What Kind of Research Can I Do With Dr. Carlin?

I am very willing to help those who “just don’t know what to do” but you will get a lot more out of independent and honors research (and life, for that matter) if you can focus your likes and talents into specific areas. Often times, students just don't know what sort of thing constitutes a good research project, nor do they have an idea of my expectations. That is solved simply by talking with me (I love talking about research!). Also helpful is the list of past student projects (below). Often students wonder what types of skills/techniques can be learned in my lab. These include, but are not limited to:

If you are uncertain why you should try research, go here.




Current and Past Student Research Projects

Artifical selection by oil spill and offshore drilling in marine fishes. Bottom-dwelling (demersal) fishes such as eels, cusk-eels and lizardfish could be some of the first vertebrates to be affected by the deepest oil spill in history. Benthic habitats in the Gulf of Mexico already have been altered by the presence of oil drilling platforms, which can create potential shelter as well as exposure chronic low-oxygen conditions to chemical toxins. Collections of demersal fishes are being used to examine the effect of the oil spill and oil drilling platforms upon animal health, population dynamics and community diversity.

Student activities include:

Walters G. 2012; VerMeer J. 2011. Genetic variation at cytochrome b in the inshore lizardfish Synodus foetens.

Hammer J. 2011. PCR primer optimization and DNA barcoding of demersal Gulf of Mexico fishes.

These three students, with help from over a dozen Gustie volunteers, processed Over 2,000 marine fish specimens from the northern Gulf of Mexico (Florida to southern Texas) in a two day dissection event. All were funded by Sigma Xi.


Bottomfish systematics and biogeography. With A. Hamilton (NOAA Pascagoula). The deceptively simple morphology of eels is a headache for those trying to identify them. Research includes collection of marine eels (esp. morays) from the Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico. Morphological and molecular systematics will be utilized to create a dichotomous key for area marine biologists. This project is currently under development.

Student activities include:

Sukhum K. 2012. Morphological and molecular genus placement of Snakefish (Actinopterygii: Synodontidae: Trachinocephalus myops). Funded by Sigma Xi.

Williams A. 2010. Bottomfish collection along the Texas and Louisiana coastlines.

Coughlin K. 2009. Bottomfish collection along the Texas and Louisiana coastlines.

Genetic stock identification in the American monkfish Lophias americanus. With A. Johnson (U. Maryland Eastern Shore) and A. Richards (NOAA Northeast Fisheries Science Center, Maryland). Mapping the size and range of different stocks in monkfish, as well as estimating the effective population size in what may be two separate stocks of a commercially valuable marine fish. Supported by a 2008 NOAA Living Marine Resources Cooperative Science Center Research Grant.

Student activities include:

Nguluwe B. (U. Maryland Eastern Shore) and R. Follis (Gustavus Adolphus). Genomic DNA isolation, microsatellite optimization and analysis, the latter funded by Sigma Xi.

Conservation genetics and habitat assessment of a Washington Species of Special Concern, the margined sculpin Cottus marginatus. This project was the first attempt at conservation genetics and habitat analysis of a small streamfish found only in four counties in the Pacific Northwest. With J Schwartz (Fisheries Program, Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation). Field surveys of 26 sites completed, sequencing of two mtDNA genes and one microsatellite locus characterized. Supported by 2007 Greater Gustavus Fund for Summer Research, 2007 and 2005 Sigma Xi Grants-in-Aid, 2005 Perry Fund Award and 2005 Washington NASA Space Grant. Three undergraduate theses and five independent studies completed. A manuscript (with Gustavus student authors) has been accepted for publication, but I am still interested in having students study age-growth in this species.

Gustavus Adolphus College student activities include:

Betzler S. Microsatellite optimization and mtDNA phylogeny. Presented at 2008 Sigma Xi Student Undergraduate Research Symposium and Summer Research Fall Symposium. Coauthor of presentation at 2007 Annual Meeting of the American Fisheries Soceity, Ottawa ON.

Consoer M. Multivariate analyses of fish habitats. 2008 independent study credit. Coauthor of presentation at 2007 Annual Meeting of the American Fisheries Soceity, Ottawa ON.

Molitor R. Microsatellite variation. Presented at 2007 Summer Research Fall Symposium. Coauthor of presentation at 2007 Annual Meeting of the American Fisheries Soceity, Ottawa ON.

Freeman D. Clear-and-stain procedures, comparative skeletal anatomy. 2007 volunteer.

Schultz J. Comparative skeletal and morphometric anatomy. 2007 volunteer.

Hanson K. Age-growth analysis. 2007 volunteer.

The chemical and biological fates of a water-borne pesticide. With E. Elias (Biology) and A. Nienow (Chemistry). Creation of methodologies that allow undergraduate researchers to rapidly assess the toxicity of UV-photolysed pesticides. In summer 2008 we optimized testing procedures and successfully demonstrated laboratory toxicity of the pesticide dimethenamid and its photolysed breakdown products in fathead minnow Pimephales promelas. Support pending from Research Corp’s Cottrell College Science Award. Supported by a 2008 Merck/AAAS Undergraduate Science Research Program grant.

Student activities include:

Kesty K. 2008. Merck/AAAS summer research student. Presented at 2008 Summer Research Fall Symposium.


Additional Undergraduate Projects at Gustavus Adolphus College

Degner E. 2011-12. Ontogenetic plasticity of Cyprinodon variegatus embryos in response to predation risk. Manuscript submitted for publication in 2012.

Koch J. 2010-2011. A comparison of survey methods to evaluate macrophyte index of biotic integrity performance in Minnesota lakes. With Marcus Beck, U. Minnesota. Honors Thesis.

Peterson K. 2010. Identification of spiders from winegrape vineyards.

Deuvel M. 2007. Viral-mediated gene transfer in Arabidopsis evolution.

Kesty K. 2008. Genomic isolation techniques for DNA recovery from dogfish shark Squalus acanthias.

Magnusson A. 2007. Developing a biotic integrity baseline and regional reference for southeastern Minnesota and the Seven Mile Creek Watershed.



Students and faculty help out for Dissecticon 2010
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Rochelle Molitor (Bio) gains molecular biology experience that can be applied to conservation, medicine and forensics while investigating the conservation genetics of a freshwater fish population.





Angie Magnusson (EnvStu/Geography) tests water for pollutants as part of her research on the ecosystem integrity of Seven Mile Creek's watershed.





Kat Coughlin (Bio) learns to extract otoliths while on a marine research cruise in the Gulf of Mexico.





Rose Follis (Bio) looks for microsatellites on an agarose gel to determine the population genetics of the valuable New England monkfish.





Kendra Kesty (Biochem) fixes fish livers from organisms that have, or have not, been exposed to a UV-photolysed pesticide.





Miles Johnson (Whitman College EnvStu/Bio) collects tissue samples for DNA analysis after electrofishing for salmonids with the Umatilla Tribal Fisheries Dept.





Celia Hagan (Whitman College Biochem/Biophysics) and Yuri Watanabe (Biology) learn DNA amplification and DNA sequencing of an endangered streamfish population.