News

Searcy Lab launches new study of the endangered Santa Cruz Long-toed Salamander – Searcy LabIn early June, members of UM Biology’s Conservation Ecology Lab traveled to the California coast to launch a new study aimed at preserving the federally-endangered Santa Cruz Long-toed Salamander. This salamander was a member of the inaugural class of endangered species listed in the United States in 1967. Since that time, there has been little research on the ecology of this rare species, which is now estimated to occur in only 23 ponds worldwide. The new study aims to fill these gaps to inform both captive breeding efforts and plans to create new breeding ponds. The research team includes Assistant Professor of Biology Chris Searcy, postdoctoral researcher Arianne Messerman, and graduate student Leyna Stemle. For more information, you can visit https://news.miami.edu/stories/2021/07/graduate-student-documents-the-ecology-of-endangered-salamanders.html


Sealey Lab completes important study on water quality in the Keys – Sealey LabFor the past two years, members of UM Biology’s Coastal Ecology Lab, including Professor of Biology Kathleen Sealey and graduate students Jacob Patus and Ashley Goncalves, have been surveying water quality and marine biodiversity throughout the Florida Keys. The goal of the project is to determine the impact of canals and whether any previous mitigation measures have reduced their harm to the marine environment. The project was funded by Monroe County and the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, which are both working to improve water quality in the Keys. Dr. Sealey, who has been visiting the coastal waters surrounding the Keys since she was a teenager, recalled how much more diverse the nearshore communities used to be. Hopefully the results of the study, which will be written up in Fall 2021, will help guide environmental management back toward those more pristine conditions. For more information, you can visit https://news.miami.edu/stories/2021/06/student-team-analyzes-water-quality-in-the-keys.html


Cynthia Silveira develops a popular course on BiologyAssistant Professor of Biology Cynthia Silveira develops popular new course on Biology of Viruses – Drawing on her extensive research on the role of viruses in natural ecosystems, Dr. Silveira began developing this course before the global pandemic, but modified the course to address questions about SARS-CoV-2. The course teaches students about the molecular biology and ecology of viruses, and how they interact with cellular organisms. Students also learn useful bioinformatics techniques so that they can query the role of viruses based on their genes. Students even learned how some viral genes have been incorporated into the human genome to provide important traits such as the placenta and memory storage. For more information, you can visit https://news.miami.edu/as/stories/2021/05/mighty-but-not-always-malevolent.html


UM Biology’s Zebrafish Core Facility plays a key role in human disease research – The Zebrafish Core facility at UM BiologyThe Zebrafish Core facility is home to 6,000 zebrafish. Zebrafish are an important model organism, due to sharing more than 80% of genes linked to human diseases, having translucent young, which allows for convenient observation of internal organs, and their rapid development. Associate Professor of Biology Julia Dallman, who is the Zebrafish Core Facility Director and who started the colony with just 40 individuals in 2007, uses the facility to study autism, particularly gastrointestinal distress experienced by many autism patients. Associate Professor of Biology Sandra Rieger also makes extensive use of the facility, studying neuropathy and appendage regeneration. Zebrafish are one of the few vertebrates with robust regenerative properties and may provide clues for nerve regeneration in humans. For more information, you can visit https://news.miami.edu/as/stories/2021/05/little-stripes-big-answers.html


UM Biology Graduate Student Damian Hernandez reveals effects of stress on microbial communities – microbial community structure across 40 replicate stress gradientsHernandez’s study published in the International Society for Microbial Ecology Journal examined microbial community structure across 40 replicate stress gradients in the imperiled Florida Scrub. He found that both bacterial and fungal diversity decreased along the stress gradient, as did modularity and negative:positive cohesion. The latter two network properties are associated with more stable systems. Their decrease along the stress gradient suggests that microbial communities under persistent stress are less stable, which may become problematic as human-induced ecosystem stress increases during the Anthropocene. Hernandez’s coauthors include former UM postdoc Aaron David, and UM Assistant Professors Michelle Afkhami and Chris Searcy. To see the full article, you can visit https://www.nature.com/articles/s41396-020-00882-x


Associate Professor of Biology Mauro Galetti named one of the Highly Cited Researchers of 2020 – Associate Professor of Biology Mauro GalettiResearchers qualifying for this honor have published multiple papers that rank in the top 1% for citations in their field. Dr Galetti, who is also Director of UM’s Gifford Arboretum, attributed this is recognition to the importance understanding the impacts of biodiversity loss, especially in the Tropics. For more information, you can visit https://news.miami.edu/as/stories/2020/11/cited-faculty-2020.html


New greenhouse opened for UM Biology researchNew greenhouse opened for UM Biology researchThe new greenhouse, adjacent to UM’s Gifford Arboretum, opened in Fall 2020. It is a 2,700 square foot facility with temperature and light control. Mauro Galetti, Associate Professor of Biology and Director of the Gifford Arboretum, expects the greenhouse to open new opportunities for research on plant adaptation to climate change and animal-mediated seed dispersal. Assistant Professor of Biology Michelle Afkhami, who has previously had plants from many South Florida native communities scattered throughout the Cox Science Center, is particularly excited to have dedicated grow space. The new facility’s convenient location close to the Biology Department will provide many opportunities for undergraduate involvement in future research projects. For more information, you can visit https://news.miami.edu/as/stories/2020/11/greenhouse-feature.html


Feeley Lab publishes important study looking at hemisphere-wide trends in plant heat tolerance – Ken Feeley, Associate Professor of BiologyKen Feeley, Associate Professor of Biology and Smathers Chair of Tropical Tree Biology, along with UM Biology grad students Catherine Bravo, Belen Fadrique, and Tim Perez, published the study in Nature Climate Change. They analyzed 20 million records from more than 17,000 plant species from throughout the Western Hemisphere to demonstrate that an increase in plants that prefer warmer climates. Feeley is particularly concerned that this seems to come with a parallel decrease plant’s drought tolerance, which may make entire plant communities more susceptible when drought frequencies increase, as they are expected to do in many areas. Feeley stresses the need for the public to be aware of climate change impacts on not just polar ice sheets and coastal sea levels, but on all of the natural systems humans depend on, including the plants we eat. For more information, you can visit https://news.miami.edu/as/stories/2020/08/global-warming-is-changing-our-plant-communities.html