Caves, Crustaceans, and Chemosynthetic Symbioses: An Evolutionary Study of Extreme Groundwater Systems
My research focuses on microbial and invertebrate community structure formation and evolution in extreme underwater caves. In dark anchialine caves, wherein a landlocked marine layer flows beneath a freshwater layer, there are generally few animals. Yet, some of these extreme caves have inexplicably large biomasses of shrimp. What is feeding all of these creatures? The answer is Microbes!! AND some of these microbes appear to be living mutualistically on and within these rare animals.
Therefore, my postdoctoral research focuses on the identity and evolution of underwater cave symbionts as well as the speciation of their crustacean hosts. To better understand the relationships between microbes and crustaceans in these largely inaccessible habitats across Mexico and the Caribbean, I combine microbial and organismal evolutionary ecology studies carried out in both field and lab.