"Movement of an organism, defined as a change in the spatial location of the whole individual in time, is a fundamental characteristic of life, driven by processes that act across multiple spatial and temporal scales. It plays a major role in determining the fate of individuals; the structure and dynamics of populations, communities, and ecosystems; and the evolution and diversity of life.”"

     - R. Nathan, W. M. Getz, E. Revilla, M. Holyoak, R. Kadmon, D. Saltz, and P. Smouse.
         A movement ecology paradigm for unifying organismal movement research.
        PNAS 105(49):19052-19059.2008.

Research Overview

My research is driven by the question of how migratory fishes move from large open water environments to tributaries to spawn. I specifically focus on the question of what information a non-homing migratory fish uses and how it uses the information to locate and evaluate a potential spawning tributary.

My study subject is the sea lamprey (Petromyzon marinus), an invasive species to the Great Lakes and a voracious predator of large bodied fishes. Following a parasitic phase, sea lamprey complete a migration from offshore feeding areas to riverine spawning grounds where they spawn and die. Sea lamprey do not home to a natal spawning ground but because they are constrained by a single chance to spawn, they rely on the odors of larvae from previous generations (public information) to select a river and ensure that they aggregate at a successful reproduction site. Sea lamprey also avoid the odor of dying and decaying sea lamprey, which may allow them to avoid local and distant areas of danger to both them and their future offspring. The goal of the research is to both understand how a sea lamprey completes the migration and evaluate the potential to manipulate their migration for control purposes through the use of odors that guide their migration. All of my reseach on Sea Lamprey has been completed under the guidance of Dr. C. Michael Wagner, who is an expert in fish behavior and communication.

Current Research Foci

1. Understanding the role of pheromones in mediating migratory and reproductive behaviors of the sea lamprey, Petromyzon marinus.

2. Developing novel invasive species control techniques for sea lamprey in the Great Lakes that disrupt and/or exploit the lamprey’s chemical communication system.

3. Understanding the sensory mechanisms and behaviors that enable long distance fish migrations.
The absolute goal for our lab is to identify if we can manipulate what rivers and tributaries sea lamprey enter in the Great Lakes by applying synthetic olfactory cues and synthetic pheromones. This feat requires (1) a deep understanding of the migration, (2) a complete understanding of the information that guide the migration (information and context), (3) successful identification and synthesis of the odorants, and (4) testing to confirm the efficacy of the synthetic compounds. My research has focused on steps 1,2 and 4.

Previous Research

Prior to enrolling as a student at MSU, I obtained a B.S. at Millersville Unviersity (PA) and worked in the lab of Dr. Dominique Didier. Dr. Didier's laboratory specializes in describing the development, and phylogeny of a little known group of shark relatives known as the chimaeras or ratfishes. These are marine fishes found in all the world's oceans at depths ranging from 100-2,000 meters deep. My major contribution was completing morphological measurements and describing new species that have recently been discovered by deep sea explorations. I also was involved in stream evaluation using Index's of Biotic Integrity (IBI's) based on fish and insect diversity and abundance, led by Dr. Didier, and Dr. John Wallace. My contributions involved field collections of fish and insects with another colleague, Scott Starr, and field and lab identification of organisms.