The Van Bael lab has experiments underway at EEB's greenhouse to study the microbes that live in the marsh grass Spartina alterniflora. Endophytic bacteria and fungi dwelling within Spartina may break down oil rendering it less toxic. By identifying the specific endophyte species that are most successful at breaking down oil, Dr. Van Bael hopes to help these grasses better defend the Gulf Coast against oil spills in the future.
The December 2016 issue of the Tulane Magazine features various EEB faculty members in several articles centered on a theme of water. EEB faculty member Dr. Michael Blum is the director of the ByWater Institute, an interdisciplinary research center focusing on issues related to water in the environment: from coastal erosion, to effects of Katrina flooding, to recovering from the BP oil disaster. An article on P. 14 highlights the ByWater Institute’s new $5.5 million facility that was unveiled this fall as well as specific research projects that fall under the group’s umbrella, including the Blum Lab’s post-Katrina rat population modeling.
Louisiana’s luscious wetlands attract a vast diversity of birds, a dream come true for ornithologists and bird enthusiasts. An article on P. 27 profiles ornithologists Dr. Tom Sherry, who won the Louisiana Ornithological Society’s top prize for 2016, and Dr. Donata Henry, who also received a distinguished award from the LOS in 2016. The two discuss the incredible relationship between the coastal wetlands environment and the birds who make it their homes, emphasizing the importance of habitat conservation.
Dr. Tim McLean, a marine microbiologist, met artist Pippin Frisbie-Calder as part of A Studio in the Woods’ “Flint and Steel” program, which pairs artists with faculty members in non-arts disciplines. On P. 11 read about how Dr. McLean’s work studying phytoplankton of the coastal wetlands inspired Frisbie-Calder to create some amazing artistic interpretations of the otherworldly-looking microbes.
Discovery Channel's new TV special "Rats" by documentary veteran Morgan Spurlock plays on humanity's fear of the rodents just in time for Halloween. Dr. Michael Blum and members of his lab are featured in the program discussing their research modeling rat populations in post-Katrina New Orleans. The lab takes the science of using genetic methods to evaluate rat population structure, dispersal and effective population size seriously. It just so happens that the process of trapping rats and performing necropsies on them in order to collect the genetic material for study makes for pretty creepy TV, too!
The special is now available on Netflix or on Discovery Channel's website (with a cable subscription login).
Professor & Chair of the Department of Ecology & Evolutionary Biology, Dr. David Heins was inducted as a fellow of prestigious Linnean Society of London at a ceremony held at Harvard University in May. This is the first time such an event has ever been held outside of the UK.
The Society, founded in 1788 and named for the "father of taxonomy" Carolus Linnaeus, has inducted some of the most prominent biologists over the years, including Charles Darwin. In 1858, papers by Darwin and his contemporary Alfred Wallace were presented at the Linnean Society outlining the theory of Natural Selection for one of the first times in public. To this day the Linnean Society's membership is made up of scientists from around the world who are champions in the field of natural history.
Dr. Heins was selected for his work studying the fishes of North America, including the life histories of darters and minnows in the Northern Gulf Coastal Plain and of pupfishes in the Southwestern U.S. He has also worked extensively in the lakes of South-Central Alaska studying the threespine stickleback, Gasterosteus aculeatus. In addition to studying the life-history evolution of the stickleback, Dr. Heins has also conducted research regarding the host-parasite relationship between the fishes and the cestode parasite Schistocephalus solidus.
Congratulations to Dr. Heins for being selected as a fellow of the Linnean Society of London for your years of work in the field of natural history.
The Louisiana Ornithological Society honored two EEB professors at this year's LOS Spring Meeting in Cameron.
Dr. Thomas Sherry was selected to receive LOS' top honor, the George H. Lowery Award, for his work studying the populations, ecology and conservation of Neotropical-Nearctic migrating birds. Dr. Sherry has been involved in research related to the habitats of Louisiana migrants and nesters such as Swainson's Warbler and the American Swallow-tailed Kite, the impact of crawfish farming and heavy metal contamination on Louisiana's colonial nesting wading birds and the prey selection of tropical migrants such as the American Redstart. Dr. Sherry is pictured here receiving the George H. Lowery award at the meeting on April 23rd.
Dr. Donata Henry was selected as one of three recipients of the LOS President's Award for her contributions to Louisiana's nesting bird research and conservation. Dr. Henry established the Monitoring Avian Productivity and Survival (MAPS) station in the Pearl River WMA, which engages local residents and students in bird banding to study populations and conservation. She not only has conducted research related to the the impact of intense forest management and storm disturbances on Swainson's Warbler and other breeding birds, but she also encourages interest in, and conservation of, birds through her hands-on classes at Tulane. Unfortunately, Dr. Henry was unable to attend the ceremony because she had already scheduled a field trip for her Natural History of Louisiana class prior to learning of her award. Fittingly, though, the class spotted some amazing birds that day including Magnolia Warbler, Yellow Warbler, Louisiana Waterthrush, Gray Kingbird, Eastern Wood-Pewee, Ruby-throated Hummingbird, Rose-breasted Grosbeak, Least Bittern, Reddish Egret, Snowy Plover, Marbled Godwit, American Golden-Plover, American Oystercatcher and Ruddy Turnstone
Congratulations to Dr. Sherry and Dr. Henry!
A recent article in Bay Nature magazine chronicles the parallel histories of the birdsong of the white-crowned sparrows in San Francisco’s Presidio, and the 50 years of research (and counting) that scientists have devoted to it. EEB’s own Dr. Elizabeth Derryberry is a key player in this story having been able to track down an archive of notes and recordings from as early as the 1960s. Based on these data, her lab has already contributed to studies suggesting that the urban birds have increased the frequency of their songs to be better heard over the urban din. On-going research by Dr. Derryberry’s lab, including thesis work by PhD candidate Jenny Phillips, is looking at what the Presidio birds’ newer higher-frequency songs means in terms of sexual selection and communication.
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