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Taylor, Brian

July 2, 2018

Dr. Brian Kyle Taylor is the Principal Investigator for the Quantitative Biology and Engineering Sciences (QBES – pronounced “cubes”) laboratory. Broadly, his lab aims to use engineering and mathematics to advance the knowledge-base and understanding of biology and animal behavior, while simultaneously leveraging the design principles observed in biology to enhance and expand the engineer’s toolkit. In particular, his lab currently studies animal magnetoreception and multimodal navigation (i.e., how animals get from point A to point B using the earth’s magnetic field alongside other sensory cues). Dr. Taylor’s lab employs tools such as computer simulations, mobile robots, tethered robots, and motion capture to advance the cutting edge in both the understanding of animal navigation, and the development of autonomous navigation systems.

Weakley, Alan S.

September 6, 2011

I am a plant systematist, plant community ecologist, biogeographer, and conservation biologist focused on the species and systems of the Southeastern United States.  Students in my lab focus on the systematics and biogeography of the Southeastern United States, community classification developing the U.S. National Vegetation Classification, and land management, conservation planning, and environmental policy questions involving the conservation of Southeastern United States ecosystems and species. Prior to coming to UNC in 2002, I had an extensive career in applied conservation biology, working with the North Carolina Natural Heritage Program, The Nature Conservancy, and NatureServe (the Association for Biodiversity Information).  My conservation interests and activities continue, with my service as Trustee of the N.C. Natural Heritage Trust Fund (http://www.ncnhtf.org/) from 2008-2013 (which has provided $328 million through 518 grants to support the conservation of more than 298,000 acres of natural areas in North Carolina), Chair of the N.C. Plant Conservation Program’s Scientific Advisory Committee (http://www.ncagr.gov/plantindustry/plant/plantconserve/index.htm), and Chair of the N.C. Natural Heritage Program Advisory Committee (http://www.ncnhp.org/). I am the author of Flora of the Southern & Mid-Atlantic States (http://www.herbarium.unc.edu/flora.htm), a taxonomic manual covering about 7000 vascular plant taxa, now the standard in use across much of the Southeastern United States.  With J. Chris Ludwig and Johnny Townsend, I am co-author of the Flora of Virginia (http://www.floraofvirginia.org/), published in 2012 and awarded the Thomas Jefferson Award for Conservation, and am also an active author, editor, reviewer, and director of the Flora of North America project (http://fna.huh.harvard.edu/).  I was a co-founder of the Carolina Vegetation Survey (http://cvs.bio.unc.edu/), and continue as one of its four organizers.

Lohmann, Kenneth J.

June 24, 2011

Our lab group is interested in the behavior, sensory biology, neuroethology, and conservation of marine animals. Topics of particular interest include: (1) the navigation of long-distance ocean migrants such as sea turtles, salmon, spiny lobsters, and elephant seals; (2) magnetic field perception, magnetic maps, and use of the Earth’s magnetic field in animal navigation; (3) natal homing and the geomagnetic imprinting hypothesis in sea turtles and salmon; (4) applications of sensory ecology and movement ecology to conservation biology; (5) neurobiology, behavior, and physiology of marine invertebrates; (6) marine ecosystems and animal health in the Galapagos Islands.  Techniques used range from electron microscopy, immunohistochemistry, and electrophysiology to behavioral studies, oceanographic modeling, and field studies in the ocean. Whenever possible, we favor innovative approaches that cut across traditional academic boundaries and combine elements from disparate fields.

Lohmann, Catherine

June 24, 2011

Our lab group is interested in the sensory biology, behavior, neuroethology, and evolution of marine animals. Topics of particular interest include: (1) the navigation of long-distance ocean migrants such as sea turtles, salmon, and spiny lobsters; (2) magnetic field perception, magnetic maps, and use of the Earth’s magnetic field in animal navigation; (3) natal homing and the geomagnetic imprinting hypothesis in sea turtles and salmon; (4) applications of sensory ecology and movement ecology to conservation biology; (5) neurobiology, behavior, and physiology of marine invertebrates; (6) technoethology (the use of novel computer and electronic technology to study behavior). Techniques used range from electron microscopy, immunohistochemistry, and electrophysiology to behavioral studies, oceanographic modeling, and field studies in the ocean. Whenever possible, we favor innovative approaches that cut across traditional academic boundaries and combine elements from disparate fields.

Sockman, Keith W.

June 20, 2011

Reproductive decisions are basic to all organisms. For species with multiple offspring and parental care, the decisions can be complex, but they still revolve around the same fundamental questions: when, where, and with whom to reproduce and how to invest in offspring. These decisions invariably have important life-history implications on future reproduction, on the offspring themselves, and on fitness.

Using birds, the Sockman lab studies the causes and consequences of reproductive decisions. Birds are an excellent system for this topic, because their decisions are often easy to observe and apply across a broad range of taxa and habitats. Follow the links above to learn more about our program or, if you are a prospective student, to learn about joining the lab.

FOR STUDENTS

If you want to list me as a reference or need a letter of recommendation, please use this guide from the UNC Biology Department website and include in your e-mail to me a PDF file of this document filled out and signed by you. Please see my laboratory website for other information.

Hedrick, Tyson L.

June 14, 2011

How do animals produce and control movement? How does a network of muscles, rigid elements and neurons – components of varying quality and with temporally varying responses – generate robust outputs in the face of uncertain circumstances? For example, the flight of the sphingid moth Manduca sexta is enabled by a complex, hierarchical biological system that involves processes and components at several different levels: the nervous system of the moth activates a suite of 20 flight muscles which actuate mechanical structures (the wings) that do work on the surrounding fluid (air), generating forces to support and propel the moth. These forces lead to changes in position and orientation which are detected by the sensory system and then used, along with underlying feedforward patterns as the basis for future muscle activation patterns, continuing the process and keeping the moth in the air.

Specific Areas of Research:

  • Aerodynamics of bird and insect flight
  • Neuromuscular and sensory control in animal flight
  • Computational approaches to organismal biomechanics

I apply both experimental and computational modeling approaches to these questions, iterating between the two approaches. For example, the figure below shows the wingbeat to wingbeat variation in wing motion during stable hovering flight for both a real moth and a computational model of the moth. In both the model and organism, steady flight behaviour requires continuous slight adjustments.

In addition to investigating the underlying variation of steady locomotion, I also make direct measurements from animals engaged in maneuvering or other unsteady movements. Figure 2 (below) outlines the basis of roll damping in the flapping flight of birds. Surprisingly high roll damping coefficients allow birds to control roll orientation with simple changes in wingbeat amplitude and passively dissipate roll velocity once symmetric flapping resumes.

Kier, William M.

June 14, 2011

William M. Kier is interested in the comparative biomechanics of marine invertebrates. He is especially interested in the functional morphology of musculoskeletal systems, in the structure, function, development and evolution of muscle, and in invertebrate zoology, with particular emphasis on the biology of cephalopod molluscs (octopus and squid). His research is conducted at a variety of levels and integrates the range from the behavior of the entire animal to the ultrastructure and biochemistry of its tissues. A variety of techniques are used including normal and high-speed video, histological and histochemical methods, light and transmission electron microscopy, electromyography, muscle mechanics, biochemistry and molecular techniques. His research concerns the role of the musculature of cephalopods (squid, octopus, nautilus) in both creating movement and providing skeletal support. The principles derived from this analysis have been applied to other structures such as the tongues of mammals and lizards and the trunk of the elephant. More recently, these insights have been used in collaboration with engineers and biologists in the design and construction of novel robotic mechanisms. He is also investigating the mechanisms of the evolution of muscle specialization, especially the evolution of fast contraction in the muscle of cephalopods. Please visit the Kier Lab home page for more information on these topics.

Prospective Graduate Students: Applications for graduate study should be submitted directly to the Department of Biology, rather than to the Biological and Biomedical Sciences Program (BBSP). Information on applying to the Department of Biology graduate program in Evolution, Ecology and Organismal Biology is available here.

Photograph of histological cross-section of the tentacle of Loligo pealei.
Photograph of newly molted blue crab, Callinectes sapidus. Dr. Jennifer Taylor, a recent Ph.D. student in the Kier lab, showed that many crustaceans switch to a hydrostatic skeleton immediately following shedding of the rigid skeleton. For more information please visit the Kier Lab home.

Kingsolver, Joel G.

June 14, 2011

How do organisms respond and adapt to complex, variable, natural environments? Our research integrates environmental physiology, ecology and evolution to address this question, using a combination of laboratory, field and modeling approaches. Most of our research is with temperate insects and their interactions with plants and parasites, with an emphasis on butterflies and moths; we use Manduca sexta (Tobacco Hornworms) as a model system in many of our studies. One major theme in recent years is plastic and evolutionary responses to human-induced environmental changes—climate change, invasive species, agroecosystems—and their ecological consequences.

Willett, Christopher S.

June 13, 2011

At a Glance

My research focuses on the evolutionary genetics and genomics of aspects of speciation and adaptation. The basic concepts I study are how one species can split into two over time and what factors influence how organisms adapt to their environment. Current work centers on exploring questions in these areas using copepods and moths as model systems. Here are some interests:

  • Speciation Genetics: Genetic basis of hybrid breakdown in copepods and the appearance of reproductive isolation
  • Genetic basis of physiological adaptation: Temperature and salinity tolerance in copepods and the moth Manduca sexta
  • Comparative genomics and using next generation sequencing to study the genetic basis of speciation and adaptation
  • Population genetics and molecular sequence evolution
  • Conservation genetics: Outbreeding depression, population genetics of threatened species

Synopsis

My research addresses the nature of genetic variation that underlies speciation and adaptation. Specifically, I attempt to unravel how genetic changes at the molecular level can lead to phenotypic changes of evolutionary significance. A major thrust of my research program has been to understand how genetic variation within populations translates into variation between populations and species, and to determine the impact of natural selection on this process. In my current work I am targeting specific genetic systems and using genome-wide approaches to determine the regions of the genome that could be involved in generating reproductive isolation that occurs after mating (postzygotic reproductive isolation). I am also examining the physiological and fitness consequences of genetic variation using both targeted gene and genome-wide approaches. Specifically we are looking at the evolution of temperature and salinity adaptation across populations. My work to date has largely focused on two primary systems systems-copepods and moths.

Copepods:

The harpacticoid copepod Tigriopus californicus inhabits rocky, intertidal splash pools in a patchy distribution along the west coast of North America. Populations of this species display dramatic genetic differentiation even between relatively proximate localities. Crosses between these populations typically show hybrid breakdown (decreases in fitness of F2 individuals). Understanding the genetic basis of this hybrid breakdown could yield insights into the early stages of the process of speciation (link). Recent work in the lab has also focused on the nature of adaptation in thermal tolerance among populations of this species and its implications for reproductive isolation in this system. This work could help reveal how species will be able to handle future changes in temperature environments (link).

Moths:

My lab is now working in collaboration with Joel Kingsolver’s lab in a project studying thermal biology and genetics in caterpillars of Manduca sexta, the tobacco hornworm. This project focuses on how organisms respond to variation in temperature over time (i.e. warmer during the day and cooler at night) and will help us understand better how to predict how organisms will be able to handle a changing climate. We will be focusing in my lab in how the caterpillars are responding on the genetic and protein levels and how this can help us understand what is happening at the level of the whole organism. Another interesting part of the work is comparing field and lab-adapted animals to which can illuminate how thermal tolerance can change over relatively short periods of time (link). 

I have also worked in the past on the evolution of pheromone communication systems. This work largely focused on the evolution of one protein, the pheromone-binding protein, and how it contributes to discrimination by male moths and differentiation among species (link).

EDUCATION

B.S. in Zoology, Michigan State University, 1993
Ph.D. in Genetics and Development, Cornell University, 1999

White, Peter S.

May 20, 2011

Links

News and Notes of Interest

ResearchGate / Google Scholar

Publications / Talks and Seminars

Teaching

Participation / Recognitions

Students

Prospective students: Near retirement, I am no longer taking students but explore Biology and the Environment, Ecology, and Energy Program (including Geography Department faculty affiliated with this Program) websites for ecologists who may help you!  Though retiring, I am always glad to give advice to prospective and current graduate students through email.

Research Interests

Peter White is a plant ecologist with interests in communities, floristics, biogeography, species richness, the distance decay of similarity and beta diversity, conservation biology, and disturbance and patch dynamics. In vegetation science he is interested in the composition and dynamics of plant communities, the relationship between vegetation and landscape, and role of disturbance, and the ecology of individual species in a dynamic setting. In conservation biology he is interested in the distribution and biology of rare species, the design and management of nature reserves, alien species invasions, and conservation ethics.

From 1986 to 2014, Peter White directed the University’s North Carolina Botanical Garden through a period of exciting changes and growth.  In this role, he and the staff have sought to redefine the scope of botanical gardens to focus on conservation, sustainability, and gardens as the healing interface with and gateway to nature.  The Garden became one of the first gardens to enact policies aimed at diminishing the risk of release of exotic pest organisms in 1998 and was presented with a Program Excellence Award in 2004 by the American Association of Botanical Gardens and Arboreta.  In 2009, the Garden opened the Education Center, a 29,000 sq ft facility that became the first LEED Platinum building on any of the 17 University of North Carolina campuses.