Dr. Stephen Dunbar's research interests are in the areas of tropical marine ecophysiology, coral reef biodiversity and conservation, and marine invertebrate and vertebrate physiology and ecology. Although based at Loma Linda University, in Loma Linda, California, his research takes him to some great places around the globe. With some of the most interesting organisms to work on and some of the most beautiful places on the planet to work in, Dr. Dunbar has what he considers to be one of the best jobs in the world!
Dr. William Hayes and his students study a diverse range of topics and organisms. They are primarily focused on the biology and toxinology of venemous animals (snakes, scorpions, spiders, centipedes), which they explore using molecular, proteomic, morphological, ecological, and behavioral approaches. They also investigate the taxanomy, behavior, ecology, and conservation of endangered reptiles and birds in the California and Caribbean Islands biodiversity hotspots.
Caleb LePore is working towards earning his PhD in biology, with an emphasis in paleontology. He is excited to learn more about the extinct reptiles of the Triassic, with a specific focus on understanding relationships among phytosaurs. Phytosaurs had the appearance of giant crocodiles, but they were not crocodiles! They have been used as index fossils in Upper Triassic biostratigraphy for decades, but their complicated taxonomic history has raised questions about their stratigraphic usefulness. Mr. LePore hopes that by understanding more about their anatomy, he can help clarify the relationships between different phytosaur taxa and to provide a more robust basis for understanding their stratigraphic distributions.
Dustin Baumbach’s research investigated the feeding ecology of the critically endangered hawksbill sea turtle in Roatán, Honduras. Using GIS phone and map applications, citizen-scientists contributed data that allowed the team to remotely map individual home ranges, while investigating the types and energy values of hawksbill prey items. Mr. Baumbach then compared diet composition among three hawksbill size classes to determine differences in foraging habits between males and females, where sex was determined using UPLC-triple quadrupole mass spectrometry. Mr. Baumbach’s results will help conservation managers identify critical foraging habitat and provide insights into juvenile sex ratios and population dynamics within marine protected areas.
Emily Hyatt’s research is in comparative morphology of three epibiotic barnacle species that have recently been reclassified as conspecific. As formerly distinct species of the Chelonibia genus, species designation was based on both morphological differences and the primary host for preferred attachment- manatees, sea turtles, and crustaceans, respectively. Using various morphological characteristics and analytical methods, Ms. Hyatt is evaluating the reclassification with the hypothesis that the degree of variation in phenotype among the species cannot be sufficiently explained by phenotypic plasticity.
During her two years at Loma Linda University, Lindsay Marston had several potential projects planned that included work with sea turtles, marine iguanas, and scorpions. Ms. Marston was also able to learn and be involved in others’ projects pertaining to rattlesnakes and gila monsters. Her thesis project was centered around the defensive stinging behavior of two scorpion species, Centruroides sculpturatus and Smeringurus mesaensis. Her experimentation with these scorpions was videoed in the field and then followed by video analysis and measurements in the lab. Ms. Marston found that there is no strong influence of sex or size on defensive stinging behavior exhibited in their habitat.
Nellie Covert is a PhD student studying marine biology. Her project is analyzing the impacts of head-starting on individual sea turtles. Specifically, she would like to focus on the effects of head-starting on a sea turtles health by analyzing blood parameters, corticosterone levels, and behaviors. Ms. Covert's research interests include physiology, ecology, and biodiversity and conservation.
Noel Grimes is a paleontology student who enjoys studying how animals have changed and behaved throughout history. Triassic reptiles, Cenozoic mammals, and Permian ecology have been her primary interests so far. Ms. Grimes is so excited to explore creation and teach others what she learns along the way.
Robert Gammariello is interested in studying the anatomy and physiology of hawksbill sea turtle eyes because hatchling sea turtles are highly phototactic, anthropogenic light can lead to high mortality rates post emergence. He aims to find the intensity of light at different wavelengths that causes the least amount of disorientation. These combinations of wavelength and intensity can then be implemented around developed hawksbill nesting beaches to minimize the impact of anthropogenic light
Thomas Hile's research is designed to characterize the potential microbial pollution in bulk-drinking water vending machines and identify opportunities for sustainable control and improvement of this source of water pollution. The principle output will be to identify the source of water contamination in the vending machines and suggest community vetted solutions for an improved water quality. The study sites are all within a California State designated Severely Disadvantaged Community with an active environmental justice group with a productive local government relationship. The group can readily adopt conclusions and results from this project to help their community improve water quality and access.
Tori Bolin will be studying the haplotype diversity of Hawkbill and Green Sea Turtle populations in the Gulf of Thailand. Her research will include the genetic analysis of hatchlings, juveniles, and nesting adult turtles to develop an all-encompassing understanding of the genetic structure of local turtle populations. Her research may also include the use of satellite telemetry to track haplotype distribution in local foraging grounds. Tori hopes this research will be used for future genetic and conservation studies. Her research interests also include ecotoxicology, climate science, and ecology.