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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.
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. Ryan has been studying the telomeres of brown anoles and developing methods for determine the sex of embryo and hatchling lizards and birds using molecular methods.
Fun Fact: Ryan is a champion body builder.
Native to Atlanta, Georgia. Dasia's career passion is to communicate science to young audiences. Her current project focuses on the stress response of both vertebrate and invertebrate organisms. Specifically, she studies the stress repsonse at the transcriptomic level in Sceloporus undulatus, the eastern fence lizard, when exposed to heat and fire ant envenomation. She is also intrigued by Daphnia pulicaria, a microscopic water crustacean, and the selective pressures that enable populations to survive in toxic algae.
Fun (Weird) fact: I love seafood but I think fishes, really all organisms bigger than a daphnid, that live in water are creepy.
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.
Fun Fact: Taylor is a SCUBA instructor
I join the lab from Bulgaria. I am interested in reptile conservation genomics. I am currently working on quantifying telomeres in reptile populations to understand aging in the wild. Additionally, I am working on a collaborative project with Dr. Jeff Goessling from Eckerd College to study gopher tortoises and the effects of head starting on molecular stress resistance and life history traits in gopher tortoises.
Fun Fact: I collect guitar picks.
Sagar (Ocean) Bhowmik
I am a PhD Student from the mystical landscapes of Bangladesh. I'm on an exhilarating quest to decode the enigmas of biological sciences. Currently, I'm immersed in two captivating projects: the "Damage Fitness Project" and the intriguing "Dwarf Reptile Project." Specifically, I'm currently focused on assessing DNA damage and intricately crafting aptamers for precise protein quantification. Moreover, I find joy in the world of molecular dynamics and simulations, where I play with atoms and molecules to decode life's intricate dance.
Fun Facts: Beyond the lab's walls, I capture fleeting moments through the lens of my camera, finding art in science and life. And when time permits, I'm an explorer at heart, venturing into uncharted territories.
Join me in this odyssey of curiosity as we journey together to decipher the universe's most cryptic puzzles.
I join the lab from Ghana. I am using whole genome sequencing data, I am currently conducting a metagenomic analysis to identify and classify the microbes in the blood of Pituophis catenifer captured from island and mainland populations. I also intend to explore the evolution of microbial (bacterial) virulence between these two populations.
I’m a first year masters student from Huntsville, Alabama and I’m passionate about southeastern herpetofauna. My current project focuses on exploring the molecular mechanisms behind dwarfism exhibited in a number of reptile species on the Channel Islands. I also work with the Memphis Zoo’s Louisiana Pinesnake captive breeding program.
Fun Fact: my favorite animal is a mud snake!
Originally from Pakistan, I graduated with a BS in Biochemistry in 2023 from Ohio Wesleyan University. Broadly, my interests include understanding the interactions between physiological and molecular systems and how they modulate animal behavior. Currently, I am working on the Damage-Fitness project investigating the molecular measures of cellular damage, protection and repair.
Fun Fact: In his spare time, Ali enjoys going out on hikes and recently climbing.
Undergraduate Research Fellow
Brynleigh is from Alabaster, Alabama.
She is senior year majoring in Genetics conducting molecular sexing on the project within the Aging Anoles project. She is also conducting a project using Nanopore sequencing to quantify sex chromosome telomeres in anoles for my undergraduate research fellowship.
Fun Fact: Brynleigh studied abroad in Costa Rica for a course focused on biodiversity, conservation, and sustainability.
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.
Olivia is from Nashville, Tennessee
She aims to be an anesthesiologist
Olivia is working on the measuring telomeres on the Aging Anoles project and helping with the Gopher Tortoise conservation project. A fun fact about Olivia is that she speaks 4 languages.
Chelsea is a Genetics major from Madison, Alabama. She is also pursuing a minor in Anthropology. In the lab, she assists in developing a meta-analysis that explores IGF hormone levels in humans and helping with the Gopher Tortoise conservation project.
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
Project: Daphnia heat stress
Project: Sequence Variation in IGF1 Next Step: PhD student at Auburn University
Projects: Lizard Tail Regeneration; Louisiana Pine Snake Paternity Analysis Next Step: MS student at Auburn University
Project: Telomeres in Anolis Lizards
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.