Matching Items (337)
Phytoplankton comprise the base of the marine food web, and, along with heterotrophic protists, they are key players in the biological pump that transports carbon from the surface to the deep ocean. In the world's subtropical oligotrophic gyres, plankton communities exhibit strong seasonality. Winter storms vent deep water into the euphotic zone, triggering a surge in primary productivity in the form of a spring phytoplankton bloom. Although the hydrographic trends of this "boom and bust" cycle have been well studied for decades, community composition and its seasonal and annual variability remains an integral subject of research. It is hypothesized here that proportions of different phytoplankton and protistan taxa vary dramatically between seasons and years, and that picoplankton represent an important component of this community and contributor to carbon in the surface ocean. Monthly samples from the Bermuda Atlantic Time-series Study (BATS) site were analyzed by epifluorescence microscopy, which permits classification by morphology, size, and trophic type. Epifluorescence counts were supplemented with flow cytometric quantification of Synechococcus, Prochlorococcus, and autotrophic pico- and nanoeukaryotes. Results from this study indicate Synechococcus and Prochlorococcus, prymnesiophytes, and hetero- and mixotrophic nano- and dinoflagellates were the major players in the BATS region plankton community. Ciliates, cryptophytes, diatoms, unidentified phototrophs, and other taxa represented rarer groups. Both flow cytometry and epifluorescence microscopy revealed Synechococcus to be most prevalent during the spring bloom. Prymnesiophytes likewise displayed distinct seasonality, with the highest concentrations again being noted during the bloom. Heterotrophic nano- and dinoflagellates, however, were most common in fall and winter. Mixotrophic dinoflagellates, while less abundant than their heterotrophic counterparts, displayed similar seasonality. A key finding of this study was the interannual variability revealed between the two years. While most taxa were more abundant in the first year, prymnesiophytes experienced much greater abundance in the second year bloom. Analyses of integrated carbon revealed further stark contrasts between the two years, both in terms of total carbon and the contributions of different groups. Total integrated carbon varied widely in the first study year but displayed less fluctuation after June 2009, and values were noticeably reduced in the second year.
Plant community composition along the historic Verde River irrigation system: does hydrochory play a role?
As an industrial society, humans have increasingly separated agricultural processes from natural ecosystems. Many areas of the Southwestern US, however, maintain traditional practices that link agricultural systems to the natural environment. One such practice, diverting river water into fields via earthen irrigation canals, allows ditch water to recharge groundwater and riparian vegetation to prosper along canal banks. As there is growing interest in managing landscapes for multiple ecosystem services, this study was undertaken to determine if irrigation canals function as an extension of the riparian corridor. I was specifically interested in determining if the processes within semi-arid streams that drive riparian plant community structure are manifested in earthen irrigation ditches. I examined herbaceous and woody vegetation along the middle Verde River, AZ, USA and three adjacent irrigation ditches across six months. I also collected sieved hydrochores--seeds dispersing through water--within ditches and the river twelve times. Results indicate that ditch vegetation was similar to streamside river vegetation in abundance (cover and basal area) due to surface water availability but more diverse than river streamside vegetation due to high heterogeneity. Compositionally, herbaceous vegetation along the ditch was most similar to the river banks, while low disturbance fostered woody vegetation along the ditches similar to high floodplain and river terrace vegetation. Hydrochore richness and abundance within the river was dependent on seasonality and stream discharge, but these relationships were dampened in the ditches. Species-specific strategies of hydrochory, however, did emerge in both systems. Strategies include pulse species, which disperse via hydrochory in strict accordance with their restricted dispersal windows, constant species, which are year round hydrochores, and combination species, which show characteristics of both. There was high overlap in the composition of hydrochores in the two systems, with obligate wetland species abundant in both. Upland species were more seasonally constant and abundant in the ditch water than the river. The consistency of river processes and similarity of vegetation suggest that earthen irrigation ditches do function as an extension of the riparian corridor. Thus, these man-made irrigation ditches should be considered by stakeholders for their multiple ecosystem services.
The phycologist, M. R. Droop, studied vitamin B12 limitation in the flagellate Monochrysis lutheri and concluded that its specific growth rate depended on the concentration of the vitamin within the cell; i.e. the cell quota of the vitamin B12. The Droop model provides a mathematical expression to link growth rate to the intracellular concentration of a limiting nutrient. Although the Droop model has been an important modeling tool in ecology, it has only recently been applied to study cancer biology. Cancer cells live in an ecological setting, interacting and competing with normal and other cancerous cells for nutrients and space, and evolving and adapting to their environment. Here, the Droop equation is used to model three cancers.
First, prostate cancer is modeled, where androgen is considered the limiting nutrient since most tumors depend on androgen for proliferation and survival. The model's accuracy for predicting the biomarker for patients on intermittent androgen deprivation therapy is tested by comparing the simulation results to clinical data as well as to an existing simpler model. The results suggest that a simpler model may be more beneficial for a predictive use, although further research is needed in this field prior to implementing mathematical models as a predictive method in a clinical setting.
Next, two chronic myeloid leukemia models are compared that consider Imatinib treatment, a drug that inhibits the constitutively active tyrosine kinase BCR-ABL. Both models describe the competition of leukemic and normal cells, however the first model also describes intracellular dynamics by considering BCR-ABL as the limiting nutrient. Using clinical data, the differences in estimated parameters between the models and the capacity for each model to predict drug resistance are analyzed.
Last, a simple model is presented that considers ovarian tumor growth and tumor induced angiogenesis, subject to on and off anti-angiogenesis treatment. In this environment, the cell quota represents the intracellular concentration of necessary nutrients provided through blood supply. Mathematical analysis of the model is presented and model simulation results are compared to pre-clinical data. This simple model is able to fit both on- and off-treatment data using the same biologically relevant parameters.
Sexual and social signals have long been thought to play an important role in speciation and diversity; hence, investigations of intraspecific communication may lead to important insights regarding key processes of evolution. Though we have learned much about the control, function, and evolution of animal communication by studying several very common signal types, investigating rare classes of signals may provide new information about how and why animals communicate. My dissertation research focused on rapid physiological color change, a rare signal-type used by relatively few taxa. To answer longstanding questions about this rare class of signals, I employed novel methods to measure rapid color change signals of male veiled chameleons Chamaeleo calyptratus in real-time as seen by the intended conspecific receivers, as well as the associated behaviors of signalers and receivers. In the context of agonistic male-male interactions, I found that the brightness achieved by individual males and the speed of color change were the best predictors of aggression and fighting ability. Conversely, I found that rapid skin darkening serves as a signal of submission for male chameleons, reducing aggression from winners when displayed by losers. Additionally, my research revealed that the timing of maximum skin brightness and speed of brightening were the best predictors of maximum bite force and circulating testosterone levels, respectively. Together, these results indicated that different aspects of color change can communicate information about contest strategy, physiology, and performance ability. Lastly, when I experimentally manipulated the external appearance of chameleons, I found that "dishonestly" signaling individuals (i.e. those whose behavior did not match their manipulated color) received higher aggression from unpainted opponents. The increased aggression received by dishonest signalers suggests that social costs play an important role in maintaining the honesty of rapid color change signals in veiled chameleons. Though the color change abilities of chameleons have interested humans since the time of Aristotle, little was previously known about the signal content of such changes. Documenting the behavioral contexts and information content of these signals has provided an important first step in understanding the current function, underlying control mechanisms, and evolutionary origins of this rare signal type.
Examination of the state-dependency and consequences of foraging in a low-energy system, the Gila monster, Heloderma suspectum
Foraging has complex effects on whole-organism homeostasis, and there is considerable evidence that foraging behavior is influenced by both environmental factors (e.g., food availability, predation risk) and the physiological condition of an organism. The optimization of foraging behavior to balance costs and benefits is termed state-dependent foraging (SDF) while behavior that seeks to protect assets of fitness is termed the asset protection principle (APP). A majority of studies examining SDF have focused on the role that energy balance has on the foraging of organisms with high metabolism and high energy demands ("high-energy systems" such as endotherms). In contrast, limited work has examined whether species with low energy use ("low-energy systems" such as vertebrate ectotherms) use an SDF strategy. Additionally, there is a paucity of evidence demonstrating how physiological and environmental factors other than energy balance influence foraging behavior (e.g. hydration state and free-standing water availability). Given these gaps in our understanding of SDF behavior and the APP, I examined the state-dependency and consequences of foraging in a low-energy system occupying a resource-limited environment - the Gila monster (Heloderma suspectum, Cope 1869). In contrast to what has been observed in a wide variety of taxa, I found that Gila monsters do not use a SDF strategy to manage their energy reserves and that Gila monsters do not defend their energetic assets. However, hydration state and free-standing water availability do affect foraging behavior of Gila monsters. Additionally, as Gila monsters become increasingly dehydrated, they reduce activity to defend hydration state. The SDF behavior of Gila monsters appears to be largely driven by the fact that Gila monsters must separately satisfy energy and water demands with food and free-standing water, respectively, in conjunction with the timescale within which Gila monsters balance their energy and water budgets (supra-annually versus annually, respectively). Given these findings, the impact of anticipated changes in temperature and rainfall patterns in the Sonoran Desert are most likely going to pose their greatest risks to Gila monsters through the direct and indirect effects on water balance.
Over the past decade, several high-value proteins have been produced using plant-based transient expression systems. However, these studies exposed some limitations that must be overcome to allow plant expression systems to reach their full potential. These limitations are the low level of recombinant protein accumulation achieved in some cases, and lack of efficient co-expression vectors for the production of multi-protein complexes. This study report that tobacco Extensin (Ext) gene 3' untranslated region (UTR) can be broadly used to enhance recombinant protein expression in plants. Extensin is the hydroxyproline-rich glycoprotein that constitutes the major protein component of cell walls. Using transient expression, it was found that the Ext 3' UTR increases recombinant protein expression up to 13.5- and 6-fold in non-replicating and replicating vector systems, respectively, compared to previously established terminators. Enhanced protein accumulation was correlated with increased mRNA levels associated with reduction in read-through transcription. Regions of Ext 3' UTR essential for maximum gene expression included a poly-purine sequence used as a major poly-adenylation site. Furthermore, modified bean yellow dwarf virus (BeYDV)-based vectors designed to allow co-expression of multiple recombinant genes were constructed and tested for their performance in driving transient expression in plants. Robust co-expression and assembly of heavy and light chains of the anti-Ebola virus monoclonal antibody 6D8, as well as E. coli heat-labile toxin (LT) were achieved with the modified vectors. The simultaneous co-expression of three fluoroproteins using the single replicon, triple cassette is demonstrated by confocal microscopy. In conclusion, this study provides an excellent tool for rapid, cost-effective, large-scale manufacturing of recombinant proteins for use in medicine and industry.
Speciation is the fundamental process that has generated the vast diversity of life on earth. The hallmark of speciation is the evolution of barriers to gene flow. These barriers may reduce gene flow either by keeping incipient species from hybridizing at all (pre-zygotic), or by reducing the fitness of hybrids (post-zygotic). To understand the genetic architecture of these barriers and how they evolve, I studied a genus of wasps that exhibits barriers to gene flow that act both pre- and post-zygotically. Nasonia is a genus of four species of parasitoid wasps that can be hybridized in the laboratory. When two of these species, N. vitripennis and N. giraulti are mated, their offspring suffer, depending on the generation and cross examined, up to 80% mortality during larval development due to incompatible genic interactions between their nuclear and mitochondrial genomes. These species also exhibit pre-zygotic isolation, meaning they are more likely to mate with their own species when given the choice. I examined these two species and their hybrids to determine the genetic and physiological bases of both speciation mechanisms and to understand the evolutionary forces leading to them. I present results that indicate that the oxidative phosphorylation (OXPHOS) pathway, an essential pathway that is responsible for mitochondrial energy generation, is impaired in hybrids of these two species. These results indicate that this impairment is due to the unique evolutionary dynamics of the combined nuclear and mitochondrial origin of this pathway. I also present results showing that, as larvae, these hybrids experience retarded growth linked to the previously observed mortality and I explore possible physiological mechanisms for this. Finally, I show that the pre-mating isolation is due to a change in a single pheromone component in N. vitripennis males, that this change is under simple genetic control, and that it evolved neutrally before being co-opted as a species recognition signal. These results are an important addition to our overall understanding of the mechanisms of speciation and showcase Nasonia as an emerging model for the study of the genetics of speciation.
Characterizing retinotopic mapping using conformal geometry and Beltrami coefficient: a preliminary study
Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) has been widely used to measure the retinotopic organization of early visual cortex in the human brain. Previous studies have identified multiple visual field maps (VFMs) based on statistical analysis of fMRI signals, but the resulting geometry has not been fully characterized with mathematical models. This thesis explores using concepts from computational conformal geometry to create a custom software framework for examining and generating quantitative mathematical models for characterizing the geometry of early visual areas in the human brain. The software framework includes a graphical user interface built on top of a selected core conformal flattening algorithm and various software tools compiled specifically for processing and examining retinotopic data. Three conformal flattening algorithms were implemented and evaluated for speed and how well they preserve the conformal metric. All three algorithms performed well in preserving the conformal metric but the speed and stability of the algorithms varied. The software framework performed correctly on actual retinotopic data collected using the standard travelling-wave experiment. Preliminary analysis of the Beltrami coefficient for the early data set shows that selected regions of V1 that contain reasonably smooth eccentricity and polar angle gradients do show significant local conformality, warranting further investigation of this approach for analysis of early and higher visual cortex.
Colorful ornaments in animals often serve as sexually selected signals of quality. While pigment-based colors are well-studied in these regards, structural colors that result from the interaction of light with photonic nanostructures are comparatively understudied in terms of their consequences in social contexts, their costs of production, and even the best way to measure them. Iridescent colors are some of the most brilliant and conspicuous colors in nature, and I studied the measurement, condition-dependence, and signaling role of iridescence in Anna's hummingbirds (Calypte anna). While most animal colors are easily quantified using well-established spectrophotometric techniques, the unique characteristics of iridescent colors present challenges to measurement and opportunities to quantify novel color metrics. I designed and tested an apparatus for careful control and measurement of viewing geometry and highly repeatable measurements. These measurements could be used to accurately characterize individual variation in iridescent Anna's hummingbirds to examine their condition-dependence and signaling role. Next, I examined the literature published to date for evidence of condition-dependence of structural colors in birds. Using meta-analyses, I found that structural colors of all three types - white, ultra-violet/blue, and iridescence - are significantly condition-dependent, meaning that they can convey information about quality to conspecifics. I then investigated whether iridescent colors were condition-dependent in Anna's hummingbirds both in a field correlational study and in an experimental study. Throughout the year, I found that iridescent feathers in both male and female Anna's hummingbirds become less brilliant as they age. Color was not correlated with body condition in any age/sex group. However, iridescent coloration in male Anna's hummingbirds was significantly affected by experimental protein in the diet during feather growth, indicating that iridescent color may signal diet quality. Finally, I examined how iridescent colors were used to mediate social competitions in male and female Anna's hummingbirds. Surprisingly, males that were less colorful won significantly more contests than more colorful males, and colorful males received more aggression. Less colorful males may be attempting to drive away colorful neighbors that may be preferred mates. Female iridescent ornament size and color was highly variable, but did not influence contest outcomes or aggression.
Consideration of both biological and human-use dynamics in coupled social-ecological systems is essential for the success of interventions such as marine reserves. As purely human institutions, marine reserves have no direct effects on ecological systems. Consequently, the success of a marine reserve depends on managers` ability to alter human behavior in the direction and magnitude that supports reserve objectives. Further, a marine reserve is just one component in a larger coupled social-ecological system. The social, economic, political, and biological landscape all determine the social acceptability of a reserve, conflicts that arise, how the reserve interacts with existing fisheries management, accuracy of reserve monitoring, and whether the reserve is ultimately able to meet conservation and fishery enhancement goals. Just as the social-ecological landscape is critical at all stages for marine reserve, from initial establishment to maintenance, the reserve in turn interacts with biological and human use dynamics beyond its borders. Those interactions can lead to the failure of a reserve to meet management goals, or compromise management goals outside the reserve. I use a bio-economic model of a fishery in a spatially patchy environment to demonstrate how the pre-reserve fisheries management strategy determines the pattern of fishing effort displacement once the reserve is established, and discuss the social, political, and biological consequences of different patterns for the reserve and the fishery. Using a stochastic bio-economic model, I demonstrate how biological and human use connectivity can confound the accurate detection of reserve effects by violating assumptions in the quasi-experimental framework. Finally, I examine data on recreational fishing site selection to investigate changes in response to the announcement of enforcement of a marine reserve in the Gulf of California, Mexico. I generate a scale of fines that would fully or partially protect the reserve, providing a data-driven way for managers to balance biological and socio-economic goals. I suggest that natural resource managers consider human use dynamics with the same frequency, rigor, and tools as they do biological stocks.