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6200 Bayshore Rd.
Oregon, OH 43616
Great Lakes Genetics Lab
My research interests include phylogeography, population and landscape genetics, fisheries and aquatic ecology and conservation.
I received my B.A. in Biology from the College of Wooster in May 2010, where I completed my undergraduate thesis studying the impacts of predatory stress on the evolution of body size and coloration in tropical stream fishes of Tobago. Upon graduation, I sought a position in Dr. Stepien’s laboratory in order to further my understanding of fisheries and population genetics. My thesis research project focused on the use of fine-scale nuclear microsatellite variation to understand the spatial patterns of yellow perch stock structure in the Huron-Erie corridor as well as Lakes St. Clair, Erie, and Ontario where I evaluated how consistent these spatial patterns were over time. I published the paper, "Genetic diversity and divergence of yellow perch spawning populations across the Huron–Erie Corridor, from Lake Huron through western Lake Erie" in the Journal of Great Lakes Research with Dr. Stepien, and we have another in review: "Temporal population genetic structure of the yellow perch Perca flavescens within a complex lakescape: Insights that may aid adaptive management" based on the results of my M.S. thesis work. I now am pursuing a Ph.D. at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette.
Vrushalee Palsule (2011-2013)
VHS Fish Virus Project Research Technician
I received my B.Sc. in Biotechnology from Mumbai University, India and a M.S. in Cell and Molecular Biology from Louisiana Tech University. I like to get involved in research that incorporates various techniques in Genetics and Molecular Biology. This was encouraged as a research technician under Dr. Stepien on developing assays using StaRT PCR and Real time PCR to detect the VHS fish virus in Great Lakes. I gave several research presentations, traveling with the GLGL lab. These included the International Conference on Aquatic Invasive Species in April 2013 in Canada, and the International EcoSummit Conference in Columbus Ohio in October 2012. I am a co-author on two 2013 publications on the VHSv fish virus, in Journal of Virological Methods and PLOS One. I left the GLGL to go to live with my new husband in Florida.
Dr. Osvaldo Jhonatan Sepulveda Villet (Ph.D. 2011)
I received my B.S. in Aquacultural Engineering from the Universidad Autonoma de Guadalajara, and a M.S. in Biology from Central Michigan University. My earlier academic research included Nutritional efficiency on freshwater crustaceans, developmental biology of marine shrimp, and proteomic research. An aquatic enthusiast at heart, I joined Dr. Stepien's Great Lakes Genetics/Genomics Laboratory at the Lake Erie Center to focus on yellow perch and percid population genetics and stock assessments for the Great Lakes, particularly Lake Erie and its tributaries. My interests include genome to proteome databases/mapping, applied genomics, QTL determination in animal species of commercial relevance and aquacultural research. I completed my Ph.D. dissertation, "Population genetic structure and biogeographic patterns in the yellow perch Perca flavescens," in October 2011. I received the IAGLR Scholarship award and was one of 20 students selected to compete for best paper at the American Fisheries Society. Dr. Stepien encouraged me to apply for the Knauss Fellowship, where I worked in Washington D.C. for the final year of my Ph.D. I published three first-authored papers with Dr. Stepien on my dissertation work on yellow perch, in the Journal of Great Lakes Research, Molecular Ecology, and the Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aqauatic Sciences.
I enjoy most outdoors activities, including backpacking, canoeing, and Steelhead/Salmon flyfishing.
I have lived near Lake Erie most of my life and knew I wanted to play a role in maintaining a healthy ecosystem. It was during my internship in the summer of 2006 at USGS in their Lake Erie Biological Station that I decided I wanted to work with freshwater fish. After receiving my B.S. from Bowling Green State University in Environmental Science, I started my M.S. in Biology with an ecological focus at the University of Toledo in the Great Lakes Genetics/Genomics Lab at the Lake Erie Center. This expertise led to my current position at the US Fish and Wildlife Service.
I began my research at UT as an undergraduate, as part of the NSF’s REU program, in the summer of 2007 at the Lake Erie Center in Dr. Stepien's Great Lakes Genetics/Genomics Lab. I then went on to become an M.S. student, graduating in 2011. I tested for genetically distinct spawning groups of Lake Erie walleye (Sander vitreus) to determine if the genetic composition of spawning runs is temporally and spatially consistent. I focused on sites in Lake Erie, and tested the western basin Maumee and Sandusky River and eastern basin Van Buren Bay runs from 1995, 1998, 2003, 2007, and 2008. I extracted DNA from fin clip samples taken by government agencies for the past 13 years during their catch and release programs, amplifying DNA from highly variable nuclear microsatellite loci with the Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR), identifying the alleles, and comparing among spawning group locations and years. I published results from this work with Dr. Stepien in Transactions of the American Fisheries Society in 2012. I also was an NSF-sponsored graduate mentor for two years in the program "Graduate Fellows in High School STEM Education: An Environmental Science Learning Community at the Land-Lake Ecosystem Interface", where I worked with Paulette Cole at TECHs (Toledo Early College High School).
Dr. Joshua Brown (Ph.D. 2009)
My interests centered on questions of adaptation and evolution, focusing on the evolution of invasiveness and plasticity, using aquatic organisms as model systems. To address these questions, I made use of molecular and ecological studies to identify and track changes in populations. I have been very interested in environmental policy in the Great Lakes and Oceans. I currently am a federal program administrator at Sea Grant in Washington D.C. I began that career trajectory with Dr. Stepien's encouragement to become a Sea Grant Knauss Fellow in 2009.
My research projects focused on the Laurentian Great Lakes and the Ponto-Caspian species suite that has invaded the region. These included the zebra and quagga mussels and the round and tubenose gobies. I utilized mitochondrial and nuclear DNA markers to elucidate population relationships and biogeographic pathways. I received an IAGLR Scholarship award and presented at many conferences while in the GLGL, including AFS, IAGLR, and ASIH. I then completed a Sea Grant Knauss Fellowship at Sea Grant in Washington D.C. I published as first author with Dr. Stepien in Molecular Ecology (2008 and 2009) and Biological Invasions (2010).
Dr. Matthew Neilson (Ph.D. 2009)
Now: USGS Biological Technician
My research interests lie mainly around the evolution, biogeography, systematics and population genetics of fishes. For my M.S. degree at California State University Long Beach, I worked on the population genetics of an invasive species of Asian goby along the California coast. For my Ph.D. dissertation I worked on the systematics and population genetics of gobies that are invasive in the Great Lakes and native to the Ponto-Caspian region. I also am interested in the use of computer models in both population genetics and fisheries biology. I currently work as a subcontractor for the USGS in Gainesville Florida on Invasive Species.
The main focus of my dissertation research was the systematics of the neogobiin gobies, a small species flock of ~20-25 species of gobies endemic to the Ponto-Caspian region (Black and Caspian Seas) of Europe/Asia. The systematic relationships within this group are not very well known: many species in the group are morphologically similar, and are highly sympatric (4-7 species in a given area) within their native range. More importantly, however, is that a number of these species have invaded areas outside of their native range, due to anthropogenic sources such as man-made canals or transport in ballast water. The problem thus arises in determining the actual number of species invasions or rate of range expansion when the potential for cryptic invasion of a morphologically similar species is high. In addition, phylogenetic analysis species groups containing a large number of invasive/introduced species (such as the neogobiins) can shed light on the evolutionary origins of invasiveness, through examining the distribution of invasive taxa relative to non-invasive taxa within the phylogeny itself. My research utilized both morphological and molecular characters to describe the relationships among these species, as well as design morphological keys and molecular diagnostic tools in order to differentiate among these closely related taxa. I received an IAGLR Scholarship award and an NSF Deepfin Travel award. I made two trips to Russia while in the GLGL, to collect gobies along the Volga River and to examine specimens at the Russian Academy of Sciences in St. Petersburg. I made many research presentations while at the GLGL, including at ASIH, SSE, and IAGLR. I published three papers from my dissertation results, with Dr. Stepien as co-author, in the journals Biological Journal of the Linnean Society (2009), Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution (2009), and Diversity and Distributions (2010). We also have a new paper in press in the Journal of Great Lakes Research (2013).
Former GLGL Research Technician
Current Education Program Manager
I received my B.S. in Biology from the University of Toledo in 2000. I then continued my education at U.T. and completed my thesis, titled Diversity, redundancy, and efficiency in microbial decomposition of Typha litter and M.S. in biology in 2002. After working as a technician at the Medical College of Ohio in a genetics laboratory for a year I joined Christine Mayer's benthic ecology lab at the University of Toledo's Lake Erie Center, where I worked on a benthic primary productivity project. I then joined Carol Stepien's Great Lakes Genetics Laboratory to work on the population genetic variation of walleye, using mitochondrial DNA sequences and nuclear microsatellites. I am currently working as the Education Program Manager at the Lake Erie Center. Through this position I oversee environmental education programs and facilitate educational outreach and I serve as the program manager on Dr. Stepien’s NSF funded GK-12 grant titled, “Graduate Teaching Fellows in STEM High School Education: An Environmental Science Learning Community at the Land-Lake Ecosystem Interface”.
Dr. Rex Meade Strange
Dr. Strange comments, "My research interests include the processes of anagenetic change and cladogenetic diversification within the North American freshwater fish fauna." Dr. Strange's primary mission in his two year postdoctoral study (2004-6) in the Great Lake Genetics Laboratory was to work with Dr. Stepien to investigate the phylogeographic structure of walleye (Sander vitreus) spawning groups in Lake Erie. This postdoctoral research was supported by Dr. Stepien's NOAA Sea Grant Project # RL/R 7 "Development and implementation of a high-resolution data base for fishery management: Walleye and yellow perch stock structure." Dr. Strange's postdoctoral study focused on population structure in Lake Erie walleye using ten microsatellite loci, and included all recognized native spawning populations in the Lake. The practical aspect of this study is that the analysis identified management units (stocks) of this commercially important species. It also identified certain spawning groups (e.g., Cattaraugus Creek, Huron River, Western Reefs, Smoke's Creek, and Grand River, Ontario) as distinctive within the Lake and worthy of conservation. A paper on this work was published in Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences 2007 by Strange and Stepien, "Genetic divergence and connectivity among river and reef spawning populations of walleye (Sander vitreus) in Lake Erie". In addition, Dr. Strange co-authored a paper on smallmouth bass stock structure across the Great Lakes using eight microsatellite loci, by Stepien, Murphy, and Strange 2007 in Molecular Ecology, "Broad- to fine-scale population genetic patterning in the smallmouth bass Micropterus dolomieu across the Laurentian Great Lakes and beyond: An interplay of behavior and geography." Dr. Strange also authored another paper with Dr. Stepien as co-author, 2007 in U.S. Fishery Bulletin "Yellow (Perca ﬂavescens) and Eurasian (P. ﬂuviatilis) perch distinguished in fried ﬁsh samples by DNA analysis". After completing his postdoctoral study in the Great Lakes Genetics Lab, Dr. Strange began a full time position in fall 2006 as an assistant professor of developmental biology with the University of Southern Indiana, Evansville, IN, where he is teaching histology and other courses.