Program PhD Students

Ashley Wain

Ashley Wain

Title: IB PhD Student
Department: Biology
Office: ASEC B203


My areas of interest include evolution and ecology.  Both of these fields have been incorporated into my current and future research plans to investigate ecological factors that may have facilitated the evolution of multicellularity in animals (metazoans) over 650 million years ago.  I work with choanoflagellates to find answers to this question.  Choanoflagellates are unicellular protists that have been shown to share a common ancestor with metazoans.  Although they are unicellular, choanoflagellates possess genes for proteins such as cadherins and tyrosine kinases which have been co-opted for cell adhesion and signaling in metazoans.

Research Accomplishments

The studies I will complete as a part of my dissertation will utilize the knowledge I have gained about the long term propagation of choanoflagellates during my master’s research.  In order to elucidate the impact of environment on the evolution of multicellularity in animals, I will evolve two species of choanoflagellates, Monosiga brevicollis and Salpingoeca rosetta, within environments simulating those of the late Proterozoic.  These environments will differ in predator/prey interactions as well as oxygen level and chemical exposure. Observed changes in overall morphology and protein regulation will be used as proxies for evolution toward a multicellular state.  The utilization of long term experimental evolution along with the integration of geology, paleontology, and evolutionary and molecular biology will help to elucidate the transition between protozoa and metazoa.


2005 Bachelor of Science (Integrated Life Sciences) Kent State University 2011 Master of Science (Biology) The University of Akron