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Ron Etter

Ron Etter

I’m interested in basic questions about the ecology and evolution of marine organisms, especially the forces that control the origin and maintenance of diversity. My research involves correlative, experimental and theoretical approaches and studies at the genetic, population and community levels of organization.  We conduct research in a wide variety of marine ecosystems from the intertidal zone to the deep sea.  I received my BS in biology from UMass/Boston and my PhD in Biology from Harvard University. I am currently a Professor in the Biology Dept. at UMass/Boston, and in the Intercampus School of Marine Science.

Rob Jennings Rob Jennings: I am a post-doctoral investigator in Ron Etter's lab.  I am a population geneticist broadly interested in the processes, both neutral and environmentally-driven, that structure the genetics of marine populations in benthic and pelagic settings, from local to global scales.  My dissertation work focused on the presence of the Cape Cod peninsula as a barrier to genetic exchange in the intertidal annelid Clymenella torquata, and the use of full mitochondrial genome sequencing as a tool for annelid phylogenetics, including the evolutionary history of the hydrothermal vent tubeworm Riftia pachyptila.  I also worked with stage-structured population genetic models of marine invertebrate life cycles, investigating the effect on apparent gene flow of small amounts of selection acting at various stages. Currently I am studying the variation with depth of the genetic diversity of a group of protobranch bivalves along the continental slope and rise of the northwest Atlantic, and the environmental variables that create and maintain such differences.

Beth Boyle

Beth Boyle

My broad and general interests are ecology and evolution of marine invertebrates. I am studying evolution in deep-sea mollusks.  I am working on two projects, one using molecular genetics to define geographic and bathymetric scales of population differentiation in a deep-sea gastropod, Benthonella tenella.  The other project is developing a molecular phylogeny of a deep-sea bivalve family Ledellinae to test hypothesis about its biogeographic patterns in the deep Atlantic.  Additionally, I teach a class on Nantucket in the summer- Marine and Coastal Ecological Research (BIOL 306).


Martine Wagstaff

I am a PhD Candidate interested in understanding basic ecological and evolutionary processes and identifying factors that threaten these.  My current work in shallow subtidal habitats in the Gulf of Maine focuses on the following: 1) identifying ecological processes that structure the balance between algae and sessile invertebrates; 2) how invasive species have disrupted community structure through time; and 3) how invasive species themselves evolve once they enter new habitats.  I use experimental in situ approaches to do this and am happiest in the field.


Scott Morello

I am a PhD candidate interested in population and community level marine ecology and how forces structure abundance and diversity at different scales. My current research in Rocky Intertidal systems in the Gulf of Maine (GOM) makes use of Multi-species Markov Chain Models (MCMs) and field experimentation in understanding: 1) How well MCMs capture GOM community structure and dynamics and the effects of spatial and temporal variance; 2) The role of direct and indirect interactions in controlling community structure and dynamics, with specific attention to the role of a major predator; 3) Large scale modulation of species interactions and its role in regional shifts of intertidal assemblages. I hold a BS in Environmental Science with a minor in Geology from Dickinson College, and my previous work includes Fish Biology and Ecology, Sea Turtle Research and Conservation, Environmental Education, and Environmental Consulting.

Yvonnes Vaillancourt

Yvonne Vaillancourt

Though my interests are varied, studying sponges allows me to combine work on physiology, ecology and evolution of marine invertebrates. Currently I am a graduate student working on a project investigating the effect of wave energy on the ecology and evolution of an intertidal sponge. I also work full time at UMass Boston as the coordinator of the teaching labs and I run an immersive summer oceanography course for Veterans Upward Bound at UMass Boston and teach a Scientific Foundations course for their program as well.

Amanda Glazier

My interests mainly focus on population genetics and patterns and processes of the evolution of marine organisms. I am currently enrolled in the PhD program in Environmental Biology and am in the beginning stages of working on these topics in relation to deep-sea organisms. I recently transferred to UMass Boston from a Master’s program at UMass Dartmouth. I received an undergraduate degree in Biological Sciences with a focus in Marine Biology from the University of Maryland.

Lynn Ficarra

I am a PhD student studying Environmental Biology in Dr. Ron Etter’s lab. In 2009, I was an REU (Research Experience for Undergraduates) student in Dr. Etter’s lab. In 2011, I received my bachelor’s degree in Marine Biology from the University of Rhode Island and returned to UMass Boston as a graduate student. I am fascinated with deep-sea marine invertebrates. Specifically, I am interested in the processes and biogeographic patterns of evolution in the deep ocean.

Ashley Bulseco-McKim

I am a Ph.D. student working with Dr. Etter and Dr. Hannigan. My research aims to link ecology and geochemistry by using trace element signatures of blue mussel larvae, juveniles, and adults to empirically measure larval connectivity patterns around the Gulf of Maine. I’m interested in 1). integrating model-based approaches with observational approaches to understand how physical oceanographic conditions might impact population dynamics and 2). building geospatial tools for evaluating variations in shell chemistry across space and time. I received my B.S. in Marine Science from University of Hawaii Hilo, and my previous research includes shellfish aquaculture and ocean acidification

Angelo Christophe

I am McNair Fellow majoring in biology and minoring in chemistry. My main interests are in environmental research, primarily focused on deep-sea evolution or the impact of anthropogenic activities. I am currently sorting deep-sea samples to find minute clams, which is very interesting because of the wide range of other strange invertebrates within the samples. I’m also involved in quantifying a molecular clock for deep-sea protobranch bivalves and plan to become involved in a variety of other projects ongoing in the lab. Everyone in the Etterlab has been very welcoming, warm and helpful in teaching me about the Deep Ocean.

Jane Weinstock

I got to be a member of the Etter lab through the 2013 REU summer program. I am a rising sophomore from Smith College, and I am currently working towards a degree in Environmental Geology with a focus in marine systems. This summer I am learning about the intertidal ecology along the Gulf of Maine, specifically surrounding the movement patterns of one predatory snail -- the Atlantic Dog Whelk Nucella lapillus. I find the ocean to be an incredible place, both in its geologic history and its biological significance. Even more, the rocky coasts of New England hold a special place in my heart. Spending this summer out in the field has been an incredible treat and a real inspiration, and I look forward to doing more research that takes me out into the field and onto the coast.

Undergraduate Alumns

Edgar Franck

I am a local Bostonian working towards my undergrad in biology. I can't say that I've found my niche in the field of biology yet but from my interest in marine invertebrates I've found a place of research and interest in the Etter lab. Currently I'm working on an independent study with Professor Etter right off campus in Savin Hill Cove as well as working as an intern with Martine Wagstaff

Danielle Macedo

I am a student at Texas A&M University working towards a double degree in Biology and Genetics. For the summer of 2011, I will be studying possible genetic differences in deep-sea protobranchs that inhabit varying depths. At Texas A&M, I work at the Rosenthal lab under the guidance of Brad Johnson, studying swimming performance in swordtail fish. Other projects I have worked on include studying benthic composition of Dominican coral reefs and investigating the impact of tourism on New Zealand fur seals. I love research, especially in marine biology, and hope to pursue a PhD in ecology and evolutionary biology.

Erica Warkus

I am an undergraduate student from Hawaii pursuing a B.S. in Conservation Biology and Ecological Sustainability at Arizona State University as a National Merit Scholar. In the summer of 2010, I worked as an REU student in the Etter lab studying the allelopathic effects of marine macroalgae as a potential influence on the community composition of subtidal horizontal surfaces in the Gulf of Maine. I am presenting this research at the AAAS 2011 Conference and at the NCUR 2011. I also work with Dr. Sharon Hall at ASU studying the effects of urban nutrient deposition in the Sonoran Desert around the Phoenix metropolitan area (CAP-LTER). My past research includes surveys of community composition in Hawaiian forest reserves and studies of the factors affecting the ectoparasite loads of tropical understory birds in Costa Rica. Though I intend to obtain my Ph.D., I am interested in so many aspects of the natural world that I have not yet chosen the specific path that I would like to take. However, I am sure that I love working with the ocean. I couldn’t have asked for a more fun and supportive lab than this one, and I would love to continue research with the Etter lab in the future. Our lab meetings were my favorite part of the week!

Boris Shoshitaishvili

I am an undergraduate participating in the REU program (Research Experience for Undergraduates) this summer in Professor Etter's lab. I hail from Tucson, AZ and I'm currently a junior at Brown University studying Biology as well as the Classics. I am interested in many aspects of the life sciences and this summer constitutes my first brush with invertebrate and marine biology. My project in the Etter lab consists of analyzing the genetic divergence over time within a bathyal protobranch bivalve Deminucula atacellana. I am comparing genetic data from individuals collected this year to those from sampling conducted in the 1960s. This work provides me with the opportunity to participate in many different aspects of the scientific process (both in the field and in the laboratory). Science rocks! UMass rocks! This lab rocks!

Melinda Yang

I am an REU student studying for the summer of 2008 at UMass Boston.  I am a rising junior at Swarthmore College, and I am pursuing an Honors Major in Biology with and Honors Minor in Sociology and Anthropology.  I am interested in studying Evolutionary Biology, with an emphasis on evolution in humans.  I am studying Deep Sea Evolution in Dr. Ron Etter's lab, learning more about the evolutionary mechanisms and lab methods.  In my project, I am looking at temporal change in haplotypic diversity and variation in the abyssal bivalve species Malletia abyssorum.  I am using previous data taken from M. abyssorum sampled in the 1960s and fresh samples retrieved in June 2008.


Alisha Josey

I am a senior at UMass Boston, majoring in Biology, minoring in Psychology, and a member of the Honors Program. I am working with Ron Etter, under the supervision of Elizabeth Boyle on preservation and DNA extractions of the bivalve Mytilus edulis. This research will help determine the best way to preserve deep sea organisms for extracting and analyzing DNA. I have been working for 4 years in a Microbiology lab at Cambridge Hospital. Upon graduation in August 2008, I plan to pursue a Master’s Degree in Biomedical Forensic Sience

Selina Vage

Selina Våge

I studied biology at the University of Zürich from the fall of 2005 to the summer of 2007. Now I am spending one year at the University of Massachusetts Boston as an exchange student in order to finish my bachelors degree in biology. I'm focusing on marine sciences and math. Currently,  I'm working on a bifurcating key to deep-sea protobranchs (bivalves) of the North Atlantic basin. My goal is to develop an identification tool for the most abundant species based on external characteristics. This will hopefully help to group specimens that will be collected on a cruise in June 2008 with Ron Etter as the chief scientist. After receiving my bachelor's degree, I hope to take part in the Woods Hole summer student fellowship program in the summer of 2008.

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