William Jewell Department of Biology  

Dr. Paul Klawinski, professor of biology and department chair
Students are involved in the first four of his five primary research areas:
  • Examining the effects of hurricanes on arthropods, amphibians and reptiles using long-term monitoring and a large-scale, experimental simulation of hurricane damage in 30x30 meter plots in the Luquillo Experimental Forest.
  • Effects of introduced plant species on arthropods and their associated introduced predators (coqui frogs) in lowland moist tropical forests in Hawaii.
  • Studies of the resistance and resilience of communities after land use changes by including former pastures as study sites in the annual Puerto Rico Spider Survey.
  • Examining the role of biodiversity in providing ecosystem services by experimentally manipulating the decomposer community and measuring the effect of different functional groups on decomposition.
  • Examining the biogeography of the Greater and Lesser Antilles using the extant distribution of spiders on these islands. 
Dr. Rose Reynolds, assistant professor of biology 

I am interested in dissecting the basis of complex traits, from molecule to genetic pathway to network of pathways on up to cellular, organismal and population-wide phenotypes. The field of evolutionary biology is uniquely positioned to combine traditional quantitative genetic methods with cutting edge high throughput genetic and genomic tools to dissect a key complex trait in both evolutionary biology and medicine: aging. Specifically, I am using Caenorhabditis remanei to investigate natural genetic variation for lifespan, healthspan, and stress response.

Students in my lab participate in a range of projects within the main topics listed below:

  • Determining the genetic relationship between stress response and longevity
  • Determining the age- or stage-specificity of genetic correlations
  • Evaluating the efficacy of Caenorhabditis elegans as a model system for human genetically-influenced diseases
  • Using C. elegans to evaluate potential medicines for efficacy against human disease
  • Experimental characterization of gene function in C. elegans and C. remanei
Dr. Jennifer Schafer, assistant professor of biology 
My research focuses on the effects of disturbance on plant structure and function, plant population dynamics, community composition, and ecosystem processes. I am particularly interested in the effects of fire and anthropogenic disturbances on plants and ecosystems. Many fire-prone ecosystems have experienced fire suppression or increases in fire frequency, and changes in disturbance regimes may alter community structure and ecosystem function and threaten species persistence. Research on the effects of disturbance is necessary to understand how plants persist in disturbance prone ecosystems, to make predictions about the consequences of changing disturbance regimes, and to inform conservation and management decisions.

Specific Research Interests

  • Plant Structure and Function
    • Effects of fire frequency and intensity on inter- and intra-specific variation in relative bark thickness and stem survival after fire
    • Seasonal variation in bark moisture content
    • Factors that affect resprouting ability (e.g., pre-disturbance plant size)
    • Effects of resprouting and the change in plant structure (i.e., height and leaf area) on plant water relations and photosynthesis
  • Plant Population Dynamics
    • Effects of natural (e.g., fire) and anthropogenic (e.g., roads) disturbances on recruitment, survival, and reproduction of rare and endemic plants
    • Effects of smoke and heat on seed germination
  • Community Composition
    • Effects of fire regime on plant species richness and diversity and community structure
    • Feedbacks between plant community structure and fire frequency
  • Ecosystem Processes
    • Effects of fire on soil nutrient (e.g., nitrogen and phosphorus) availability
    • Interactive effects of fire and species composition on nutrient limitation of primary productivity

Current Research Opportunities

  • Prairie Restoration at Smithville Lake (in Missouri)
  • Population dynamics and nutrient relations of Chapmannia floridana (Florida Alicia), a perennial plant that is endemic to Florida
Dr. Bhupinder Vohra, assistant professor of biology

Research work in my lab is focused on understanding the molecular and cellular mechanisms that modulate neuronal development and neurodegeneration.
We are specifically interested in understanding the molecular mechanisms that lead to axon degeneration and the diseases that originate from this degenerative process.  We are also interested in deciphering the mechanisms that control enteric nervous system development. This work involves a combination of molecular biology, live cell imaging, primary neuronal culture, stem cell culture, physiology, calcium imaging and biochemistry.
We model the human disease conditions in vitro by lentivirus-mediated overexpression of human disease causing mutant genes or by silencing the normal functioning genes in the neuronal stem cells with the long term goal of understanding the mechanisms and find out the ways to treat or slowdown disease progression.

Projects we are currently pursuing include:

  1. Determining mechanisms that control the proliferation, differentiation and fate of enteric nervous system stem cells.
  2. Determining the mechanism of enteric neurodegeneration in Parkinson’s disease.
  3. Determining the mechanism of sensory loss in Diabetes.
  4. Determining the mechanism of neurodegeneration in Tributyltin toxicity.
  5. Determining the role of voltage gated sodium channels (NaV 1.7) in human peripheral neuropathies.





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