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Tonia Schwartz, PhD
Dr. Tonia Schwartz started her research career as an undergraduate at Iowa State University working with Drs. Bonnie Bowen and Carol Vleck using genetic markers to study populations of jays and to determine the sex of penguins. While doing a Masters of Science at University of South Florida with Dr. Steven Karl, she obtained a foundation in Population and Conservation Genetics while deciphering the population structure of gopher tortoises. Before starting her PhD she spent four years in Australia conducting research on diverse topics including fisheries management, speciation and hybridization, molecular evolution of metabolic proteins, and sexual selection. As a genetics PhD student at Iowa State University she was an NSF-IGERT fellow in Computational Molecular Biology, a NSF-GK12 fellow, and was advised by Drs. Anne Bronikowski and Jo Anne Powell-Coffman for her dissertation identifying how molecular stress response networks can diverge between natural populations of garter snakes that are at either end of the pace-of-life continuum. She was awarded a James S. McDonnell post-doctoral fellow in complexity science, which she took to University of Alabama at Birmingham to work in the Office of Energetics with Drs. David Allison and Julia Gohlke. During this time she studied transgenerational affects of stress on metabolism, reproduction, and longevity, and the evolution of molecular networks. In 2015 she was hired as an Assistant Professor at Auburn, and thus the Schwartz lab of Functional and Ecological Genomics was established.
PhD Candidate, CMB Fellow,
NSF Graduate Research Fellow
I completed a BS in Molecular Biology at University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) in 2013. I worked in healthcare, and continued research with Dr. Marek Napierala within the Stem Cell institute where we focused on the trinucleotide repeat disorder, Friedreich's Ataxia. Additionally I took on the role of Camp/Education Director for Fresh Air Family, a Birmingham non-profit organization focused on educating youth and getting families outdoors enjoying and learning about nature. These two experiences guided me to the Schwartz laboratory where I will be completing my goal of becoming a molecular ecologist. My research interests revolve around investigating the biological pathways and systems responsible for various ecological patterns observed in the field of ecology. I am also interested in the genetic and epigenetic modifications that are involved in phenotypic plasticity and polymorphisms in reptiles. Employing reptilian cell culture and functional genomics, I am excited to investigate the role of the insulin/insulin-like signaling (IIS) network in body size evolution happening to insular reptilian populations found on the California Channel Islands!
I am fascinated by the coevolutionary relationship between mitochondrial and nuclear genomes. I am interested in the role sexual reproduction plays in maintaining a healthy mitonuclear marriage, and analyzing the effects of parthenogenesis on mitochondrial dysfunction using physiological methods within a phylogenetic context.
Learn more about Randy here at his webpage.
Ryan graduated from the University of North Alabama in 2017 with a B.S. degree in Biology. He has always found reptile anatomy and physiology amazing as well as their reproduction. He enjoys every minute that he get to work with them and he always looking to learn more about them.
I completed my B.S. in Biology at Alabama Agriculture and Mechanical University in 2016. Now as a graduate student at Auburn University, I am interested in how organisms respond to stress in ecologically relevant environments. Specifically, I look at responses at a transcriptomic level in Sceloporus undulatus, the eastern fence lizard, when exposed to heat and fire ant envenomation. I am also intrigued by Daphnia pulicaria, a microscopic water crustacean, and their selective pressures that enable populations to survive in toxic algae.
Taylor graduated from the Auburn University in Spring 2022. He has stayed on as a MS student starting in Fall 2022 to continue work on the anole microbiome, and other aspects of the Aging Anoles project.
Anet joins the lab from Bulgaria. She is interested in reptile conservation genomics. She is currently working on quantifying telomeres in reptile populations to understand aging in the wild. Additionally, she is working with on a collaborative project with Dr. Jeff Goessling to study the molecular effects of head starting in Gopher Tortoises.
Alexis is from Huntsville, AL, majoring in Ecology/Evolution/
Behavior, and is a member of the AU Chamber Choir. She is helping with the care of a brown anole colony and gathering data for the Aging Anoles project. She is aiming for a career in herpetology, and is especially intrigued by regenerative abilities in salamanders, as well as snake ecotoxicology.
Blake is from Birmingham, AL majoring in Microbiology. He plan to start working towards my PhD after I graduate. He is studying genetic variation in IGF1 within brown anoles and across other anoles species.
Brynleigh is from Birmingham, AL majoring in Genetics and is Vice President of the Auburn University Genetics Club. She is working on the Aging Anoles project optimizing a molecular sexing protocol for hatchling lizards.
Cameron is from Andalusia, AL majoring in Biomedical Sciences with a Pre-Medical concentration. She is also minoring in Human Development and Family Sciences.
Cameron is working on the Daphnia Stress project to understand how different genetic strains of Daphnia respond to toxic algae.
Kimberley is a junior who has been fundamental in running the Aging Anole project, helping manage and care for our brown anole colony and collecting data on the longevity experiments. Additionally she is how telomere length changes across age and sex in the brown anoles.
Elizabeth is from Madison, Mississippi, and is majoring in genetics with a pre-medical concentration. She a member of the Delta Zeta sorority and the Auburn University Honors College. Her current goal is to attend medical school and to become a general surgeon, but I also have considered getting a PhD to continue my journey as a researcher.
Quinn is from Athens, Alabama and is majoring in Genetics with Pre-Med concentration. She is working on the evolution of gene expression patterns of IGF1 and IGF2 hormones and IGF1R and INSR receptors across amniotes.
Project: Genetic sexing of mice.
Mark Raley Morris
Project: DNA damage assays
Project: Reptile blood transcriptomics
Project: Lizard Fecal Metagenomics
Project: Lizard multiple paternity. Next step: Medical School
Project: Virus detection in lemur blood. Next step: Medical School
Bioinformatics REU: RNAseq analyses
Project: IIS reptile sequence variation Next Step: Graduate School
Research Fellow: Anolis cell culture telomeres Next Step: Vet. School
Project: Anole lizard telomeres Next step: Nursing School
Bioinformatics REU: Comparative genetics of corticosterone receptors Next Step: Graduate School
Freshwater Ecology NSF REU: Daphnia stress
Project: Gene expression
Project: Gene Expression
Project: Molecular Sexing
Mary Kathryn Allman
Project: Daphnia genomics
Bioinformatics REU: Daphnia Genomics
Freshwater Ecology REU Fellow: Daphnia stress
Project: Aging Anoles Next Step: Vet. School
Project: Aging Anoles
Project: Aging Anoles
Project: Dwarf Reptiles
Project: Aging Anoles
Project: Aging Anoles
Project: Aging Anoles, Bite Force Next step: Research technician
Project: Aging Anoles, Bite Force
Project: Aging Anoles, IIS sequence variation
Project: Aging Anoles & Gene Expression
Project: Aging Anoles, IIS Gene Expression
THE MOLECULAR LAB
The Molecular Lab contains 6 graduate student desks spaces, animal processing area, and 4 bench spaces. Equipment includes standard centrifuges, PCR machines, refrigerators, -80°C and -20°C freezers, agarose gel electrophoresis, PAGE and Western Blotting set-up, power supplies, gel imager, water bath, incubator, stir plates, rotators, shakers, balances, lab pH meter and portable environmental (pH, salinity, an dissolved oxygen) meter, standard pipettes and electronic multichannel pipettes, a refrigerated centrifuge including a rotor for 96 well plates and a bucket rotor (Heraeus Megafuge), a Tissue Lyser II (Qiagen) for high through-put DNA, RNA, and protein isolations, and two Percival Incubators for organismal experiments.
Our colleagues in our department and neighboring labs are very generous with sharing equipment. We have access to a CFX96 Real-time PCR detection system (BioRAD), ImageQuant LAS 4010 imaging system (GE Health Sciences), and a BioTeK Synergy HTX Multi-mode Plate Reader (BioTek) for fluorimetric ROS assays, colorimetric enzyme assays, and ELISAs for protein quantification; a Nanodrop and QuBit for DNA, RNA and protein concentration, a Covaris Sonicator and BluePippen for DNA size selection for DNA library preps. Schwartz also has access to equipment for mitochondrial isolation and measurements of oxygen consumption including the following equipment: Oxytherm System (Hansatech Instruments) for mitochondrial respiration measurements, Potter-Elvhjem PTFE pestle and glass tube for mitochondrial isolation.
We have an anti-room to the molecular lab that we use as a meeting room, lunch room, and coffee chats.
THE (REPTILE) CELL CULTURE ROOM
The Cell Culture room has a laminar flow hood, two water-jacketed CO2 incubators, liquid nitrogen Dewar for cell storage, Eve automatic cell counter, EVOS XL Core Digital Imaging System for cell and tissue culture applications, water bath, refrigerator, and pipets.
This indoor facility is a room (650 ft2) that houses a live reptile and amphibian collection used for outreach via the Auburn University Museum of Natural History (AUMNH), and is used for experimental research. This animal room contains space and racks for an 400 individual lizard cages. This room is equipped with work counter space and a sink.
Our outdoor facility is referred to as “The Aviary” (historical reasons) and is an outdoor facility for set up of semi-natural environments. It is at a locked and secure location about 1 mile from the Department of Biological Sciences (DBS) on Auburn University’s Main Campus. The Aviary is a Department of Biological Sciences facility used by many organismal biologists in the department. This facility has been completely renovated (financially supported by DBS and the College of Sciences and Mathematics) with adjustable cages over a 32 x 82 ft area that can be arranged into replicate enclosures for short term and long term experiments.