David Ray - I am a broadly trained evolutionary biologist with research interests in genome evolution with an emphasis on the ways transposable elements (TEs) impact genome structure and function structure. We also use modern genomic methods to investigate phylogenetics and population genetics in a variety of species of conservation concern. People in my lab work with organisms that include crocodiles, bats, butterflies, and rodents, all with these major focus areas in mind. We use bioinformatics techniques to analyze raw next generation sequencing data from both DNA and RNA as well as assembled genomes. I also teach courses on these topics, including Genomes and Genome Evolution, Genomes and Society, Transposable Element Biology, and Genetics. I earned my BS and Master’s degrees from the University of South Carolina and taught high school Biology, Chemistry and Physics before returning to graduate school and earning my PhD from Texas Tech University in 2002. After that, I held postdoctoral and assistant professor positions at Louisiana State University, West Virginia University and Mississippi State University before returning to TTU as an associate professor. My CV is available here.
Neal Platt - I am interested in the relationship between transposable elements and their effects on lineage-specific traits. For example, recent DNA transposon activity in the vespertilionid bats resulted in the deposition of hundreds of miRNA-like sequences. This period of activity/deposition corresponds with the rapid diversification of these bats. Could these miRNAs-like sequences, and indirectly the DNA transposon activity, influenced this diversification? A second area of interest is in applying genomic data and bioinformatic skills to address previously unanswerable questions in non-model taxa. We have a specific interest in understanding the small RNA repetoires in many non-model taxa. Within the past 10-20 years multiple types of small RNA species have been discovered. Usually these discoveries are made, and subsequent research focuses on mouse, human and Drosophila. We are interested in exploring the diversity of these systems by taking advantage of non-model taxa. For example, how different is the miRNA repertoire in horse vs. dog vs. bats vs. mouse. Finally I am using genomic data diverse projects spanning the fields of conservation genomics, speciation genomics, and phylogenomics. http://www.batomics.com/
Laura Blanco-Berdugo - In the Ray Laboratory I currently work with both Phormia. regina (blanck blow fly) and Heliconius erato (postman butterfly). We are interested in identifing transposable elements (TEs) in these insects. I am also working with several elephant genomes and their TEs composition. we would like to eventually be able to tie the different TEs insertions, SINEs in particular, to different elephant taxa.
Carlos Garcia - My research in The Ray Laboratory will focus on working with a rare and potentially endangered species, the Texas kangaroo rat (Dipodomys elator). I am taking whisker samples as a noninvasive method to collect DNA and get a better understanding of the genetic structure of the species. This will also help determine the species’ distribution and evaluate whether the genetic structure is characterized by recognizable sub-populations. I am also working with a pair of vesprtilionid bats in in Louisiana, and I am trying to genetically differentiate the Southeastern myotis bat (Myotis austroriparius) and the Northern Long-Eared bat (Myotis septentrionalis) in order to assess the abundance and distribution of Myotis septrentrionalis in Louisiana.
Austin Osmanski - Running around the country as a kid in west Texas inspired me to pursue a life studying the natural world of biology. I earned my Undergraduate (2008-2012) and Masters (2012-2014) Degrees from Angelo State University where I conducted ecological field research on native herpetofauna in the Chihuahuan Desert. As a new doctoral student at Texas Tech, my biological interests have diversified with the guidance of my co-advisors Drs. David Ray and Lou Densmore. I recently ventured into the intriguing world of genomics and bioinformatics where I currently work on comparative structural variations of Myotis bat genomes to deduce evolutionary relationships.
Kevin Sullivan - My interest in the field of biology concerns genomic evolution due to transposable elements, both in how they impact genomes as well as their use as phylogenetic markers. My current project is aimed at identifying SINE subfamilies in Peromyscus maniculatus, which will be used as markers in uncovering the phylogenetic relationships in the Peromyscus genus.
Jennifer Korstian - My interest in research was sparked while I worked on two undergraduate research projects through the Rice University & Houston Zoo Consortium for Conservation Biology. After earning my bachelor’s degree from Rice, I continued to a master’s degree at Texas Christian University where I studied the population genetics of eastern red bats migrating through a North Texas wind farm. For my doctoral work, I am venturing into the world of genomics. Currently, I am working on two projects: 1) examining differential expression of transposable elements in three mammals (bat, mouse, & squirrel) and 2) using transposable elements to test for incomplete lineage sorting in Myotis bats.
Michaela Halsey - Originally from the mountains of Virginia, I attended Frostburg State University in Maryland from 2007 to 2013. Equipped with degrees in Wildlife (B.S., 2011) and Applied Ecology and Conservation Biology (M.S., 2013), my current goal is to integrate genomics tools and data with traditional conservation biology. I am investigating the intraspecific genetic variation in an enigmatic and Texas endemic kangaroo rat, Dipodomys elator, to better understand its population status and health. I also aim to add phylogenetic clarification to the genus using short interspersed elements (SINEs). On a more abstract level, I am curious how environment, historic and present-day, can shape and otherwise influence genomic landscapes, especially with respect to transposable elements. I am co-advised by Dr. Richard Stevens of the Department of Natural Resources Management here at Texas Tech University.
Nicole Paulat - My research interests are in the impact of transposable elements on gene and genome evolution, and more broadly, their impact on gene expression. Currently, I am working on several projects, with the focus on identifying polymorphic TE insertions and excisions in Myotis bats, and using them to examine the effect of transposition events on the mutation rate of nearby DNA sequences. I am also annotating transposable elements in multiple arachnid species. My primary interests are in vesper bat, reptilian and arachnid genomics – gotta love me some creepy-crawlies.
Arnab Ghosh - I finished my undergraduate with honors in Biochemistry and a masters in molecular biology and bioinformatics, both from India. I have always been fascinated by molecular life science and computer programming since my undergraduate days and I have been very fortunate to find the perfect amalgamation of both in the computational biology in the Ray lab. As a PhD student, I have been working in the Ray lab on the saltwater crocodile genomics. Crocodilian genomes have been evolving very slowly over the past several million years, even when compared to their closest extant relatives, the birds. Understanding the evolution, regulation and adaptive capabilities of the crocodilian genome and its genetic diversity can therefore provide information on how slowly evolving genomes manage to stay viable in the face of competition from other taxa and changing environmental conditions. Small RNAs are known to regulate genes and genetic pathways in eukaryotes at transcriptional as well as post- transcriptional levels. My research focuses on gene annotation as well as identifying and characterizing small RNAs including microRNAs (miRNAs) and Piwi-interacting RNAs (piRNAs) in the salt water crocodile. These small RNAs provide novel insights into the evolutionary impact of miRNAs and piRNAs in reptiles as well as regulation of Transposable elements in the crocodilian genome.