I study several aspects of the associations between Cnidarians (e.g. corals, anemones, and jellyfish) and the photosynthetic algae that can live in their tissues (Symbiodinium). My work includes research into marine symbiosis ecology, evolution, molecular biology, taxonomy, genomics, conservation, and climate change impacts. In the Weis lab, I focus primarily on characterizing cell surface protein interactions that mediate host-symbiont recognition, symbiosis initiation, and stress-induced bleaching. I earned my PhD in 2014 from Penn State University, where I worked with Iliana Baums and Todd LaJeunesse.
I came to Virginia’s lab in 2013 to study the cellular and molecular aspects of symbiosis, an area I find fascinating in its scope and complexity. In the Weis lab we work with symbiotic cnidarian systems, comprised of host cnidarians (Aiptasia, Anthopleura, Fungia, etc.) and their photosynthetic algal symbionts. My current work examines the coordination of Aiptasia host cells and their symbionts Symbiodinium spp. using cell cycle markers combined with confocal microscopy and flow cytometry. I am pairing this work with bioinformatic characterization of the cnidarian cell cycle. I am also interested in the host cnidarian response to algal colonization (i.e. the mechanism of how dinoflagellates grow from one host cell to two host cells to an entire organism). Finally, I am examining the role of lectin-glycan interactions during onset of symbiosis. We are currently characterizing and modifying Symbiodinium cell surface glycans to understand symbiotic recognition and uptake.
I graduated from Brown University in 2010 with a B.S. in Biology and a B.A. in Music, where I studied TGFβ signaling in Kristi Wharton’s developmental fly lab. Afterwards I worked as a technician in immunology and oncology at the Humanized Mouse Model Core (MGH) and the Weinstock Lab (DFCI) respectively, where I learned many different systems and techniques. When I was looking for graduate school options, Virginia’s lab immediately jumped out as one of the few that combined marine biology with a cellular and molecular approach.
I am a third year PhD student in the Weis Lab at Oregon State University. I am interested in the effects of climate change and ocean acidification on the symbiosis between the temperate sea anemone Anthopleura elegantissima, its bacterial community, and its microalgal symbionts, Symbiodinium muscatinei and Elliptochloris marina (collectively referred to as a holobiont). Currently, I am studying carbonic anhydrase and the role it plays in internal pH regulation and symbiosis maintenance. I am also working on several projects using stable isotope analysis and q-PCR to examine differences in symbiosis across a latitudinal and environmental gradients.
I completed my B.S. in Marine Biology with Honors from the University of North Carolina Wilmington in 2015, where I studied the importance of heterotrophy and photoautotrophic symbiosis for growth of the sea anemone Aiptasia pallida. I completed my honors project under the direction of Dr. Joseph Pawlik, who had an influential impact on my goals and ideas about science and my career.
I am in my second year as a PhD student at the Weis Lab. I graduated from University of California, Santa Cruz with a B.S. in Marine Biology. There I worked in the Potts Lab where we studied the effects of ocean acidification on the North Pacific krill, Euphasia pacifica. I also went abroad to the University of Queensland where I studied feeding patterns of the soldier crab, Mictyris longicarpus, and the effects of the sea cucumber, Holothuria atra, on free-living Symbiodinium sp. After my bachelors, I worked at Abwiz Bio as a research associate in the development of monoclonal antibodies via phage display. I also worked at Univerisity of California Davis’s Fish Conservation and Culture Lab as a lab assistant in the culture of the critically endangered Delta Smelt, Hypomethus transpacificus.
I joined the Weis Lab because of my deep interest in studying cnidarian-algae symbiosis. Currently my interests remain broad, and I hope to amalgamate my past experiences into a new project at the Weis Lab.
Currently, I am a first year Ph.D. student in the Weis Lab at Oregon State University. I graduated from University of Wisconsin-Madison with a B.S. in Genetics in 2012. As an undergraduate, I studied the BMP signaling pathway in Seth Blair’s developmental fruit fly lab and the evolution of extreme phenotypes in Brett Payseur’s mouse lab. Afterwards, I conducted various assays with coral mucus bacteria as Kim Ritchie’s intern at Mote Marine Laboratory. In 2017, I graduated from the University of Guam with a M.S. in Biology, investigating sexual coral reproduction of staghorn Acropora corals.
After experiencing widespread coral bleaching in Guam, I became interested in the cellular processes at work during these events. I will be using the sea anemone, Aiptasia, as a model to investigate the molecular and cellular mechanisms essential for cnidarian-algae symbiosis. Broadly, I am interested in processes that result in a loss of symbionts from host tissues.
Position at OSU
PhD awarded 2016
Postdoc, University of Birmingham at Alabama, Alabama
PhD awarded 2016
Postdoc, Pennsylvania State University, Pennsylvania
PhD awarded 2015
Instructor, Western Oregon University
IFREMER / Centre du Pacifique, Départment Resources Biologiques Environement Unité Resources Marines en Polynésie Française
Postdoc Fellow 2010-2012
PhD awarded 2010
Assistant Professor, Whitney Labs, University of Florida
Faculty Research Assistant 1996-2005, Graduate Student 2009-2012
Postdoc, USDA Corvallis, Oregon
Visiting graduate student 2008-2011
Graduate student Victoria University at Wellington, New Zealand
PhD awarded 2008
Research/Communications Program Manager at
Simons Collaboration on Ocean Processes and Ecology (SCOPE), Honolulu, HI
Chief Scientific Officer, Coral Biome, France
PhD awarded 2007
Research Scientist, US Forest Service
PhD awarded 2007
Assistant Professor, College of San Mateo, California
Researcher, National Oceanography Centre, UK
PhD awarded 2004
Assistant Professor, Florida International University
PhD awarded 2002
Associate Professor, Vassar College, Poughkeepsie, NY
Visiting graduate student from Tel Aviv University 2001-2003
Marine Biologist Consultant
Associate Professor, Chesapeake Biological Laboratory, U. of Maryland
Professor, Marine Maritime Academy