Welcome to my research lab, where what goes on depends heavily on the hard work of graduate students, postdoctoral associates, collaborators, and technicians.
Our primary interests encompass evolution, ecology, physioecology, development, functional morphology, and systematics of marine decapod crustaceans (crabs, shrimp and lobsters). However, this is in some cases coupled with a general interest in modern assessments of overall marine biodiversity, especially in the Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean Sea, but also throughout world temperate to tropical waters. In recent and ongoing projects, my doctoral students and I have focused on molecular phylogenetics of varied major groups of world decapods, growth, population dynamics, and respiratory physiology in burrowing thalassinidean shrimp, conservation issues related to this group, ontogeny of osmoregulatory ability in stone crabs, population genetics of estuarine-dependent decapods, and trophic significance of varied decapods. Other studies have centered on structural and functional ontogeny in shrimp and crabs, as related to habitat changes during early life history or growth related to sexual maturation.
A long-term project concerns compilation of color-illustrated monographs on crabs, hermits, lobsters, and shrimp of the Gulf of Mexico, but the very subject of color and its relation to genetic distinctions has become a focus in related studies. Coupled with this are ecological and taxonomic studies at various sites in the Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean, often in collaboration with colleagues at other Gulf coast labs. Some of this work is conducted in collaboration with the Smithsonian Institution and is based out of its National Museum of Natural History in Washington or marine labs in Ft. Pierce, Florida, Belize, and Panama. Other projects center in eastern Mexico, the Bahamas, Caribbean Islands, and Mesoamerican countries, where work has focused especially on regionally endemized decapod species threatened by habitat loss and on dynamics of species invasions in commercial aquaculture operations. Over the last decade, major research cruises have focused extensively on sampling to measure regional endemism of biotic assemblages of deep hard banks and continental slope waters in the Gulf of Mexico, while lab work has grown to heavily involve molecular phylogenetic work. The gene sequencing efforts serve on one hand to measure levels of regional divergence between populations within species, as has been supported by US DOE and NSF grants for Gulf of Mexico deep banks research. However, our analyses also aim define overall relationships among genera, families, and higher taxa of world decapods, as we work with a team of collaborators under NSF support for the “Decapod Tree of Life” project.
Major recent products have included the co-editing of a massive book on Gulf of Mexico biodiversity, one volume in a series being published under support of the Harte Research Institute for Gulf of Mexico Studies and another volume on Decapod Crustacean Phylogenetics, featuring many products from our molecular phylogenetic studies under initial phases of the “Decapod Tree of Life” project. A complete account of early to recent publications from my lab can be found at the end of my Curriculum Vita, and copies of most are available as PDFs.
Graduate student projects are generally directed toward part of the overall lab emphasis. Studies may involve in-house laboratory experiments or field work with local species, may require field work at distant locations, or may require shipment and maintenance of lab-reared forms. Some level of financial support for research projects is often available under my research grants, but applicants may also compete for institutional fellowships and departmental teaching assistantships. Publication of project results is expected as is the presentation of papers at professional meetings. Our work depends heavily upon locally available facilities for support of coastal field work (vehicles, marine labs, and vessels), preparative and analytical equipment for gene sequencing, light and electron microscopy facilities, aquarium room and culture facilities, extensive database-supported collections of sequence-quality crustacean specimens, illustrating and darkroom equipment, physiological and analytical equipment, and extensive library holdings in crustacean biology.