The main focus of our lab's research is Red Algal systematics. Our interests lie in discovering and analyzing patterns of morphological and molecular evolution in the Rhodophyta at all levels of classification in the context of a collections-based research program. Our goal is to correlate molecular and morphological data sets from marine taxa around the world with possible biogeographic hypotheses.
The morphological approach is very successful in generating taxonomic concepts based on a comparative analysis of characters that illustrate the differentiation of vegetative and reproductive (sexual and asexual) structures as a function of stages of filament ontogeny and cytological modification. The florideophycean red algae are unusual in that the plant body, including the reproductive structures, is made up entirely of branched filaments in which the cells are linked by pit connections, so that the origin of every filamentous structure can be traced back and illustrated cell-by-cell, filament-by- filament. Once the developmental sequence of a morphological structure is understood and illustrated in one taxon, it is compared with that in other taxa. Our goal is to assess the homology of the morphological characters for the purpose of constructing morphological data sets for phylogenetic analyses.
The molecular approach we currently employ is to construct nucleotide data sets based on direct sequence analysis of genes of choice for inferring phylogenetic relationships within the red algae in order to test current systems of classification and generate new systems of classification.
Our laboratory is also actively involved in assessing macroalgal diversity and biogeographic patterns throughout the deep offshore Gulf of Mexico Hard Bank Communities.
Our research has been funded by the National Science Foundation, NOAA, USGS, DOE, Louisiana Board of Regents, the Smithsonian Institution Natural Museum of Natural History, and the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute.