We are thrilled to welcome Chris Smaga and Josiah Johnson to the lab! Chris earned his undergraduate degree from SIU where he studied snake fungal disease. In the Parrott Lab, Chris will be investigating the developmental origins and pathways underlying epigenetic variation across natural populations of alligators. Josiah hails from Colby College where he focused on advancing Northern black racer conservation. Josiah is planning to study how life history traits and reproductive development vary across amphibian communities along a contaminant gradient of Carolina Bays. Welcome guys!!
Yeraldi is doctoral student in Shane Campbell-Staton's lab at UCLA and is collaborating with us this summer. Samantha and Yeraldi are interested in discovering the determinants of alligator hatchling survival and how these traits are influenced by environment-by-embryo interactions during development. I don't want to give away any spoilers, but this project is HUGE! We are super excited to have Yeraldi at the lab-- welcome Yeraldi!!
The lab was recently awarded a NSF grant to investigate how epigenetic aging dynamics interact with ecological and environmental factors to affect organismal function and variation in life history traits. This work will build on Emily's work using the medaka fish model to develop epigenetic aging clocks. We will be recruiting undergraduates, graduate students, and a postdoc, so keep an eye on the opportunities page or reach out to Ben (firstname.lastname@example.org) if interested!
With the help of awesome collaborators and friends, Laura was able to get a nice start on her masters project examining how environmental contaminants affect behavior and movement and conversely, how does animal movement influence the way in which contaminants are distributed across the landscape! Laura has posted updates (with nice pictures) on our lab twitter account (@lab_parrott). Beyond everyone in our lab and awesome co-investigator Tracey Tuberville, Thomas Rainwater (Clemson, mask below) and Kurt Buhlmann (see below) have been especially generous with their time and expertise!
Excellent work Samantha! Congratulations!
Congrats to both Samantha and Emily who were awarded grants from the Odum School of Ecology to further their dissertation research. Samantha will work to empirically address theory regarding why alligators evolved the ability to use incubation temperature as a means to determine sex. Emily will be exploring how the developmental timing of environmental experiences and subsequent endocrine responses influence the process of epigenetic aging.
New paper from our team published in Science of the Total Environment. Emily Bertucci led the project with lots of help from Marilyn. This is particularly exciting for us as it is our first paper using the medaka fish model. Medaka are small fish (with small genomes) that do quite well in our outdoor mesocosm arrays and the system has a lot of genetic resources available. The work is focused on laying the groundwork for environmental influences on biological aging. We first investigate the impacts of chronic exposure to low doses of ionizing radiation on the hepatic transcriptome and then ask if the effects are mediated by systemic/global shifts in the DNA methylome. Ionizing radiation is an interesting environmental factor because all life shares an evolutionary history with radiation and has evolved mechanisms to deal with it, but contemporary exposure (and exposure risk) is higher due to anthropogenic activity. How do adaptive mechanisms that evolved to respond to 'background' levels protect against higher levels over long periods of time? What are the costs? More to come...
New paper from the lab out in Proceedings B (linked here). Was a great collaboration led by Samantha Bock from our lab and Russel Lowers at the Kennedy Space Center. Also Thomas Rainwater and Phil Wilkinson were critical to the nest monitoring work at Yawkey Wildlife Center, and John Drake (Odum School of Ecology, UGA) and Eric Stolen (Kennedy Space Center) helped with the modeling approaches.
We monitored alligator nests across sites and years, and then modeled the influence of climatic and ecological factors on nest temperatures. Incubation temperature determines the sex of hatchlings in crocodilians (and of course many other non mammalian vertebrates). Using this model, we then predicted how nest temperatures and sex ratios will change (or are already changing) in the not too distant future. There's also a lot of interesting basic ecology regarding the nesting environment that shapes these phenotypic trajectories, but the take home is that sex ratios will likely change dramatically in the coming years. However, predicting exactly how is challenging due to the ultra steep reaction norms between incubation temperature and sex ratios. We really need to be monitoring hatchling sex ratios in natural populations because if sex ratios skews can lead to population persistence.