In Spring 2020 I successfully defended my master's in biological sciences at the University of Alabama with Dr. Janna Fierst working on Caenorhabditis elegans dormant stage recovery. Now, I'm moving onto the PhD program at the University of Virginia where I'll be working with Dr. Amanda Gibson on unknown but sure-to-be-exciting projects.
I am interested in how parasitic relationships develop by modifying pre-existing species interactions such as mutualisms and commensalisms. The nematode genus Caenorhabditis has a fascinating diversity of species interactions, ranging from simple transport relationships to necromenic relationships where worms feast on the corpses of their hosts. These interactions, combined with a wealth of genetic and developmental tools, make Caenorhabditis a great study system for the evolution of parasitism. Unfortunately, data on the worms' ecology and host interactions are lagging behind considerably.
My master's work sought to better understand how Caenorhabditis nematodes use hosts for dispersal to new habitats. We know the worms use a special dormant/dispersal stage to hitch a ride on invertebrate carriers such as gastropods. What they're looking for in a new habitat, however, is more uncertain. New habitats have hundreds of bacterial species, some of which are nutritious and some of which are dangerous. I found that C. elegans does alter its recovery in response to different bacterial species. Each strain of C. elegans that I used had a statistically distinct strategy which suggests that this trait is highly mutable. Interestingly, the dispersal stages of free-living nematodes are analogous to the infective stages of parasitic nematodes. Understanding what free-living worms are looking out for when monitoring for a good habitat is the first step in learning how they gradually shift this sensory profile to one more aligned with host cues.
Education Ph.D. Biological Sciences, 2020-current University of Virginia
M.S. Biological Sciences, 2018-2020 University of Alabama
B.S. Biological Sciences, 2015-2019 University of Alabama
Researcher Graduate Researcher, 2020-current Advisor: Dr. Amanda Gibson University of Virginia
Undergraduate/Graduate Researcher, 2015-2020 Advisor: Dr. Janna Fierst University of Alabama
Research Experiences for Undergraduates, 2018 Advisor: Dr. Elizabeth Ostrowski Mountain Lake Biological Station
Publications Anderson, A.G., L.T. Bubrig, J.L. Fierst. Environmental stress and the maintenance of trioecy in nematode worms. Evolution (2020). 74-3: 518-527.
Bubrig, L.T., P.E. Adams, J.L. Fierst. Genome Evolution: On the road to parasitism. Current Biology (2020). 30-6: R272-R274.