FEATURED STUDENT PROJECT: Sophia Zega

What are the molecular processes distinguishing cell regeneration from cell development? Using zebrafish as a model organism, Sophia Zega studies one facet of this question by investigating the role of FAT2 protein in initial hair cell development, and in hair cell regeneration. Based on previous evidence we know FAT2 levels increase following hair cell ablation in preparation for regeneration. Sophia performs a knock down of FAT2 in zebrafish larvae, and then stains hair cells with dyes binding to actin and microtubules, to see how the FAT2 gene is important for hair cell development and regeneration.

Publications: Evaluating exotic plants as evolutionary traps for nesting Veeries

In this study, Bruce Robertson and coauthors tested whether non-native plant species may cause problems to Veeries when birds try to build nests in these plants. It appears that Veeries do indeed prefer non-native plants to native ones, but fortunately in this case their preference is not maladaptive, as non-native plants still provide enough protection and concealment for the nests.

Full citation:
Meyer, L. M., Schmidt, K. A., & Robertson, B. A. (2015). Evaluating exotic plants as evolutionary traps for nesting Veeries. The Condor, 117(3), 320-327.

Publications: Electrophysiological diversity of neurons during development and plasticity

Brains consist of many cells called neurons: billions of them in a human brain, and hundreds of thousands in the brain of a small fish or a frog tadpole. Many of these neurons are very much alike, and work together to process information in the brain. Yet while they are similar, they are not exactly identical. By looking at how individual neurons within a specific type differ from each other, it is possible to understand more about how they work together.

We have now compared the properties of the neurons in a part of the brain of a developing frog tadpole that processes sensory information. These neurons appear relatively similar to each other in young tadpoles, yet as the tadpoles grow and their brains become more elaborate the neurons become increasingly diverse, and their properties become more unique and nuanced.

Full citation:
Ciarleglio, C. M., Khakhalin, A. S., Wang, A. F., Constantino, A. C., Yip, S. P., & Aizenman, C. D. (2015). Multivariate analysis of electrophysiological diversity of Xenopus visual neurons during development and plasticity. eLife,4, e11351.