Aeddon Mckaba

I am interested in researching the genetic and evolutionary factors that determine the morphology and physical properties of diatom frustules. Diatoms have always fascinated me with their elaborate and complex shapes, and I am curious to better understand the frustule as an adaptation. I am additionally curious to study the composition and molecular structure of the frustule, and how the diatom is able to mediate the biomineralization of such complex shapes.

      Irene Lai

      Irene is a Global Disease Biology major and intends to become a pediatric nurse in the future. Her project is focused on the environmental factors and moon jellyfish’s mechanism in repairing external damage. She is most excited to learn about techniques and observe the lifecycle that makes these animals so unique.

          Zayna Siddiqi

          I am fascinated by the discovery of genomic linkages between ostensibly unrelated organisms – far-flung, millions of years apart – yet an evolutionary thread of inheritance seems to run through them. And on the other hand, there are several examples of morphological similarities belying considerable genetic disparity – the so-called cryptic species.

          I am most interested in learning the skills and techniques used by evolutionary biologists and paleobiologists to trace back these hidden and often tenuous connections – between genetics, physiological and morphological traits, and the environment – to further our understanding of life.

              Rakhay Burtzlaff

              My research is focused on the effect of environmental factors on the physiology of moon jellyfish. Specifically, the process of reverse-development, which allows the jellyfish to go back on it’s lifecycle to repair damage. My goal is to understand the mechanisms of organisms with ancient body plans through observation of external structures, to eventually study the genetic factors that make them that way.

                  Chris Mulligan

                  Chris (he/him) graduated with a BA in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology from CU Boulder, and he is currently an Earth and Planetary Sciences PhD student here at UC Davis. Chris had a wide range of research experiences before starting grad school – studying honeybee behavioral genetics, helping curate vertebrates at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science, and most recently working as a research assistant on an NSF funded project studying the biosynthesis of unique bacterial lipids used in paleoclimate models. His undergraduate honors thesis took place at CU’s Organic Geochemistry Lab under Dr. Julio Sepúlveda, where he analyzed sediments from a Late Cretaceous floodplain in Madagascar to reconstruct the ecosystem and learn if the dinosaur mass mortality events that took place were caused by seasonal toxic algal blooms.

                  Chris’ current work focuses on the ecology of early animals using lipid biomarkers, specifically trying to distinguish between signals from animal tissues, gut microbiomes, dietary sources, and the environment that are all preserved together in fossilized remains. This work involves both modern animals, such as experimentally controlling their diets then looking at their tissue composition, and body fossils directly using biomarkers to understand the animal’s paleobiology.

                    Liyu Mekonnen

                    Originally from the Bay Area, Liyu is an undergraduate student currently working towards a B.S in Chemistry and a minor in Geology. Her interests have always lived within the walls of science and history, leading her curiosity to the development of early life and the geochemical evidence of said development. She is working alongside team members Chris and Tessa to further the dated dialogue concerning early demosponges and ancient algae by means of biomarker data and genetic phylogeny. Liyu is beyond excited to contribute to the unfinished puzzle that is early life evolution.

                        Tessa Brunoir

                        Originally from North Carolina, I graduated from Smith College (‘17) with a BA in Geosciences. I am an “early life” geobiologist and a paleobiologist primarily interested in major biotic turn over events during the Neoproterozoic. My previous experience is in geology, however, while in the Gold Lab I plan to incorporate genetic phylogeny tools and biomarker data to help render a more complete picture of early eukaryotic evolution.

                        Broadly, I am interested in the Earth’s biogeochemistry, how major biotic turnover events are triggered, and how Earth’s geochemistry responds. I have previously worked on projects in North America involving redox geochemistry during the Late Devonian-Early Mississippian and Cambrian carbon isotopes, as well as Cryogenian geochronology in Namibia.

                          Hannah Hensel

                          I am interested in how animals respond to environmental stress on various timescales. My work is highly interdisciplinary, drawing from genomics, biogeochemistry, sclerochronology and Indigenous knowledge. My dissertation focuses on how the Pacific littleneck clam (Leukoma staminea) responds to ocean acidification, and methods for buffering animals against the negative effects of acidified water. Prior to starting graduate school at UC Davis in 2019, I earned my BS and MS degrees in geology from Miami University, and spent a year as a high school ENL/ESL Instructional Assistant for STEM subjects in Indianapolis, IN.

                          Noémie Sierra

                          Noémie is a graduate student in the Integrative Genetics and Genomics graduate group at UC Davis and an NSF Graduate Research Fellow. She is interested in the evolutionary history of aging and the genetic underpinnings of various tissue regeneration strategies within the phylum Cnidaria.

                          Her current work focuses on characterizing the general strategy and cell type responsible for tissue replenishment in Aurelia aurita, and understanding how changes in expression, distribution and abundance of this cell type may contribute to the decline in regenerative capability observed in the aging medusa stage of the organism, but not in the biologically immortal polyp stage.