consequent pigment granule dispersion. Furthermore, using immunohistochemistry we have demonstrated that bluegill RPE express m3 and m5 muscarinic receptors, consistent with our pharmacological results. It remains to be determined whether acetylcholine is a physiologically relevant signal for light adaptive responses in the fish. Our work in zebrafish suggests that muscarinic receptors (m1a, m1b, m3a, m3b, m5a and m5b) are expressed in the eye early in development. Based on others' work reporting that rudimentary light- and dark-adaptive movements are initiated by 5 days, but not fully developed until adulthood, our work indicates that muscarinic receptors may be present by the time pigment granule movements are initiated. Interestingly, muscarinic receptors (m2 and m5) show diurnal changes in their expression levels at the mRNA level while m3 receptors show changes at the protein level.

    We are also interested in dark-adaptive processes, specifically exploring the hypothesis that photoreceptors export cyclic nucleotides in the dark using an ATP-binding cassette transporter, and those cyclic nucleotides, acting as both a first and second messenger, are taken up by the RPE and elicit dark-adaptive pigment granule aggregation. Evidence in support of this model comes from studies on green sunfish and bluegill RPE showing that treating isolated RPE with non-derivatized cAMP induces pigment granule aggregation and that aggregation is inhibited by treating cells with inhibitors of organic anion transport. The same treatment blocks uptake of tritiated cAMP, providing direct evidence of transport-mediated uptake of cAMP. Currently, we are probing zebrafish retina to determine the presence and location of MRP4.

    Zebrafish express duplicate forms of many of the genes involved in pigmentation and we are currently working to understand both the regulation of duplicate genes as well as the role of their gene products in influencing pigment granule position in both melanophores (pigmented cells of the skin) and RPE. Interestingly, suprisingly few genes are show a diurnal rhythm in their expression in the eye.

  • http://www.bio.txstate.edu/about/Faculty---Staff/faculty/Susan-Schwinning.html

    Research Interests

    Our lab examines terrestrial plant dynamics from the individual plant to the community level through the lens of plant water relations. Plant function is fundamentally constrained by the availability of water, which varies in complex ways across space and time. Plants engage numerous, diverse strategies to optimize growth and reproduction when water is available, while limiting losses when it is not. How these adaptations to a variable and uncertain environment translate into patterns of productivity, population dynamics, community structure and vegetation response to climate change is the overarching question that motivates our research. Research methods span the gamut from field research, greenhouse experiments and mathematical modeling.

  • http://www.bio.txstate.edu/about/Faculty---Staff/faculty/Paula-Williamson.html

    Research Interests

    Conservation Biology and Endangered Species Biology  - My lab is interested in understanding causes of species rareness, particularly with regard to reproductive biology. Our work includes relating life history traits and pollination ecology to genetic variability of rare species. We are also interested in reintroduction as a potential recovery measure.

  • http://www.bio.txstate.edu/about/Faculty---Staff/faculty/Shannon-Weigum--Ph-D--.html

    Research Interests

    Our research addresses the clinical need for rapid diagnostic tests in developing countries and other resource-poor settings where the high cost and lack of laboratory equipment, infrastructure, and skilled personnel present barriers to proper disease prevention and treatment. Microfluidic sensors, also known as lab-on-a-chip devices, offer unique opportunities to address these challenges. Their small feature size (0.1 µm – 100 µm) enables lower consumption of costly reagents, shorter reaction times, and permits multiple laboratory processes to be completed on a single platform. The long-term goal of our research is to develop simple, patterned microfluidic devices for diagnostic bioassays (whole-cell, protein, and nucleic acid) which are rapid, inexpensive, and can be deployed at the point-of-care. 

  • http://www.bio.txstate.edu/about/Faculty---Staff/faculty/Sandra-West.html

    Research Interests

    Science Education, Lab Safety

  • http://www.bio.txstate.edu/about/Faculty---Staff/faculty/Julie-Westerlund.html

    Research Interests

    My research interests are in the area of science education, GLOBE research, teacher professional development, quality and effects of standardized testing in science, and inquiry-based science teaching.

  • http://www.bio.txstate.edu/about/Faculty---Staff/faculty/Kristy-Daniel.html

    Research Interests

    I am a discipline-based education researcher focused on exploring biology learning. My primary research program has focused on studying college student learning associated with visual representations, in particular phylogenetic trees. As a side interest, I have also spent time working in service-learning and informal learning environments to measure participant engagement, interest, and science learning. My goal is to provide evidence to support ways of making science accessible to more people – through conceptual understanding, interest, engagement, and visual interpretation.

  • http://www.bio.txstate.edu/about/Faculty---Staff/faculty/Jessica-Dutton.html

    Research Interests

    Freshwater, estuarine, and marine pollution; Trophic transfer of metals; Factors influencing metal accumulation in marine organisms (including maternal transfer of metals to offspring); Accumulation and effects of microplastics in marine organisms; Risk to human health from consuming wild and farm-raised fish and shellfish

  • http://www.bio.txstate.edu/about/Faculty---Staff/faculty/Sarah-Fritts.html

    Research Interests

    My research focus is in using modern statistical methods to monitor spatial and temporal alterations in wildlife population demographics and habitat use in regards to changes in land use and climate. I’m particularly interested in applied and relevant wildlife research that can be used to guide sustainable land management practices. I have recently conducted research on lesser prairie-chicken demographics and nest site selection in response to cattle grazing, herbicide application, and drought. However, my research is not taxon specific and I currently have projects on fish, bats, herpetofauna, and small mammals. I am a Certified Wildlife Biologist and a fellow of the Wildlife Society Leadership Institute.

  • http://www.bio.txstate.edu/about/Faculty---Staff/faculty/Mar-Huertas.html

    Research Interests

    I’m a fish physiologist and endocrinologist. My research over the past ten years has focused on the fascinating world of pheromones and chemical communication in fish. My primary area of research at Texas State centers on olfactory processes in fish. Specially, I’m working to uncover how external chemical signals (pheromones, chemical cues, pollutants) are detected by the olfactory epithelia, how that information is integrated in the brain, and how it is translated into activation of the endocrine axis that initiates a specific physiological process (reproduction, behavior, etc). To achieve my goals, I use several techniques that I’ve refined, including electrophysiology, protein biochemistry (to investigate the morphology and physiology of elements of the hypothalamus-pituitary-gland axis), histology and molecular procedures. I chose my scientific specialization with the goal of advancing understanding of the vertebrate olfactory process and providing new tools for managing of fish populations.

  • http://www.bio.txstate.edu/about/Faculty---Staff/faculty/Astrid-Schwalb.html

    Research Interests

    I am interested in both basic and applied research in stream ecology. My lab seeks to understand how ecological processes like dispersal function and how they affect the structure and health of populations and communities in rivers. I am also interested in the impact of invasive species and human activities on stream ecosystems. In my lab, we use a variety of methods ranging from experiments in the lab and the field to modeling and statistical analysis. Much of my research has focused on freshwater mussels, many of which are endangered. Research on their dispersal and  distribution will help to inform species conservation and management.