Faculty Research Spotlight: Dr. Anne Wiley

We asked Dr. Wiley three questions about her research. Check out her responses below!

Dr. Wiley Research

Describe your research.

You are what you eat. In the case of animals, the stable isotopes present in their food and water are transferred to their own tissues in a predictable manner, providing a biochemical indicator of their diet and foraging locations. My research uses the ratio of stable isotopes in animal tissues and companion methods to understand the ecology of modern and ancient vertebrate populations and the impacts of humans on animal diet. Much of my research is focused on seabirds and detailing the lives these animals lead at sea, when they are foraging across vast ocean basins and largely inaccessible to scientists. Specifically, my lab group studies the role that seabirds play in their food webs, how those food webs are shifting through time, and how seabirds deal with the challenges of competition and reproduction in ever-changing environments.

What kinds of technical expertise do students that work in your lab gain?

Both undergraduate and graduate students in my lab spend substantial time working with mass spectrometers and our elemental analyzer and gas chromatograph. Within my lab, these instruments are used to measure the ratio of stable isotopes in animal tissues. But because they are used much more widely in biology and chemistry labs, student expertise with these analytical instruments is a broadly marketable job skill. Students also gain experience with protein extractions and purifications, animal dissections, and depending on the project, they may capture and sample our target species in the field. Perhaps most importantly, all students are trained to think critically and scientifically, and to communicate their research through writing and presentations.

What is the best part of working at the University of Akron?

I love being able to teach and pursue my research among the dedicated group of professors in the Biology Department. They conduct cutting-edge research in a diverse array of subfields, but they are also very committed to their students and to the success of the department and university as a whole. I’ve been equally impressed by the students whom I work with. Many of them have been inspired by nature in the local parks, and they are incredibly hard working. Students probably play the largest role in shaping my day-to-day experience at the University of Akron, so I’m lucky to have such a terrific group of young biologists in lab and in the classroom.