Our lab addresses issues in Neurobiology, Physiology, and Behavior and our interest in these issues spans the entirely of biology: from molecules to ecosystems and at all levels in between. While our field work takes place at the Jackson Estuarine Laboratory at UNH and in Great Bay in collaboration with Win Watson, all of our lab work takes place in the excellent facilities available in Boyd Hall at Plymouth State University. We have a very active lab with two graduate students and 5-8 undergraduate students at any given time.
While in the past we have investigated the neural and physiological control of behavior in mammals, birds, and fish, we are currently using invertebrate models, especially horseshoe crabs and lobsters. One of our main interests is in the timing of behaviors and especially the control of timing by internal clocks. Biological rhythms and the endogenous clocks that drive them are virtually ubiquitous among living organisms. In humans, there is hardly a tissue or function that has not been shown to have a 24 h rhythm, including cognitive, cardiovascular, and respiratory functions, as well as hormonal secretion and drug efficacy. Interestingly, the molecular mechanisms that drive these clocks exhibit a very high degree of similarity among such widely diverse species as humans and insects and much of what we know about circadian rhythms comes from model systems such as Drosophila and the American horseshoe crab, Limulus polyphemus. Over the past decade, it has become clear that organisms possess a multiplicity of these clocks and that the interactions between the clocks may be crucial to understanding many issues of human health. While much is known about the circadian clock, the clock that drives our daily rhythms, virtually nothing is known about the molecular mechanisms of other types of clocks that drive annual, lunar- monthly, or tidal rhythms. Horseshoe crabs are an excellent model species for investigating the interactions of multiple clock systems as well as the mechanisms that control the expression of these biological rhythms, from the level of the molecular mechanisms to the robust behavioral and physiological rhythms that they exhibit.
Results from our research will be relevant not only to diseases that are associated with a disruption to these biological rhythms such as Seasonal Affective Disorder, Bipolar Disorder, drug addiction and sleep disorders as well as cancer, but also to an understanding of the control of dozens of bodily functions that vary by time of day and which are in some cases controlled by different clocks. Overall, we are also seeking to learn more about the molecular mechanisms of biological clocks, how multiple clocks are coordinated, and what substances might mediate the influences of clocks on various behavioral and physiological functions.
There are eight undergraduate authors among our listed publications. Over 100 undergraduate students participated in the research and presented over 60 posters over the past 10 years. These students were trained in a variety of settings and developed many skills including: scientific writing, oral presentations, statistics, QPCR, western blotting, immunohistochemistry, electrophysiology, behavioral testing, activity and orientation measurement, glucose, protein, RNA, DNA, and hemocyanin quantification, heart rate and ventilation quantification, and several others.