WELCOME NEW STUDENTS !!!!!: Nara Shin (South Korea), Jasniya S. Shah (India), Heather Williams (UK)

Brian Egan, M.S. student (B.S.; University at Buffalo; 2013)

Modeling the spread of Echinococcus multilocularis. This tapeworm of canids can cause a potentially lethal condition in humans, called: echinococcosis (alveolar). Currently, it is found throughout most of the Northern Hemisphere, including Northern Asia, China, Central Europe, Northern Canada, and more recently in the Midwestern United States. The parasite’s distribution has been steadily expanding from its endemic range for the last 60-70 years, and continues to gain ground in the US. Human exposure to tapeworm eggs via accidental ingestion is fostered by activities such as hunting, foraging for natural foods, or petting dogs and cats with outdoor exposure. Additionally, continuing urbanization cuts more and more into the natural space, increasing opportunities of human exposure. Objectives of this study are to model the rate at which its expansion will continue, how far it may extend in the US, with particular consideration for suburban and peri-urban exposure near large US cities. This study uses MaxEnt distribution modeling and GIS. 

Haewon Shin , M.S. student (B.S. Life Science; Ewha Womans University, Seoul, South Korea)

Evolution and ecology of Wolbachia spp. in bat flies (Diptera, Hippoboscoidea). Wolbachia are alpha-proteobacterial associates of many insects. Preliminary data on bat flies suggest sustained association of several genetically distinct groups of this microbe with select clades of blood-feeding bat flies. Objectives of this project are to explore the known genetic diversity of Wolbachia across an evolutionary trajectory, identify the mechanism of infection, as well as characterizing the functional characterization of bat fly Wolbachia (e.g., mutualist v. pathogen). This study uses transcriptomics, quantitative PCRs, in-situ hybridization techniques and evolutionary analyses.

Rathnavel Pandian Thangamani, M.S. student (B.Tech.; Anna University; Chennai, India)

Neuroanatomical evolution of the central complex in relation to eye reduction in hippoboscoid flies. The central complex of the insect brain is a group of modular neuropils, which is organized into layers, and connected with the adjacent lateral complex and the protocerebrum. Studies have suggested roles in polarized light vision, spatial information integration for motor control (walking, flight), as well as place learning and sky compass orientation. Objectives of this project are to characterize the neuroantatomical organization of this complex in the context of eye reduction across evolutionary time frames, represented by fully visual micropredators on the one hand (tsetse, and some ked flies), and visually highly reduced parasites (bat flies) on the other hand. This study employs immunohistochemistry, transcriptomics, evolutionary analyses, and cutting edge high resolution imaging.