Faculty Research Assistance Program (FRAP) Directory

The FRAP Directory allows students to identify UCSB faculty who are looking for undergraduate students to participate in their research projects or creative activities. Please use the links below to find opportunities by discipline. Students, if your desired discipline is not listed, please contact the Undergraduate Research Initiatives office at 805-893-3090 or urca@ltsc.ucsb.edu for assistance. Faculty, if you would like to post your research or creative activity opportunity, please complete the online submission form.

Ecology Evolution and Marine Biology

Peter Collins

Location:
Bio. II, Room 2139
893-4425

Research Project

Our laboratory examines growth and life-history characteristics in nearshore marine teleost fish which can potentially be cultured as a food resource or incorporated into programs for wild stock enhancement. Our research is centered on two model fish namely a viviparous (live-bearing) species, rockfish and an oviparous (egg laying) species, cabezon. We are evaluating the dietary requirements and environmental conditions ( e.g. water temperature and oxygen concentration) necessary for optimal growth and survival in these two fish species. Our studies are aimed at establishing a comprehensive picture of developmental characteristics from birth or hatching through component phases of larval and juvenile life in fish.

Undergraduate Contribution

All students will be involved in maintaining fish broodstock and experimental populations in our marine facility. Individual students will be assigned to culturing or collecting from the wild a variety of microorganisms which comprise the complex dietary requirements of fish larvae. Dietary intake will be quantified and the efficacy of different dietary regimens will be compared by monitoring survival and growth performance. Some students will be involved in the development of experimental protocols designed to expose larval populations to different oxygen levels (hypoxia) and temperature and to evaluate the effect of these environmental parameters on fish larvae.

Requirements

Students must be reliable and adhere strictly to assigned tasks. Maintenance of vertebrate species such as fish requires daily monitoring to ensure conformance with standards established by UCSB's Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUC). Good record keeping skills are required. Development in larvae is monitored by reference to weight, linear dimensions and physical features determined by morphometric analysis by light microscopy. While we can provide in-house training in required laboratory skills, students with experience with microbalances and/or research microscopy would be highly desirable for this component of the study. Computer skills relating to data analysis are also desirable.

Carla D'Antonio

Location:
4017L Bren Hall

Research Project

The project involves investigating variation in plant traits across environmental gradients. We use a non-native woody species, Tamarisk, to answer questions related to how biomass accumulation, carbon allocation patterns, and physiological constraints change with increases in stressors. We are particularly interested in responses to different kinds of stress and their interactions, specifically salinity, increased temperature, and herbivory. Currently we are processing samples from a common garden site in Yuma, AZ and performing greenhouse experiments related to increasing levels of salinity.

Undergraduate Contribution

Undergraduates involved in the project will work closely with graduate students to implement greenhouse experiments and process samples from the common garden. Greenhouse experiments will include learning how to grow and care for plants in the trials and constructing experimental designs. As the experiments progress students will help with tracking plant growth and entering those data. Students will gain skills in using tools to measure physiological activity in live plants, as well as processing plant material for analysis at the end of the experiment. Students involved in processing samples will gain experience in using lab equipment and helping with data analysis.

Requirements

Completion of introductory biology series

Attention to detail and good note taking abilities

Good attitude and willing to get dirty in the field and greenhouse

Scott Hodges

Location:
4105 LSB
805-893-7813

Research Project

This project seeks to determine the genetic dominance effects of naturally varying alleles of a floral homeotic gene AP3-3, which affects petal development. The petals of flowers of the columbine genus, Aquilegia, produce distinctive nectar spurs that aid in pollination. However we have identified multiple alleles at this locus associated with the homeotic transformation of petals into a second set of sepals. These alleles vary in their predicted severity of the mutation to the coded protein product. We seek to determine whether some of these alleles differ in their dominance effects.

Undergraduate Contribution

The undergraduate will use PCR amplification of the AP3-3 followed by restriction enzyme digestion to identify plants with different alleles. They will then make crosses with wild type or mutant plants to create offspring differing by being either heterozygous or homozygous for the mutant allele. They will then grow these, determine whether they are homozygous or heterozygous and correlate the genotypes with the phenotype of the flowers.

Requirements

Have taken Introductory Biology, and preferably Genetics.

Enthusiasm for plant biology and genetics.

Location:
4105 LSB
805-893-7813

Research Project

The goal of this project is to test the function of candidate genes predicted to affect the development of nectar spurs in columbines, the genus Aquilegia. Previous experiments have implicated a number of genes, including specific transcription factors, that have expression patterns highly correlated with the development of nectar spurs. To test these predictions we will utilize Viral Induced Gene Silencing (VIGS) that allows us to specifically knockdown the amount of mRNA for any specific gene and thus reduce the amount of protein for which it codes. We then see if the knockdown of a gene has the predicted effect, i.e., that nectar spurs are no long produced.

Undergraduate Contribution

The undergraduate for this project will work closely with a postdoctoral associate in our laboratory. The undergraduate will assist all aspects of the VIGS experiment including the molecular biology of producing constructs to specifically target a gene, production of the bacterial vector delivery system, inoculation of plants, growing and scoring the plants for changes in phenotype, collecting and testing tissue for successful inoculation and testing affected tissue for the predicted change in mRNA amount and exploring the potential effects on the expression of other genes.

Requirements

Introductory Biology

Other: Introductory genetics strongly encouraged, laboratory courses which utilize molecular biology or microbiological techniques and organizational skills

Location:
4105 Life Sciences Building
893-7813

Research Project

This project seeks to determine if natural variation in the presence/absence of a floral organ, staminodia, is due to DNA sequence variation at the floral homeotic gene AP3-1. Flowers of species in the columbine genus, Aquilegia, have an unusual structure in that they have a fifth floral organ, staminodia, in addition to the usual four (sepals, petals, stamens and carpels). However the flowers of one species, A. jonesii, has evolutionary lost this ability. Developmental studies have implicated the gene AP3-1 as critical to the development of staminodia and thus this gene is a very strong candidate to explain the lack of staminodia in A. jonesii. We seek to determine if there are obvious lesions in the AP3-1 gene of A. jonesii compared to species that produce staminodia.

Undergraduate Contribution

The undergraduate will design PCR primers and optimize amplification of the AP3-1. They will then attempt to amplify AP3-1 from A. jonesii and other species. These PCR products will then be sequenced and compared to determine if the gene in A. jonesii is likely to be non-functional.

Requirements

Have taken Introductory Biology, and preferably Genetics. 
 
Enthusiasm for plant biology and genetics.
 
Location:
4105 LSB
893-7813

Research Project

This project will determine the effect of specific amino acid changes in a key enzyme (DFR) in the biosynthetic pathway for the production of anthocyanins, a floral pigment. Previous studies have implicated 2 amino acid positions as affecting the substrate specificity of DFR. If true, this specificity would affect whether the enzyme is capable of producing blue or red anthocyanins. Using phylogenetic techniques we will predict the ancestral amino acid sequence of DFR for North American Aquilegia species and then test the enzymatic capacity of enzymes with this sequence and compare that with enzymes with derived sequences.

Undergraduate Contribution

The undergraduate for this project will work closely with a graduate student. The undergraduate will analyze DNA sequences of the DFR gene and reconstruct the ancestral amino acid sequence. They will also work to transform E. coli with constructs to express different DFR genes, learn to isolate these proteins, and test their enzymatic capabilities with different substrates.

Requirements

  • Introductory Biology
  • Other laboratory courses which utilize molecular biology or microbiological techniques are useful organizational skills
Location:
4105 LSB
893-7813

Research Project

The goal of this project is to determine the genetic basis of adaptation to serpentine soil by Aquilegia eximia. Serpentine soils are one of the most extreme natural habitat that plants can be subjected to. The soils have very low nutrients, high amounts of toxic heavy metals, very low levels of Ca and high levels of Mg. Most plants die when forced to grow on serpentine soil yet some species, like A. eximia, have become specialized to only live there. This project will examine whether there is differential expression of genes in roots and shoots of A. eximia and its progenitor species A. formosa when growing on serpentine and non-serpentine soils. The project will also examine differentiation across the entire genome between the two species.

Undergraduate Contribution

The undergraduate for this project will work closely with Professor Hodges. The undergraduate will conduct experiments of germinating and growing seedlings on serpentine and non-serpentine soils, collection of roots and shoots, perform RNA isolations, and learn to construct DNA/cDNA libraries for next-generation sequencing. The undergraduate will also learn how to perform bioinformatic analysis of the resulting DNA sequences.

Requirements

  • Introductory Biology
  • Other laboratory courses which utilize molecular biology or microbiological techniques are useful organizational skills
Location:
4105 LSB
893-7813

Research Project

The goal of this project is to test the function of genes predicted to affect flower color in columbines, the genus Aquilegia. Previous experiments have implicated a number of genes, including specific transcription factors, that control the production of floral pigments (anthocyanins and carotenoids). To test these predictions we will utilize viral induced gene silencing (VIGS) that allows us to specifically knockdown the amount of mRNA for any specific gene and thus reduce the amount of protein for which it codes. We then see if the knockdown of a gene has the predicted effect, i.e., that the floral pigment is no longer produced.

Undergraduate Contribution

The undergraduate for this project will work closely with a postdoctoral associate in our laboratory. The undergraduate will assist all aspects of the VIGS experiment including the molecular biology of producing constructs to specifically target a gene, production of the bacterial vector delivery system, inoculation of plants, growing and scoring the plants for changes in phenotype, collecting and testing tissue for successful inoculation and testing affected tissue for the predicted change in mRNA amount and exploring the potential effects on the expression of other genes.

Requirements

  • Introductory Biology
  • Other laboratory courses which utilize molecular biology or microbiological techniques are useful organizational skills

Susan Mazer

Location:
4119 Life Sciences
893-8011

Research Project

EVOLUTIONARY CHANGE IN WILDFLOWERS: PREDICTING THE EFFECTS OF CLIMATE CHANGE ON LIFE HISTORY AND FLORAL TRAITS. Several research projects in the Mazer lab are designed to detect evidence for adaptation and genetically based variation among wild plant populations of several species in two groups of insect-pollinated wildflowers.  The first is the genus Clarkia (known as Farewell-to-Spring), a widespread genus of beautiful California wildflowers that are among the last group of wildflowers to flower each spring.  The second group is the genus Streptanthus (jewelflower), which includes many species with the unusual ability to tolerate the high metal content of serpentine soils.  One of our primary goals is to examine geographic variation in traits that evolve in response to local climatic conditions in order to predict the effects of climate change on the evolution of plant life history and reproductive traits in plants. For example, if plant populations living at warm, low-elevation sites have evolved to flower earlier and produce smaller flowers (which lose less water than large flowers) than populations living at cooler, high-elevation sites, then we may predict that as the climate warms, all populations will evolve to flower earlier and to produce small flowers. In addition, if the pollinators of these populations don't emerge earlier to match the flowering time, then these populations will be at risk of failing due to insufficient pollination.

Undergraduate Contribution

You will participate in greenhouse experiments that will include a combination of greenhouse work (planting seedlings, pollinating flowers, recording data, collecting buds and seeds, and maintaining and cleaning up experimental supplies), data management, and lab work (examining plant organs under a microscope, weighing seeds, creating germination media). You'll be expected to work 8-10 hours a week, including weekly lab meetings to be scheduled when all lab members are available to come, where we will plan training sessions, trouble-shoot any technical problems that come up, discuss the broader research topics being explored in the Mazer lab, and read and discuss the current literature in plant evolutionary ecology (the study of natural selection and evolution in wild populations). You'll have the opportunity to conduct a senior thesis project in the lab if you demonstrate sufficient independence, care, and responsibility.

Requirements

Students may join this research project in Fall, Winter or Spring, but we prefer students who join in the fall and stay all year. Students are expected to have completed (or to enroll in during Winter 2017) EEMB 127 (Plant Biology and Biodiversity). Other useful (but not mandatory) courses include EEMB 127L (the lab for Plant Biology & Biodiveresity), Evolution, MacroEvolution, Ecology, Genetics and/or Population Biology. A good sense of humor and strong work ethic are also necessary! Please check out my lab's other research projects at: www.usanpn.org/cpp and www.baselineseedbank.org/

Douglas McCauley

Location:
Building 408

Research Project

Research in my laboratory focuses on understanding how wildlife communities are affected by changes to the environment. Current projects center upon research in coral reef ecosystems in the central Pacific and on hippopotamus ecology in East Africa. We are presently looking for motivated students to join our lab group doing a diverse set of research tasks in both domains. Example projects include using remote sensing to study self-organization in wildlife herds, tracing energy flow across ecosystems using biogeochemistry, and studying animal interactions using wildlife cameras.

 

Undergraduate Contribution

Students will be encouraged to take ownership over a particular project and works towards doing their own independent research.

Requirements

Students that have taken basic coursework in ecology and biology are preferred. A background in field or laboratory research will be helpful for beginning on advanced assignments.

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