Functional and Evolutionary Biology

An understanding of the evolutionary origins of different groups of organisms and the structures within organisms underpins much of modern biological sciences. Research in this theme builds knowledge of the origins of different animals, plants and algae.

People

Dr. Louise Allcock, Ryan Institute for Environmental, Marine & Energy Research Dr. Louise Allcock
Zoology
Phone: (091) 495868; Email: louise.allcock@nuigalway.ie
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I am primarily interested in the evolution and ecology of cephalopods and other molluscs, particularly, but not limited to, the groups that have radiated in the Southern Ocean and the deep sea.  This research has highlighted connections between the world’s oceans, linked evolutionary radiations to climatic events (through dated phylogenies), and is helping us understand how Southern Ocean fauna survived the massive disturbances caused by Pliocene-Pleistocene glacial cycles.  More recently I have been leading multidisciplinary cruises to the canyon systems on the Irish continental margin aboard RV Celtic Explorer.   Here I am particularly interested in poorly known (and difficult!) taxa such as sponges where congruence between morphology and molecular phylogenies is often difficult to find.
Dr. Grace McCormack, Ryan Institute for Environmental Marine and Energy Research Dr. Grace McCormack
Zoology
Phone: (091) 49 2321; Email: grace.mccormack@nuigalway.ie
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The molecular evolution and systematics laboratory investigates the evolution of marine sponges from the Order Haplosclerida. We have shown via phylogenetic analyses of ribosomal and mitochondrial gene data, that the current classification needs revision at all levels in the taxonomic hierarchy. This suggests that the skeletal structure of marine haplosclerids is relatively plastic and we need to find other morphological characters to trace the evolutionary relationships hypothesised via molecular approaches. To this end we are studying the ultrastructure of adult and larval sponges to identify possible synapomorphies. Further molecular work planned includes sequencing of transcriptomes and mitochondrial genomes from key taxa.
Photo: Dr. Zoe Popper, Ryan Institute for Environmental, Marine and Energy Research Dr Zoë Popper
Botany and Plant Science
Phone: (0)91 49 5431; Email: zoe.popper@nuigalway.ie
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Research interests in the area of evolutionary biology include characterisation of the adaptive similarities and differences between cell wall components (specifically including carbohydrates and their biosynthetic machinery) incurred through plant and algal evolution and diversification; cell wall carbohydrate structure and metabolism; and the role of plant cell walls in host-parasite interactions.
Photo: Dagmar Stengel, Ryan Institute for Environmental, Marine and Energy Research Dr. Dagmar Stengel
Botany and Plant Science
Phone:(091) 49 3192; Email: dagmar.stengel@nuigalway.ie
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Research linked to this theme includes investigations into ecological and physiological responses and adaptations of algae to their environment; recent work has focused on metabolic and biochemical adaptations of algae to stress conditions (e.g. eutrophication/ water quality, pollution and climate change), research into primary productivity and applications of algae in ecotoxicology and environmental monitoring, and abiotic and biotic stimuli of algal compounds and metabolites.

 

Photo: Dagmar Stengel, Ryan Institute for Environmental, Marine and Energy Research Dr. Dagmar Stengel
Botany and Plant Science
Phone:(091) 49 3192 ; Email: dagmar.stengel@nuigalway.ie