Possible projects

UTMSI faculty have a range of expertise in coastal processes. Faculty mentors and some potential projects are listed below.  Click on the names of each faculty to visit their webpages with details about their labs. 

Dr. Brett Baker’s research focuses on the ecology and evolution of microbial communities using genomics and transcriptomics approaches.  Potential REU projects include (1) microbial sulfur and carbon cycling within hydrothermal vent sediments, (2) ecology of Gulf of Mexico ‘Dead Zone’ communities, and (3) understanding how ecological niches are partitioned within estuary sediments.
Black Dr. Bryan Black uses tree-ring techniques to measure growth patterns in bivalve shells and fish ear stones (otoliths) of marine and freshwater species to understand the effects of climate dynamics on ecosystems.  Potential REU projects include (1) assessing impacts of climate change using fish and bivalve species, (2)  hind-casting south Texas drought using tree rings, or (3) investigating effects of climate on top-level marine predators in the Gulf of Mexico.
Buskey_AcartiaTonsa Dr. Edward Buskey’s research focuses on zooplankton ecology. Dr. Buskey is also the Research Coordinator for the Mission-Aransas National Estuarine Research Reserve (MANERR) and the director of the DROPPS Consortium, so REUs have the opportunity to work with either of these groups.  Potential REU projects include (1) toxic and sublethal effects of oil and dispersants, (2) estuarine ecology and freshwater inflows, (3) the role of zooplankton grazers in harmful algal bloom dynamics or (4) planktonic bioluminescence.
Dunton_seagrass Dr. Ken Dunton’s work focuses on benthic marine vegetation and nutrient dynamics of subtropical and polar regions, including ecosystem response to climate change. Potential REU projects include (1) stable nitrogen isotopes in vegetation along the San Antonio Bay watershed, and (2) the effect of epiphytes on the acoustic properties of seagrasses.
Erdner_AlexDoubletCalcofluor Dr. Deana Erdner’s work focuses on the physiological ecology of marine microbes including phytoplankton and bacteria.  Potential REU projects include (1) harmful or toxic algae in coastal systems, (2) effects of oil on phytoplankton and bacteria, and (3) interactions between bacteria and eukaryotic phytoplankton.
Erisman_TwinSpot Dr. Brad Erisman’s research focuses on how the mating behavior and reproductive patterns of fishes influences their vulnerability to fishing and climate change. Potential REU projects include (1) exploring variations in the timing and locations of spawning aggregations in response to climate change, (2) monitoring reproductive patterns of local, estuarine sport fishes, and (3) examining the relationship between climate, fish growth, and fisheries production.
Espaugh_Sea trout Dr. Andrew Esbaugh’s research examines the impacts of environmental factors on physiology of fishes in varying environments. Potential REU projects include: (1) understanding the impacts of ocean acidification on the respiratory and acid-base physiology of estuarine fish, and (2) mechanisms of salinity tolerance in estuarine fish.
Fuiman_LarvalRedDrum Dr. Lee Fuiman’s work focuses on the behavioral and sensory capabilities of fish larvae using both laboratory and field experiments. Potential REU projects include (1) escape performance of fish larvae (2) effects of maternal diet on growth and survival potential or (3) sensory ecology of larval fish.
Hardison_Bay Dr. Amber Hardison’s work focuses on nutrient cycling within coastal systems and the impacts of human and climate processes on these cycles using lab and field sampling methods. Potential REU projects include (1) characterizing organic matter sources using lipid biomarkers in estuarine sediments, or (2) nitrogen cycling in systems dominated by either seagrass, macroalgae, or microalgae.
Liu_oilwatersample_IMG_1795 Dr. Zhanfei Liu’s research focuses on understanding organic biogeochemical processes in marine and terrestrial environments. Potential REU projects include (1) analyzing oil components in waters contaminated by oil spills, (2) studying peptide and protein hydrolysis in coastal environments, and (3) understanding the role of wet-dry cycles in the geochemistry of salt marsh sediments.
McClelland_Aransas Dr. Jim McClelland’s work focuses on the transport and fate of water, nutrients, and organic matter from land through coastal ecosystems. Potential REU projects include (1) characterizing water dynamics in tidal zones of subtropical rivers, (2) sampling and analysis of nutrient profiles along salinity gradients in local estuaries, and (3) using nitrogen and carbon isotopes in estuarine organisms to track nutrient sources.
Villareal_Histioneis Dr. Tracy Villareal’s research interests are in understanding the processes and interactions that structure phytoplankton communities. Potential REU projects include (1) nitrogen-fixation studies, (2) oil addition effects on phytoplankton and (3) quantification of open ocean species using towed imaging systems.