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

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.

Holly Moeller

Location:
1120 Noble Hall
(805) 893-3216

Research Project

The Moeller Lab uses mathematical models, laboratory experiments, and field observations to explore community ecology. Our goal is to understand how interactions between different species shape the structure and function of the ecosystems that sustain life on Planet Earth. A current line of research in the lab involves developing mathematical models of acquired metabolism. Normally, we think of metabolism as something hard-wired in an organism, encoded within its DNA. But many species acquire access to other forms of metabolism within their lifetimes, through interactions with other species. This project develops and analyzes mathematical models of this process, connecting the mechanisms of species interactions with their impact on populations, communities, and ecosystems.

Undergraduate Contribution

Undergraduates involved in this project will contribute in multiple ways. They will serve as model developers, using their biological intuition and literature research to formulate mathematical equations representing study systems of interest. Study systems include, but are not limited to, plant-microbe mutualisms, chloroplast-stealing plankton, and coral-algal symbioses. Students will learn and use analytical skills (to compute model equilibria), programming skills (to simulate differential equations), and numerical skills (to analyze model outputs).

Requirements

Students should have familiarity with calculus and, ideally, linear algebra. Enthusiasm for biological problem-solving, and a desire to seek commonalities across superficially disparate systems is preferred. Students should be collaborative, tenacious, and creative. Some programming skills (the lab uses MATLAB and R for most of its work) would be helpful, but are not a requirement.

Ryoko Oono

Location:
Noble 1116
893-5064

Research Project

There are hundreds of different species of fungi living inside healthy plant leaves. We are interested in understanding why and how fungal diversity and abundance change across environmental gradients. We currently have samples from various plant species from multiple locations on Santa Cruz Island to understand how different levels of fog and moisture has affected the fungal community within plants.

Undergraduate Contribution

Student will culture fungi and characterize the fungal community using molecular techniques. Student will learn phylogenetic tools to identify fungal species, compare community structures from different plants, and likely, discover new species! Student is encouraged to independently work and direct the research to fit their interests. Senior members of the lab will help oversee the activity, but ultimately, the student is free to take ownership of the project.

Requirements

Students planning to declare biology major with special interest in ecology and evolution are encouraged to apply. Student must be willing to do repetitive work (processing large numbers of samples), be detail-oriented, have good organization skills and dexterity (pipetting, tweezer work, etc.).

Stephen Proulx

Location:
LSB 4109

Research Project

Ongoing research in our lab uses the yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae to study experimental evolution of gene networks and genetic interactions. Our goal is to use this microbe as a window to understand how genetic interactions evolve. We are currently following the evolution of sporulation and mating because these "behaviors" have an important effect on the population structure and the opportunity for adaptive evolution in nature. The experimental procedures that we use range from genetic manipulation of yeast to create designer strains, genotyping of strains by PCR, and a variety of microbiological techniques to manipulate the life-cycle and mating of yeast. Undergraduates working on these projects should expect to gain proficiency in a range of lab techniques and apply them on a regular basis.

Undergraduate Contribution

All students working in the lab contribute to the general maintenance of the lab, including pouring agar plates and mixing media. Students will start out learning specific lab techniques for culturing and manipulating yeast, and then move onto a specific project. These projects typically involve a combination of yeast culturing, genetic crossing, phenotyping, and PCR genotyping. Students are expected to devote several consecutive hours on days that they work in the lab. There is also a 1-hour weekly lab meeting that students attend and, from time to time, present their results.

Requirements

An interest in expanding your own understanding of the evolutionary basis of the biological world, a desire to discuss scientific hypotheses, ability to focus on a single problem, attention to detail, and a great attitude in a team environment.

Alyson Santoro

Location:
Marine Biotech Rm 2155
893-5318

Research Project

Our lab studies the distribution, abundance, and activity of microbes in the ocean. We are especially interested in microbes involved in the marine nitrogen cycle. I am currently recruiting students for two different types of projects in the laboratory:

1. Using quantitative molecular methods to map populations of microbes in different parts of the ocean, including the Santa Barbara channel

2. Culturing new microbes from the ocean and understanding their metabolism

Undergraduate Contribution

All students working in the lab contribute to the general operation and maintenance of the lab, including making media, washing culture vessels, and preparing for field expeditions. Students will start out learning techniques for culturing and/or molecular biology and then move onto a specific project. Undergraduate contributions will involve DNA extraction, PCR primer design, and quantitative PCR. Students are expected to devote several consecutive hours on days that they work in the lab. There is also a monthly lab meeting that students attend and periodically present their results.

Requirements

Students must have a passion for microbes and the ocean and an inquisitive nature. Student must be willing to do repetitive work, be detail oriented, and have good organization skills.

Thomas Turner

Location:
Noble Hall 2128

Research Project

The Evolutionary Genomics Laboratory, headed by Dr. Thomas Turner, periodically has opportunities for undergraduate assistants to help with large-scale collaborative experiments. The Turner lab studies genome evolution and the links between DNA and behavior using the fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster.

The specific project most assistants work on is focused on determining the genetic basis of variation in male courtship song. This is an entirely lab-based experiment, working exclusively with fruit flies. The majority of assistance will be needed during normal working hours, but some work may occasionally be needed on the weekend.

Ideally, we are looking for individuals with a lighter class schedule who can commit to several consecutive hours of work on busy days. Priority will be given to students who can commit a considerable chunk of time to research and those who can commit to work on the project throughout the summer and into the following academic year.

Please be aware that these are unpaid positions, but they provide a great opportunity for anyone wanting lab and research experience. Volunteers will participate in lab meetings, read and discuss papers with the PI, and develop a broad understanding ofthe research in the lab.

Undergraduate Contribution

Primarily data collection, but students are intellectually engaged in reading literature and discussing ongoing data analysis.

Requirements

Works well with others, great focus and attention to detail, independent critical thinking skills, educational background in general biology, and a positive attitude!

Hillary Young

Location:
Noble Hall 2116

Research Project

Our community ecology lab is working to understand how human-driven changes to natural systems (species loss and invasion, habitat loss, climate change) affect ecosystem structure, stability and function. One of the primary ways we measure ecosystem structure is by representing them as networks of interacting species.

We are currently building food webs for a series of islands in the south pacific to better understand:

1. How do island size and productivity affect the distribution and diversity of species?

2. How does variation in these species interactions affect system stability and function?

Undergraduate Contribution

Students will work to understand how ecosystem size and productivity affect the distribution and diversity of various orders of arthropods, and will be involved in all aspects of the project including data collection, analyses and communication.

Requirements

Students that have taken basic coursework in biology are preferred, but it is not required.

Location:
Noble Hall 2116

Research Project

We are seeking undergraduate support on two Projects. Both seek to understand how biodiversity loss affects community composition and function.

  1. The first project examines the effects of land-use change and biodiversity loss on rodent-borne disease risk in East Africa.
  2. The second project examines what factors (phylogeny, lifehistory, etc) determine a species vulnerability to disturbance (e.g. local extinction risk) and how this relates to host competence in carrying diseases.

Undergraduate Contribution

1. The first project will be lab based and will include analysis of parasite loads in wildlife blood and fecal samples (including slide staining, fecal floats, and time under a microscope looking for parasites). There will also be basic organizational tasks, such as sorting and labelling samples.

Requirements

  1. Experience working on a microscope is needed. Attention to detail, good organizational skills, independence, and interest in the question are also critical!
  2. Strong quantitative skills and experience (or interest in learning) how to read scientific literature are required. Experience in R or with CMA software would be an enormous asset. Again, attention to detail, independence, good organizational skills, patience, and interest in the questions will be critical.

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