At the crossroads of ecology, genes and geography...

...is where you'll find Dr. Carlin's interests. My research field is molecular ecology, which is an amalgamation of all sorts of ideas from the macro- and micro-worlds of biology.

Why Should I Be Involved In Research?

  • If you were actually convinced that all learning came from books, you wouldn't have gone to a liberal arts college.
  • It helps you get re-excited about your major
  • It can really challenge your brain without wrecking your GPA
  • Opportunities to travel to conferences
  • Helps you focus in on a future career
  • The chance to interact with faculty on a different level
  • Increases your attractiveness to employers and professional schools

What Kind of Research Does Dr. Carlin Do?

While most of my work has involved fish, I am not restricted to researching just one type of organism (I especially welcome projects on amphibians and reptiles). Instead, I have very broad interests in evolution and ecology, but my main passion is phylogeography, an investigation of the impact of place within living systems. Consider that humans exploit or conserve organisms as units (e.g., species, subspecies, ESUs or stocks). Sometimes these units do not reflect the organisms’ historical movements or current ecological interactions. My lab examines DNA to determine where biological and political borders are in conflict.

Conservation law and politicians view the USA differently than do trees or fishes. US political (left) and ecoregion (right) boundaries.

Thus molecular genetic data from nuclear or mitochondrial DNA gives a different context to biogeography and can be a powerful tool for testing evolutionary theory and/or influencing management.

So like most scientists, I find it difficult to limit a description of myself to a single discipline. My research extends to many areas:

  • comparative genomics
  • conservation of endangered or threatened habitats and species
  • evolutionary ecology
  • fisheries and wildlife management
  • island biogeography
  • marine biology
  • phylogenetic systematics
  • population biology

I am happy to talk with students about projects in any of these areas (and probably others as well). Simply visit my Student Projects page to get an idea of what we might be able to work on.



How Much Time? Credit? Honors?

Directed research, Independent Study and Honors Thesis research requirements will vary by project type, scope, and the number of credit hours enrolled. Minimally you will be turning in a plan of work, a final paper, a c.v. and have an exit interview. There are three types of undergraduate research studies:

Literature Reviews – You must synthesize and critique the state of knowledge for a particular question. That is, you must 1) define your question and establish relevance, 2) summarize the main points of all work that directly addresses your question, and 3) critically evaluate our current knowledge. Can be done for a small amount of Independent Study (Bio 291/391) credit, but takes an average of 10 hours per week and multiple drafts of a long final paper.

Modest Experiments – This project is designed around the idea that you may already have some data you wish to analyse, or you want to conduct a small-scale version of a thesis idea in order to test out its feasibility. Should average 10hrs/week for half a semester or more. The results would be written as a scientific paper with at least two drafts. Can be done for a small amount of Research (Bio 392/396) credit.

Large Projects and Theses – Here you conduct a project designed with the help of your mentor that forces you to acquire a skill that you wish to learn. You do a bit of review (as above), but you mainly focus on becoming proficient in mastering laboratory or field procedures, as well as the statistics required to assess the results properly. Ranges from a voluntary, not-for-credit study lasting 2-4 weeks, to an unpaid 15 hr/wk commitment for Bio 392/396 credit (and possibly honors). Requires an oral or poster presentation and a final report.


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Peer-Reviewed Research Publications by Dr. Carlin

(Note: "*" indicates student authors)

Carlin JL, Consoer M*, Hagan C*, Johnson MJ*, McDermet J*, and Schwartz J. 2011. Habitat and genetic diversity of margined sculpin, Cottus marginatus, in the Walla Walla and Touchet Rivers, Oregon and Washington, USA. Northwest Science 86(3):153-167.

Ramirez MA, Patricia-Acevedo J, Planas S*, Carlin JL, Funk SM and McMillan WO. 2006. New microsatellite resources for groupers (Serranidae). Molecular Ecology Notes 6(3):813-817.

Bowen BW, Bass AL, Muss AJ, Carlin JL and Robertson DR. 2006. Phylogeography of two Atlantic squirrelfishes (family Holocentridae): exploring links between pelagic larval duration and population connectivity. Marine Biology 149:899-913.

Morato T, Afonso P and Carlin JL. 2004. First record of scamp, Mycteroperca phenax, in the north-eastern Atlantic. Journal of the Marine Biological Association of the United Kingdom 84(1):281-282.

Carlin JL, Robertson DR and Bowen BW. 2003. Ancient divergence and recent connections in the tropical Atlantic reef fishes Epinephelus adscensionis and Rypticus saponaceous (Percoidei: Serranidae). Marine Biology 143(6):1057-1069.

Ball AO, Sedberry GR, Zatcoff M, Chapman RW and Carlin JL. 2000. Population structure of wreckfish (Polyprion americanus) determined using microsatellite genetic markers. Marine Biology 137(5-6):1077-1090.

Sedberry GR, Andrade CAP, Carlin JL, Chapman RW, Luckhurst BE, Manooch III CS, Menezes G, Thomsen B and Ulrich GF. 1999. Wreckfish (Polyprion americanus) in the North Atlantic: Fisheries, biology, and management of a widely distributed and long-lived fish. American Fisheries Society Symposium 23: 27-50.

Sedberry GR, Carlin JL and Ulrich GF. 1998. Movements of a pelagic-phase wreckfish, Polyprion americanus, as indicated by tag and recapture. Arquipelago 18: 69-72.

Carlin JL. 1997. Morphological and genetic differentiation between long-tailed (Eurycea longicauda) and three-lined (E. guttolineata) salamanders (Caudata: Plethodontidae). Herpetologica 53(2): 206-217.

Sedberry GR, Carlin JL, Chapman RW and Eleby B. 1996. Population structure in the pan-oceanic wreckfish, Polyprion americanus (Teleostei: Polyprionidae), as indicated by mtDNA variation. Journal of Fish Biology 49 (Supplement A): 318-329.


Other Publications by Dr. Carlin

Carlin JL. In press. An investigative alternative to single-species dissection in the introductory biology laboratory. BioScene 37.

Carlin JL. 2011. Mutations are the raw materials of evolution. Nature Education Knowledge 2(1):10.

Carlin JL. 2010. The municipality of Petatlan: one biologistÕs view. Presented to the Office of the Presidente of Petatlan, Guerrero Mexico. Sister City Committees of Petatlan and Saint Peter, MN. 10 pp.

Carlin JL. 2003. Genetic variation among populations and species of epinepheline fishes (Percoidei: Serranidae). Ph.D. Dissertation, University of Florida. 101 pp.

Carlin JL. 2002. Evolution of cytochrome b in epinepheline fishes (Percoidei: Serranidae). Pp. 1-12 in (Howard K and MacKinlay D, eds.): Fish Performance: Studies in Fish Biology International Congress on the Biology of Fish. University of British Columbia, Vancouver Canada.

Sedberry GR, Ball AO, Carlin JL, Chapman RW, Ulrich GF and Zatcoff MS. 1999. Stock structure in wreckfish, Polyprion americanus, determined by tagging and molecular genetic techniques. MARFIN Project Number NA57FF0290 Final Report. 69 pp.

Carlin JL. 1995. Variation in long-tailed (Eurycea longicauda) and three-lined (E. guttolineata) salamanders. MS Thesis, Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge. 68 pp.


Research Grants Awarded to Dr. Carlin and his Student Investigators

Sigma Xi Grants-in-Aid (student PI). 2009. $ 439

NOAA Living Marine Resources Cooperative Science Center. 2008. $22027

Merck / AAAS Undergraduate Research Program. 2008. $2500

Sigma Xi Grants-in-Aid (student PI). 2007. $ 400

Greater Gustavus Fund: Summer Research (student co-PI). 2007. $2500

Gustavus Adolphus College Faculty Development Site Visit. 2007. $2000

Whitman College Perry Fund for Undergraduate Research. 2005. $5345

NASA Undergraduate Research Program. 2005. $ 3000

Sigma Xi Grants-in-Aid (student PI's). 2005. $ 875 (total)

The PADI Foundation, Inc. 2001. $ 800

Int'l Women's Fishing Assoc. Ryan Kelley Scholarship Trust. 2000. $1000

PADI Project AWARE Foundation MicroGrant. 2000. $5000

ASIH Edward C. Raney Fund. 1999. $ 870

Int'l Women's Fishing Assoc. Ryan Kelley Scholarship Trust. 1999. $1000

Sigma Xi Grants-in-Aid. 1999. $ 870

Int'l Women's Fishing Assoc. Ryan Kelley Scholarship Trust. 1998. $1000

Sigma Xi Grants-in-Aid. 1993. $ 500







Saving plankton from a neuston net, Gulf of Mexico, 2009














RFLP profiles of Atlantic wreckfish populations














Salmon mortality survey, Mill Creek WA, 2004














Pesticide exposure chambers














Measuring benthic marine fish and invertebrates, Gulf of Mexico, 2009