Three summer undergraduates, Lauren Woolner, Stephanie Nguyen, and Henry Middleton, presented their research at the Summer Research Symposium at the ESF Gateway Center on August 8th.
Title: Comparative Analysis of Copulatory Courtship Among Drosophila Species
Lauren, alongside postdoc Erin McCullough, has video-recorded and annotated all of the Drosophila species’ copulatory courtship behaviors thus far.
She has taken great pride and exceptional interest in her project, and plans to continue working in the lab through the Fall ’19 and Spring ’20 semesters.
Funding sources: NSF DEB, NSF EAGR, Undergraduate Research Center, SU Biology Department
Title: Correlation of Longevity and Fecundity in Drosophila
Stephanie has been working in the lab from Fall ’18 through this summer. She has been involved with several aspects of research here, but this summer she has mainly been involved with measuring the longevity and fecundity of the Drosophila species. She takes great care of the flies, enjoys training new students, and cleaning up the lab.
Stephanie plans to continue doing research in the lab during the Fall ’19 and Spring ’20 semesters.
Funding sources: NSF DEB, NSF EAGR, Women in Science and Engineering, Undergraduate Research Center, SU Biology Department
Title: Microbiome patterns in Aedes aegypti mosquitoes transinfected with Wolbachia
Henry is a transplant from Cornell University, where he is going into his Junior year as a Computer Science Major. He has been working with Jane Pascar, a second year graduate student in the CRE, on a project looking at Wolbachia infections in mosquitoes. Henry has quickly picked up multiple computer languages, contributes greatly to lab meeting discussions, and shows an interest in applying his computer science skills to biological analyses.
Caitlin McDonough receives a prestigious Scholar Award from the Philanthropic Educational Organization to support her research on the reproductive tract secretome of Drosophila melanogaster.
National Science Foundation recommends funding to support Drosophila evolutionary phenomics research by the CRE
The NSF has recommended for funding our EAGR proposal to characterize the evolutionary phenomics of Drosophila and to explore of the genomics of biodiversity and adaptation. Approximately 300 species of Drosophila and related genera, including all those maintained by the Drosophila Species Stock Center, will be phenotyped for a set of morphological, behavioral, physiological and developmental traits that collectively capture core aspects of sexual selection and life-history syndromes, in addition to providing characters relevant to ecological selection. In addition to providing the basis for a valuable public database (look to the CRE website for developments!), the data will be used for two kinds of state-of-the-art comparative analyses. First, Bayesian phylogenetic modeling, applied to data for all species, will be used to evaluate rates of diversification and co-evolutionary dynamics among character states and across the clade using a range of alternative trait diversification models. Second, two complementary analytical approaches will be applied to all Drosophila species with fully-sequenced genomes to explore genotype-phenotype relationships for all traits, with the goals of identifying candidate genes underlying trait diversification and setting the stage for studies of the molecular evolution and genomic architecture of Drosophila biodiversity.
Members of the Center for Reproductive Evolution and SU Biology have been involved in leading a science outreach program at the Westcott Community Center titled “Bridging Communities to Improve Proficiencies in Science,” funded by the Society for the Study of Evolution and the CRE. Each week faculty, postdocs, graduate, and undergraduate students engage with school-age students at the center providing opportunities for the participants to experience doing hands-on science experiments that mirror what is happening in labs around the university.
Many current and past CRE members – including Yasir Ahmed-Braimah, Steve Dorus, Brian Gress, Stefan Lüpold, Mollie Manier, Caitlin McDonough, Scott Pitnick, Nalini Puniamoorthy and Emma Whittington – meet up at the 14th biennal Biology of Spermatozoa conference in Bakewell, England, near the Peaks District. Graduate students Caitlin McDonough and Emma Whittington gave two of the best talks at the conference. BoS is very posh yet riotous fun, and easily the most intellectually stimulating meeting we attend.
CRE members Gress, Pitnick, Dorus and Lüpold travel to Castleton, Derbyshire to investigate differences in the intensity of sexual selection on male body size of Scathophaga stercoraria, between sheep and cow pastures, before attending the 14th biennial Biology of Spermatozoa meeting.
Our research proposal to use proteomics to investigate sperm modification within the female reproductive tract of Drosophila melanogaster was just funded by an R21 grant from the National Institutes of Health (Male Reproductive Health Program, Fertility and Infertility Branch). This project complements the evolutionary research funded by our recent NSF, which explores evolutionary divergence and reproductive isolation consequences of these sperm-female interactions. This work is a collaboration between CRE members Steve Dorus, Scott Pitnick, John Belote and PhD student Emma Whittington, along with Mariana Wolfner of Cornell University. We will soon be searching for a Postdoctoral Fellow to join this research program. Please contact us if you are interested.
A Postdoctoral Fellowship is available for our NSF-funded investigation of sperm modification within the female reproductive tract. Molecular interactions between sperm and the female reproductive tract evolve across closely related species and may contribute to reproductive isolation. Sperm undergo numerous modifications as they move through the male and female reproductive tracts, although the nature of these interactions and their importance for fertilization success is not well understood. This project will characterize these changes at the molecular level, within closely-related species of fruit fly, as well as following hybrid inseminations, to understand their evolutionary history and influence on sperm survival and fertilization success. If you are interested in the position, get more information here
Great article by Laura Poppick of Smithsonian.com on the history of trying to understand sperm form and function. Read here.
Caitlin McDonough, a CRE graduate student, is a Co-Chair of the Career Development Sub-Committee of the Genetics Society of America. Get to know Caitlin better at the GSA’s Genes to Genomes Blog.