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PIs SubProject 3: Terrestrial: Adult and Developing Honey bees and Fruit Flies

Bruno Marie, Ph.D

Institute of Neurobiology

University of Puerto Rico


In previous years we were able to determine that the environment could affect basic functions of the nervous system. Using the drosophila neuromuscular junction, we established that 1) The synaptic development is dependent on the temperature at which the animal develops and 2) Synaptic development and stability are reduced by the presence of environmentally relevant concentration of Phthalates (DBP) in the milieu during the animal development. We are now asking: What are the electrophysiological consequences subsequent to those two variables

In addition, because temperature and phthalates affect common aspects of synapse development, an intriguing possibility is that these stressors can interact and show positive or negative synergy toward synaptic growth and stability. A project will also ask whether different temperatures increase or decrease the effect of phthalates on synaptic development or stability. This line of investigation will also be the start of a future challenge: recreating, within the lab, conditions resembling more the conditions found in the environment by challenging the animals with multiple stressors.

Alonso Ramírez, Ph.D 

Department of Applied Ecology

North Carolina State University

Raleigh, NC


We work on stream ecology with emphasis on urban streams. In the PRCEN terrestrial group, we are focusing on riparian ecosystems and the urban gradient formed by the Rio Piedras watershed in San Juan.  Projects assessing the effects of urban alteration to the environment and water pollution on insects are pursued. We are focusing on two model organisms, non-biting midges (Diptera: Chironomidae) and damselflies (Odonata, Coenagrionidae).

Andrew Seeds, Ph.D

Institute of Neurobiology

University of Puerto Rico


Behavioral effects of environmental contaminants

Different human-produced environmental contaminants pervade the habitats of animals to impact their well-being and survival. Given the high likelihood of being exposed to these stressors, it is important to identify their effects on the nervous system. We will define how environmental contaminants alter the normal behavior of fruit flies. To achieve this goal, a prospective student will use a cutting-edge machine vision-based behavioral tracking technique to assess the effects of environmental contaminants on behavior. This enables our long-term goal of establishing a link between the neural circuit-level alterations caused by the environmental contaminants and how these alterations impact behavior.

Tugrul Giray, PhD

Department of Biology

University of Puerto Rico

Rio Piedras Campus


We study environmental stressors that influence honey bee colony and individual health.  We examine colony life history changes in relation to changes in behavioral neurobiology of individual honey bees.  This is because behavior is where the nervous system and ecosystem interface.  We explore causal links between changes in honey bee behavioral development, flight and muscle development, foraging, learning and memory, and brain mechanisms and specific stressors such as environmental contaminants and conditions.  

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