Mentors are recruited throughout the winter and spring. Check back for updates. Please feel free to request a mentor or project in your application. Following acceptance, mentor assignment is based on student requests, mentor requests, and what we feel will be good matches.
Evolutionary Diversification of Codistributed Leaf-litter Dwelling Animals and Eco-evolutionary Mechanisms of Community Structure - David Beamer (Lead Researcher, Nash Community College). Beamer's research uses DNA sequence data and geometric morphometric datasets to address speciation hypotheses in co-distributed cryptic lineages of salamanders, snails, millipedes and trapdoor spiders. The evolutionary lineages uncovered by this work have revealed a number of candidate species. REU projects will explore species hypotheses through incompatibility trials, strength of competitive interactions and mechanisms of community assembly. REUs could also employ geometric morphometrics to examine changes associated with introduced populations of salamanders and with morphological change associated with habitat shifts related to the presence of congeners.
Adaptive Plasticity, Timing, Population Divergence, and the Role of Hormones in Adaptation and Constraint in Darkeyed Juncos - Ellen Ketterson (Distinguished Professor of Biology, Indiana University). Continuing 30 years of work at MLBS, Ketterson and her collaborators study seasonality, physiology, gene expression, and mating preferences in conspecific populations that differ in whether or not they migrate. Possible REU projects include investigating whether day length or plumage is more important in determining mating preferences, whether climate warming affects first egg dates, and whether early exposure to long or short days play a role in determining a birds’ photoperiodic threshold.
Mosquito Thermal Biology and Interactions with Plants and Herpetofauna - Chloé Lahondère (Assistant Professor of Biochemistry, Virginia Tech). The Lahondère lab studies the thermal biology, ecophysiology and neuro-ethology of disease vector insects and ticks. She uses a collaborative, multidisciplinary and integrative approach, combining field work, behavioral analyses, molecular biology, chemical ecology and electrophysiology. REU students will explore the thermal biology of an invasive mosquito species, investigate the interactions between mosquitoes and frogs, snakes, and salamanders, and determine what plants mosquitoes use as a source of nectar. The results from this research will provide a better understanding of disease vector biology and will lay the groundwork for the development of new tools to control mosquito populations that threaten human health.
Biodiversity and Systematics of the Mountain Lake Fauna — David S. McLeod (Assistant Professor, Biology Department, James Madison University). Natural history collections are the cornerstone of studies of biodiversity, phylogenetic systematics, taxonomy, ecology, and conservation. Collections of preserved specimens offer us a chance to explore patterns of evolution, understand biodiversity, and investigate questions related to morphology, taxonomy, and natural history. MLBS has a rich historical collection of plants, mammals, insects, amphibians, reptiles, birds, and fish. This REU provides an opportunity to learn the fundamentals of natural history collections management and pursue an independent specimen-based research project.
Evolutionary Ecology Of Plant-Insect Interactions - Sarah McPeek (PhD Candidate in Biology, University of Virginia) - Sarah’s work explores the evolutionary ecology of plant-insect interactions with a particular focus on how local ecology shapes the expression and evolution of nectar traits in plants and foraging behavior and population dynamics in pollinators. At MLBS, she focuses her research on the toxic wildflower, fly poison (Amianthium muscaetoxicum), and its pollinating beetle community. Some possible REU projects include investigating how beetles make foraging decisions within patches of plants, how neurotoxins in fly poison’s nectar affect beetle foraging behavior and physiology, and how beetle foraging behavior affects pollen transfer and receipt among plants in a patch.
Evolutionary Ecology of Plant-Microbe Interactions - Corlett Wood (Assistant Professor of Biology, University of Pennsylvania). Wood’s research explores how hosts navigate interactions with multiple symbionts (e.g., mutualists and parasites), and how these microbes affect the expression and evolution of host traits. Her lab studies these questions in the mutualism between legumes and nitrogen-fixing bacteria, in which symbiotic bacteria provide nitrogen for their host plant. REUs in the Wood lab participate in projects ranging from surveys of wild plant and microbes populations to field and greenhouse experiments that manipulate plant-microbe interactions. Possible projects include testing how mutualistic microbes affect natural selection on plant traits; whether microbes contribute to host thermal tolerance; and how heat stress impacts the benefits of mutualism or the costs of parasitism for the host plant.