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Current Research

Dr. Jonathan Geller, who serves as Chair of MLML Faculty, studies marine biodiversity and bioinvasions using a variety of genetic methods. Primary projects in the Invertebrate Zoology/Molecular Ecology lab are DNA barcoding and invasive species detection in coastal waters of California, Alaska, Chesapeake, and Florida. Coupled to the DNA barcoding projects are metagenomic analyses of benthic and plankton communities, in which bulk DNA from entire assemblages are extracted and sequenced by Next Generation Sequencing technology. We have installed an Ion Torrent Personal Genome Machine in our laboratory and now run analyses in-house.

A new $4.8 million major project is funded by NSF through its PIRE program, and involves metagenomic analysis of coral reef biodiversity in Indonesia. In this project, settling modules called Autonomous Reef Monitoring System (ARMS) are deployed, colonized by biota, retrieved and analyzed. Partners from MLML, SDSU, UCLA, and the Smithsonian, we will investigate everything from virus and bacteria to invertebrate or alga. We will also work with local Indonesian scientists and conduct workshops for US and Indonesian students.

Finally, Dr. Geller has received NSF funding to study biofouling of Japanese tsunami debris. A 60 ft. floating dock from Japan beached in the summer of 2012 and Dr. Geller’s lab determined DNA sequences for the abundant invertebrates found still living on the dock. A large tsunami debris field remains in the Pacific Ocean and we and collaborators from Oregon State University, Portland State University, and Williams College have organized a response team to quickly respond to new significant beachings. The tsunami debris serves as a model for natural transoceanic dispersal, and we hope to better understand the role of rafting for biogeographic patterns of coastal biota.

Dr. Geller is working with Hopkins Marine Station, MBARI, and UCSC to create a Monterey Bay Genomics Observatory (GOs), with the Western Association of Marine Laboratories to create a network of GOs,  and with the Genomics Standards Consortium to link MB-GO and WAML-GO to a global network of observatories. The Invertebrate Zoology/Molecular Ecology lab welcomed Tracy Campbell as lab manager and principal technician for the Ion Torrent PGM.