Dr. Luis Espinasa and Students Publish and Present Research Findings

Summer 2008 was a busy time for Dr. Luis Espinasa, Associate Professor of Biology, and his research team of Marist undergraduates. In addition to a presentation at a conference in Montreal, Quebec, Canada, Espinasa and his students published two papers, submitted two more manuscripts, and are close to submitting still another, all to peer reviewed journals. Additionally, Espinasa and collaborators from other institutions published two more papers. Details are provided below the photo, which depicts Espinasa (3rd from the right) and several students in the midst of a collecting trip to Pennsylvania during the 2007-08 academic year.

Dr. Espinasa is a cave biologist, and he and his students are particularly interested in understanding the genetic and evolutionary relationships among different species of insects and fishes which inhabit these caves. To do so, they utilize both traditional morphological techniques as well as modern molecular methods to draw inferences about the degree of relatedness between different specimens. In addition to their interest in caves in the northeastern US, Espinasa and his students have also explored caves and collected samples on several Caribbean islands.

Espinasa and students on cave trip

Along with 2008 Biology alumnus Nguyet Vuong, Espinasa published articles in the Proceedings of the Biological Society of Washington, and the Journal of Cave and Karst Studies.

Biology major Alanna Henneberry and Biomedical Sciences major Terrence Turner submitted an article to the Proceedings of the Biological Society of Washington in which they and Espinasa describe a new species of insect and report on its 18s rDNA sequence.

Biology major Drake Smith and 2008 Biomedical Sciences alumnus Katie Amodeo will submit an article to Copeia in the near future in which a new species of fish is described.

Zhong Zhuang, a John Jay Senior High School student, and Dr. Espinasa co-authored a manuscript submitted to the Proceedings of the Entomological Society of Washington.

Espinasa also has two articles in press. The first will appear in Evolution: Education and Outreach, a journal which targets K-16 students, teachers and scientists alike to promote accurate understanding and comprehensive teaching of evolutionary theory for a wide audience. The other article describes a total of five new species of insects and will appear in Texas Memorial Museum Speleological Monographs.

Finally, in July 2008, Smith and Biomedical Sciences major Chris Nacca gave a talk (co-authored by Luis) at the 2008 Joint Meeting of Ichthyologists and Herpetologists at Montreal regarding the genetics of the northern-most cave adapted fish in the world.