My overall goal is to apply the methods that scientists have developed for pharmacological and medicinal research to ecological and evolutionary questions. Modern molecular methods, from microarrays to next generation sequencing, have the potential to revolutionize the way we study threatened ecosystems, habitats and species. Key questions include those investigating the origin and extinction of species, the evolution of novel traits or behaviors, how sequence patterns reflect evolution and selection, and the effect of anthropogenic activity on organisms at the genetic level.
My dissertation research focuses on the evolution of the toxin protein family present in the Scorpaeniformes, the venomous order of fishes that includes scorpionfish, lionfish and stonefish. Toxins represent unique evolutionary adaptations which can have biomedical uses. While biochemical investigation has revealed a similar proteinaceous toxin across the order, there is no understanding of where this protein came from, or how it evolves to be highly toxic in one species and less toxic in another. Currently, I am investigating the presence of this toxin in Cephalopholis argus, an introduced grouper in the Hawaiian Islands, and determining if this toxin might be affecting ciguatera testing in this species. I am also mapping the changes in this toxin across the order to better understand what parts of the protein are necessary for strong toxicity.
Christie talks more about her research for Slate & her blog
Learn more about Christie's research on her Academia.edu page or follow her citations in Google Scholar
10/2009 - Present: Population genetics and phylogeography of Pacific reef fishes.
Graduate Assistant for Dr. Brian Bowen, Hawaii Institute of Marine Biology
02/2010 - 06/2010: Biochemistry of jellyfish venoms
Graduate Assistant for Dr. Angel Yanagihara, University of Hawaii
08/2009 - 10/2009 Conservation of native Hawaiian avifauna
Graduate Assistant for Dr. Rebecca Cann, University of Hawaii
10/2007 - 7/2009: Affects of A2B receptor stimulation on survival kinases in heart cells
Research Assistant for Dr. Stuart Critz, LECOM
05/2007 - 10/2007: Benthic faunal surveying of Hillsborough County
Temporary Scientist, Hillsborough County EPC
08/2006 - 11/2007: Affect of fiddler crab burrowing activity on mangrove growth
Undergraduate Research Project, Eckerd College
09/2005 - 12/2005: Marine mammal pathology
Intern, FMRI Marine Mammal Pathology Lab
06/2004 - 08/2004: Sea turtle nest monitoring in Sarasota County
Sea Turtle Program Intern, Mote Marine Laboratory