Cellular & Molecular Biology, Plant Biology
My research interests are focused in the areas of plant physiology and development. I am particularly interested in plant signal transduction, that is, how a plant (or cell) perceives its environment, whether physical or physiological (e.g., hormones), and how such perception leads to an appropriate response in terms of growth and development of the plant. I am investigating such signaling within two different contexts. In one case, I am working with two different mosses in an effort to understand a hormone-induced switch from two dimensional filamentous growth to the easily visible leafy plant; this change is critical to completion of the moss life cycle. In the second case, I am working with a flowering plant, Arabidopsis thaliana, to understand the role of calcium ions, in particular, a specific calcium ion-binding protein, in the development of the floral organs. A mutant plant that cannot produce this protein is sterile as both the stamens and the pistil are defective. Both projects involve the use of multiple approaches: genetic, cellular, molecular, and biochemical.
Plant Ecology & Morphology
Research in my lab concerns the ecology and morphology of ferns and invasive plants. Ferns are particularly interesting in that they are, in terms of species numbers, the most successful group of plants aside from flowering plants, and can dominate the understory of some forests (e.g., up to 70% of the flora on tropical islands). They also possess a number of intriguing biological traits, such as a free-living, minute, and morphologically simple gametophyte that is responsible for colonization and sexual reproduction; a gender-bending pheromone system called antheridiogen that is also a window into the hormonal controls of development and, hence, early plant evolution; a propensity for allopolyploid evolution resulting in the largest genomes of all life on Earth; and unusual growth forms such as the woodless tree ferns. All of the research in my lab regarding invasive plants has focused, thus far, on the Chinese “tree-of-heaven”, Ailanthus altissima. Ailanthus possesses all of the traits associated with invasiveness, including a rapid growth and life cycle, asexual reproduction, prolific sexual reproduction, production of an allelochemical (a toxin that reduces germination, growth, and reproduction in neighboring plants), tolerance to a wide range of soil and climatic conditions, and has escaped many of its predators and diseases in China. Ailanthus is now found in 46 of the lower 48 states and can be found in North, Central, and South America, and although common in urban centers is increasingly widespread in North American forests. Very little is known about Ailanthus, however, it is likely to have impacts on North American forest biodiversity, succession, nutrient dynamics, and foodweb structure, and in turn to have adapted to North American competitors, predators, diseases, and symbionts. I have lines of inquiry regarding all of these topics here in Michigan and, when it comes to ferns, also at the Luquillo Long Term Ecological Station in Puerto Rico.
Research in our lab focuses on various aspects of mammalian ecology including habitat selection and use, behavior, and reproduction. The majority of our projects are applied in nature and aim to provide information aiding resource management professionals in more effectively manage the species of interest. Nearly all of our research is field based (often in bad weather at odd times of the day) and most projects involve radio telemetry tracking. Recent/ongoing projects examine: Impacts of a Savannah Restoration on Small Mammal Communities, Winter and Summer Southern Flying Squirrel Den Tree Characteristics and Social Behavior, American Marten Resting Site Selection, Population Genetic Assessment, and Den Site Selection, Raccoon Round Worm Infection Rates.
plant ecology, ecological restoration
Ecological Restoration Work, Bass River Recreation Area, Ottawa County Michigan
Between 1999 and 2005, we conducted a study to determine the feasibility of establishing native warm-season grasses on a spotted knapweed-infested site within the Bass River Recreation Area (Section 12, T7N R15W, Ottawa County, Michigan). Native grasses were successfully established using a variety of site preparation treatments, but spotted knapweed persisted at low levels (MacDonald et al., 2003). Superimposition of annual mid-spring burning beginning in 2003 further suppressed spotted knapweed and increased the dominance of native warm-season grasses (MacDonald et al., 2007). The persistence of spotted knapweed in communities with more forbs and fewer grasses remains uncertain, as does the interaction of fire with additional knapweed control measures such as hand pulling or initial herbicide treatments. In 2009, we began a study to examine the interactive effects of site preparation treatments, hand pulling of knapweed, and burning on the establishment of a mixture of native grass and forb species on this knapweed-infested site. As of 2011, native grass and forb species have become established on all plots, hand pulling has reduced knapweed densities to very low levels, and burning is planned to commence in April, 2012. TI students would participate in annual treatment application and plot measurement activities as part of an ongoing long-term ecological restoration research project.
Ecology, Global Change
My research interests are broadly in the areas of conservation biology, biodiversity informatics, and effects of global change – land, sea level, and climate change. Recent projects have included the following lines of inquiry: 1) the study of deforestation, forest fragmentation, and land-use change for biodiversity conservation and conservation priority-setting, and 2) applications of spatial databases and analytic tools together with biodiversity databases and informatics to explore theoretical considerations in ecology and conservation biology (niche vs. neutral theory), aid the discovery of endangered or rare species, model the spread of invasive species, and predict the effects of climate change and sea level rise on species' distributions and ecosystems. More information about my work and papers for download are available at http://works.bepress.com/shaily_menon/
Microbiology; Molecular Biology
My lab is currently investigating potentially new antibiotics. We have been testing chemically synthesized compounds against Gram + bacteria. We have found a class of compounds that inhibit only Gram + organisms, including MRSA (methicillin resistant Staph. aureus), VRE (vancomycin resistant enterococci) and C.diff (Clostridium difficile). We are working in a collaborative effort with Dr. Robert Smart and Dr. William Schroeder in the GVSU Chemistry Department. Additionally, we are exploring potential antibiotics that are produced by various plants.
I conduct research in aquatic habitat restoration and biomonitoring, with a particular emphasis on stream ecosystems. My background is in the use of functional metrics, such as nutrient cycling, rates of primary production and respiration, and decomposition to assess stream integrity.
Ongoing projects include monitoring of the consequences and recovery of dam removal, the effectiveness of stormwater management through constructed wetlands on the GVSU campus, assessing food web structure through use of stable isotope analyses, as well as longer term projects to assess the role of floodplain connectivity on the lower Grand River. Projects involve the functional metrics described above as well as surveys linking biotic (including algae, plankton, aquatic plant, macroinvertebrates, and fish), physical, and chemical characteristics.
Plant Evolution and Development, Mycorrhizal Symbiosis
My research interests are wide-ranging but mainly focused on characterizing the evolution and development of the key characteristics of lands plants that have contributed to their success. I choose to study the overlooked, yet phylogenetically important, ferns, lycopods (e.g. clubmosses), and gymnosperms (e.g. pines) in order to fill in major gaps in our knowledge of the almost 500 million year history of land plants. I employ a diverse set of techniques including molecular systematics, microscopy, and developmental genetics to answer these questions. I have 2 broad areas of research: 1) the study of the evolution, development and ecology of a type of mycorrhizal symbiosis (plant-fungal association) considered crucial to the establishment and diversification of land plants, and 2) understanding the evolution of male and female cones in gymnosperms.
Page last modified August 31, 2012