Welcome to the Duff Laboratory
My students and I are involved in a number of projects using molecular genetic tools to investigate organismal and genetic biodiversity. From taxonomic and phylogenetic approaches to studying species and populations to whole community genetic diversity to working on signaling pathways in whales our projects involve an integrative approach to research.
Current Student Research In the Lab
Hope Ball- Integrated Bioscience PhD
How do mammals get fat and stay fat? Specifically, how do whales do it? That’s what my research is trying to find out. My name is Hope Ball and I’m a student in the Integrative Biosciences Program here at UA. To answer this “heavy” question, I’m looking at a tiny protein called leptin that’s involved in how the body regulates how much you eat and how much energy you burn. The goal is a balance between food intake and energy burn. Whales, and other obese mammals, have found a way to build large fat stores despite this balance and I’m interested in finding out how they do that. My research uses molecular techniques to look at how much protein these animals make and how that protein could be operating compared to non-obese animals as well as seeing if there are differences between sexes, time of year and age. It’s a difficult but fascinating question that could shed some light on how this metabolic system works in humans.
Lara Roketenetz - Integrated Bioscience PhD
I study the interactions of a native biocontrol agent and an invasive plant. The native weevil (Euhrychiopsis lecontei) has shown a shift in feeding preference for the exotic Eurasian watermilfoil (Myriophyllum spicatum) from its coevolved host plant Northern watermilfoil (Myriophyllum sibiricum). Lara is interested in looking for genetic differences in the weevil across its range in the United States as well as investigating whether genetic differences occur in populations of weevils that have different species of milfoil as their primary food source. Lara hopes that this information will be useful in determining the suitability of using these weevils in various lakes and ponds as an environmentally-friendly way to control an invasive weed.
Emily Frank - MS Student
Community analysis of unicellular eukaryotes and bacteria from the Barrent Sea using high throughput second generation sequencing.
Rachel Bright - BS Honors Student
Characterization of the leptin receptor isoforms in Bowhead whales using RACE and cDNA sequencing.
Principle Ongoing Projects in the Duff Lab
Leptin (OB) gene and the maintenance of blubber in cetaceans (whales)
Members of my lab in conjunction with the Londraville Lab are examing the leptin signaling pathways in cetaceans to better understand how whales such as Bowheads and Belugas maintain their large blubber stores year round.
Community composition of unicellular eukaryotes in artic waters
In collaboration with the Lavrentyev Lab members of my lab are sequencing genes from community DNA samples from samples taken from the Barrent Sea in an effort to characterize the number and proportion of protists in ocean currents at different times in the year.
Population genetics and molecular systematics of the milfoil weevil
As part of a larger project in collaboration with the Weeks Lab we are looking at population structure of an important biocontrol weevil using microsatelites and reassessing the classification of this weevil or several weevil species from North America using molecular systematic techniques.