The department has teaching and research interests in many aspects of Biology from the cellular and molecular level to organismal to global ecological and conservation issues

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Molecular Identification of Otherwise Unidentifiable “Brown Legged” Rodent Ticks

Biology Honors project funded in part by Department of Biological Sciences (Rachel Niemiec).

Ticks have a profound impact on human health due to the pathogens they carry. For this reason, it is important to know which species are collected from different animal that may serve as reservoirs.

There are three prominent species of “brown legged” ticks in the Hampton Roads area. They are the Gulf Coast tick, Amblyomma maculatum, the Lone Star tick, Amblyomma americanum, and the dog tick, Dermacentor variablis. Each of these ticks is different in its host preference, as well as the pathogens they are able carry and transmit (see information in the "Its tick time" blog posting). This project uses different molecular methods to identify brown legged ticks collected from rodents at several different sites. Identification through morphology can be difficult when the tick is engorged or missing mouth parts from ticks in their first two life stages.

During this study DNA was extracted from the ticks, amplified using PCR, and analysed following restriction enzyme digestion (restriction fragment length polymorphism - RFLP). We also tested the extracted DNA for the presence of Rickettsial DNA .

RFLP analysis indicated that we were able to differentiate the three brown legged ticks found in this area- Dermacentor variabilis, Amblyomma maculatum and A. americanum. We had trouble amplifying DNA from some of the ticks; this may have been due to degradation of DNA over time as many of the ticks had been stored for a number of years.  Most of the ticks tested from rodents were identified as Dermacentor variabilis indicating a preference of the immature stages of this tick for rodents. 

Approximately 25% of the ticks tested were positive for the presence of rickettsial DNA; the species of Rickettsia is unknown at this time.

It's tick time

Its that time of the year - ticks are out and so are we.
Do you know what to do when you get a tick bite? How to protect yourself? What ticks are present in the Hampton Roads area? What diseases you are at risk for?
Check out the information in the poster below.
Contact information for tick related questions at the bottom of the poster...

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Faculty/Staff/Student Awards

Congratulations to the following faculty, staff and students who received College of Science and/or University awards for the 2013-14 academic year:

David Gauthier: Provost's Award for Outstanding Undergraduate Research Mentor and College Outstanding Undergraduate Advisor

Marcus Jones: College Outstanding Staff Member of the Year; Curator of the The Arthur and Phyllis Kaplan Orchid Conservatory

Rebecca Bray: College Distinguished Teaching Award for Adjuncts

Student awards:
Graduate Students:
Outstanding Biology lab GTA: Anthony Nanajian
Outstanding Classroon Instructor: Jessica Beard

Undergraduate Students
Quincy Cheesman: Alumni Association's Outstanding College Scholar Award
Taylor D'Etcheverty: Outstanding Undergraduate in Biology
 Allissa Bunner: Outstanding Undergraduate Service in Biology,

Another Fulbright for Lytton Musselman

Professor Lytton Musselman received another Fulbright award (this is number 4; previous awards have been to Sudan, West Bank and Jordan ), this time to work with undergraduates at Universiti Brunei Darussalam in Brunei as a botanist on the flora in the country. He will be involved in training of students in plant identification and with establishing experiments in the field that students and faculty at Brunei Darussalam can pursue in the future.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Corals and climate change

Dr Dan Barshis, a new faculty member in the Biology Department publishes two articles on the effects of climate change on ocean corals. Check out the ODU News summary here

The first in Science makes the case for corals being able to adapt to waters that are dangerously warm (read the abstract for the Science article here).

The second paper in Molecular Biology and Evolution examines the climate-change adaptability of a dinoflagellate (Symbiodiniumone), one of coral's symbiotic algae partners; these symbionts don't seem to notice the water changing around them. Article here