Ecology and genetics of an invasive seaweed

I did my master’s research with Dr. Erik Sotka at the College of Charleston studying the invasive seaweed Gracilaria vermiculophylla (check out a video that gives a great overview of the Sotka Lab, including some highlights of my research, here).  Gracilaria vermiculophylla is native to the northwestern Pacific and has been introduced to all the major coastlines of the northern hemisphere, including the soft-sediment tidal flats of South Carolina and Georgia.  The photo above (reproduced from Byers et al. 2012)  is a picture of a single mudflat in Charleston, South Carolina that is covered with Gracilaria.  Very interestingly, all those clumps of seaweed are being used as decoration by the native polycheate worm Diopatra cuprea.  Read more about the association between Gracilaria and Diopatra below – as well as other research in the Sotka lab that I am involved with.

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A novel mutualism

The core of my thesis research tested whether the association between Gracilaria and Diopatra is a novel mutualism. Novel mutualisms occur when two species interact that do not have a shared evolutionary history and that interaction is mutually beneficial.  Species introductions provide great systems for investigating the formation of novel interactions and the impacts those interactions have on … Continue reading A novel mutualism

Invasion history

Working in close collaboration with Dr. Stacy Krueger-Hadfield (a Post-doctoral researcher in the Sotka Lab), part of my thesis research involved developing microsatellite markers (genetic fingerprinting tools) for Gverm.  The Sotka Lab is currently using those markers to pursue a variety of questions regarding the evolutionary and ecological genetics of Gverm, including a project that tracks the seaweed’s invasion … Continue reading Invasion history

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