LABORATORY FOR MICROBIAL & ENVIRONMENTAL GENOMICS
Join Us:

People

h

Jeffrey Turner

About Born in Louisville, Kentucky, and raised just south of Atlanta, Georgia, I am now happy to call the Gulf of Mexico (aka The Third Coast) home. Prior to my arrival at Texas A&M University in Corpus Christi, I acquired a deep appreciation for our world’s oceans sailing the Bearing Sea and Arctic Ocean with the US Coast Guard. Afterward, I uncovered my fascination for marine ecology at the University of Georgia’s Odum School of Ecology. Following the defense of my dissertation, I boarded a flight to Seattle where I studied genetics and genomics as a Postdoctoral Research Associate at the NOAA Northwest Fisheries Science Center and the University of Washington School of Oceanography. The influence of oceans on human health and well-being has become a central theme in my research and teaching interests. This broad theme intersects with a diversity of topics including but not limited to conservation biology, marine pollution, emerging infectious diseases, harmful algal blooms, coral reef ecology, natural resource management, and global climate change. Education Ph.D., University of Georgia, Odum School of Ecology, 2010. Thesis adviser: Erin K. Lipp. Thesis title: Environmental factors and reservoir shifts contribute to the seasonality of pathogenic Vibrio species.

Download CV
h

Nicole Powers

About Prior to joining the Micro-omics lab in 2016, I completed my bachelor’s degree at Oklahoma State University, with a major in microbiology, cell, and molecular biology. My senior honor’s thesis focused on optimizing anaerobic fungal growth and novel spore collection conditions (thesis advisor: Dr. Noha Youssef). During my time as an undergraduate, I also worked as an education team member at Sea Life Aquarium in Grapevine, Texas, where I realized my fascination with marine life. I was fortunate to combine my love for both the microscopic and marine world by joining the Micro-omics laboratory in 2016. I completed my Ph.D. in 2021 (dissertation title: Sources, Drivers, and Impacts of Fecal Pollution in Coastal Texas) under the guidance of Dr. Jeffrey Turner. After graduating, I served as Adjunct Professor of Microbiology (2021), and I am currently serving as a postdoctoral researcher and Principal Investigator at TAMUCC. My primary research interest focuses on bridging the gap between human and environmental health, and my current projects involve determining the sources of fecal pollution and using that information to estimate human health risks in Coastal Texas. Education Ph.D., Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi, 2021. Dissertation adviser: Jeffrey W. Turner. Dissertation title: Sources, Drivers, and Impacts of Fecal Pollution in Coastal Texas.

Download CV
h

David Silva

Currently a resident of the (956) South Texas area code, I was born and raised in the “Valley”, Brownsville Texas, just 15 minutes from the Gulf of Mexico. Here, I obtained a Bachelor’s of Science in Biology from the University of Texas at Brownsville (UTB) now known as UT Rio Grande Valley (UTRGV). My undergraduate experiences working with the marine microorganism Vibrio cholerae, under Dr. Daniele Provenzano, prepared and motivated me to pursue a master’s degree in Microbiology from Texas A&M University at College Stations. My research repertoire includes many molecular biology techniques applied to microorganisms from pathogenic eukaryotes/prokaryotes to phages. I took a break from research after completing my master’s degree and became a secondary education teacher, focusing on chemistry, physics and biology for three years. Having said this, my love of gulf and marine microbiology research to Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi where I am pursuing a Ph.D. with the fascinating project studying Vibrio parahaemolyticus.

Download CV
h

Nora Bleth

About I attended the University of Minnesota-Duluth in undergrad with the intention of studying water; I didn’t know how or what, but the university stationed on the largest of the great lakes seemed like a good place to start. I loved attacking questions by seeing the environments firsthand, so I signed up for a Field Studies in Marine Biology Course at Friday Harbor Labs in Washington. Afterwards, I conducted my undergraduate research through the Research Experience for Undergraduates program (REU) at the Marine Biological Laboratory in Woods Hole, MA where I studied underwater bioacoustics in the Oyster Toadfish. After graduation, I worked in a commercial testing laboratory, and eventually got a job at the Hormel Foods Research and Development Laboratory in their microbiology department. Connecting my experience studying marine biology on two coasts and my work experience in microbiology, I sought out research labs examining anthropogenic impacts on microbial ecosystems in the ocean. I’m currently in my PhD, working to understand the contributions of individual sources to fecal pollution in Baffin Bay, TX. Education Under Construction.

Download CV
h

Lydia Cates

About Born and raised in North Texas, I quickly developed an out-of-place fascination with
marine life, specifically the influence that the marine environment and its inhabitants can
exert on human life. By the time I hit high school, I was able to narrow down my interests
to researching the health and immune systems of marine organisms in order to find
applications in the human medical field. This led me to complete my bachelor’s degree in
biology with a marine concentration at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi in the
summer of 2021. During my time at TAMU-CC I completed an internship with Texas
Parks and Wildlife Department-Coastal Fisheries Division where I was able to get my
first real-world experience in research. The internship yielded a published paper on B.
marinus status and trends in Texas bays, the first of its kind in Texas. Despite this
success, my career took a major turn when I accepted a position with Texas Wildlife
Services to complete the management of feral hogs in south Texas. After nearly two years
in this position, I was able to find a connection back to the marine environment. This
connection has allowed me to begin work on my master’s degree under Dr. Turner. My
research will focus on the bacterial load that feral hogs introduce upstream that then
flows into Texas bays and can be uptaken by filter feeders, such as oysters. Education Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi, B.S. Marine Biology, Spring 2021; M.S. Marine Biology, Projected Graduation Spring 2026.

Download CV
h

Jacqueline Nicolay

About My journey into the world of science has been punctuated by a whimsical beginning – as my grand entrance began at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center and often serves as a lighthearted reminder from my family of my potential destiny in the field. While I can’t deny the cosmic coincidence, it was through my experiences from childhood and throughout my adulthood that I discovered my true affinity for all organisms, micro- and macro. My dad’s Navy career as a pilot granted us the opportunity to travel often and relocate every few years to many places throughout the United States and beyond. From the enchanting landscapes of Reykjavik, Iceland, to the grounded charm of Corpus Christi, Texas, that of which I currently call home. Much of my upbringing was spent exploring the outdoors; venturing to geysers, hot springs, and waterfalls, hiking mountains and volcanoes, truly enjoying nature, while simultaneously cultivating in me a profound desire to ensure the preservation of these environments and the safety and well-being of all its tiny inhabitants. That love led me to pursue and complete a degree in Biotechnology at Del Mar College, where I accepted a laboratory assistant position working under Dr. Zhang. Through this I gained hands-on experience working with cell culture techniques, bacteriophage, GFP and RFP, and various types of bacteria. During my time at Del Mar, I completed an internship at Texas A&M Kingsville with the National Natural Toxins Research Center where I had the privilege of contributing to research endeavors centered on the purification and characterization of cysteine-rich secretory proteins (svCRiSPs) from the venom of Agkistrodon piscivorus, the Northern Cottonmouth snake, and its effect on vascular permeability. Subsequently, my path led me to Dr. Turner’s micro-omics lab, where I was invited to delve into one of my greatest fascinations: bacteriophages. More specifically, bacteriophage therapy aimed at reducing oyster larvae mortality and enhancing the productivity of Texas oyster aquaculture—a project that truly ignites my passion—and was most grateful to accept! I have since completed my Advanced Certificate in Biopharmaceutical Manufacturing from the Texas A&M Engineering Experiment Station in cooperation with The National Center for Therapeutics Manufacturing, as well as recently completing my associate degree in both chemistry and biology from Del Mar College. I am currently pursuing a dual bachelor’s degree majoring in both biology —cell and molecular biology— and chemistry —biochemistry— as well as minoring in computer science. I hope to continue my education through the graduate program here at Texas A&M and continue working on research under the guidance of Dr. Turner in the micro-omics lab. Education A.A.S. Biotechnology, Del Mar College, 2022. Advanced Certificate in Biopharmaceutical Manufacturing, Texas A&M Engineering Experiment Station in cooperation with The National Center for Therapeutics Manufacturing, 2023. A.S. Chemistry, Del Mar College, 2024. A.S. Biology, Del Mar College, 2024.

Download CV
h

Andrew Johnson

About A natural wanderer I grew up in many different places, now I happily call the coastal bend home. I lived mostly distant from the marine environment but have always had a strong attention to it and a desire to return after each visit. While perusing my degree at TAMUCC I have been able to take a deeper dive into my interests. During this time, I also found my love for research and microbiology labs as well as the excitement of spending my spare time volunteering for marine wildlife rehabilitation. When I began my studies, I knew I had an interest in the genetics, genomics and the conservation of marine life and their environment. With an internship where I worked on the genomics side of project that focused on the microbiota of coral and a microbiology course, I knew I was hooked. This led me to focus my studies on cell/molecular biology and will continue my education with genetics and genomics. With all of my current and future endeavors I plan to continue research on marine microbial life and contribute to the knowledge we currently have. Education Under Construction.

Download CV
h

Maryam Sharafeldin

About Born in Houston, Texas, and raised in the small border town of Eagle Pass, I am currently a bilingual undergraduate student pursuing a degree in Biomedical Sciences at Texas A&M Corpus Christi. While I’ve enjoyed the newfound beach opportunities in Corpus Christi, I’ve always been fascinated with the delicate balance of ocean ecosystems and the microbes that sustain them. Dr. Turner’s class rekindled my passion for microbiology, specifically in exploring the ecology of antibiotic-resistant bacteria. I am eager to delve into researching the phenotypes of various bacteria within the Vibrio genus through Kirby Bauer diffusion assays. My long-term goals, including applying to medical school in Texas, are driven by a commitment to making a positive impact on healthcare in my community. Education B.S. Biomedical Sciences, Projected Graduation Spring 2026.

Download CV
h

Kamilla Anserson

About Growing up in various locations from Iceland to different states in America has given me an appreciation for the diverse ecosystems of the world. What makes me especially curious is the microbial aspect of ecosystems, and microorganisms in general. Currently, I’m an honors undergraduate student majoring in biology with a concentration in microbiology. I am very excited to begin researching the Vibrio species in aerosols from the coast here in Corpus Christi. By contributing to this project, I am looking forward to furthering my skills in data processing and microbiology lab techniques. My goals after graduation are to apply to either pharmacy school or graduate school. I like to spend my free time embroidering, crocheting, and reading. Education Under Construction.

Download CV
h

Paxton Bachand (Graduated)

About Born and raised in the Black Hills of South Dakota, I developed a great appreciation for the outdoors. The pine and spruce mountain forests of the region offered many opportunities to develop the love of the natural world and the want to conserve it. Having a family that appreciated this as well, I was lucky to have plenty of opportunities in nature, one of which was learning to scuba dive at an early age (it was cold). What started as a hobby generated enough interest for me to relocate to Texas A&M – Galveston (TAMUG) to seek both my B.S. degrees in Marine Biology and Marine Fisheries (with a minor in Diving, of course), dedicating much of my time throughout to educational outreach and any research I could involve myself in. After spending time in a variety of labs gaining a wide range of experience, I was fortunate to have the opportunity to work in TAMUG’s Seafood Safety Laboratory analyzing oysters for Vibrio vulnificus and Vibrio parahaemolyticus and monitoring the water quality of Galveston’s oyster reefs and waters using fecal indicator bacteria. This led to a greater fascination and realization of the influence of microbes on human health and our ecosystems, spurring me to seek out the Micro-omics lab under Dr. Turner. Bringing all my interests together, I am now seeking a Ph.D. in Marine Biology with my research focused on brown tide harmful algal blooms and characterizing their microbial communities in hopes of finding potential biological controls. While fulfilling my research interests, this has also allowed me to participate in outreach once again, creating a citizen science group from Riviera High School, and to work with and attempt to solve these problems with my coastal neighbors and government agencies. Education Ph.D., Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi, 2023. Dissertation adviser: Jeffrey W. Turner. Dissertation title: Microbial dynamics of a hypersaline creek: community response to disturbance and connectivity to wildlife.

Download CV
h

Colin O'Donnell (Graduated)

About I knew from an early age that I’d be destined for a career in a marine environment. I grew up not far from the shores of Lake Erie and vacationed with my family at beaches all along the Atlantic Ocean. In middle school, my family relocated to Dallas and I began researching Texas colleges where I could further my interest. That led me to Texas A&M University Corpus Christi, where I’m starting my junior year majoring in Biology with a Marine Biology focus. Shortly after arriving at the Island campus, I got involved with the Islander Stream Team organization, which provided me with the opportunity to take water samples and analyze fecal bacteria counts from Oso Bay and Corpus Christi Bay. This was my first experience with the unseen microbial world and it sparked my interest in getting involved in research surrounding these organisms. To further this interest, I reached out to Dr. Jeffrey Turner about an undergraduate research position. From this, I’ve gained valuable experience working with Nicole Elledge on her bacterial source tracking project and, more recently, investigating the antibacterial properties of amino acid-based surfactants prepared by Dr. Billiot. After earning my undergraduate degree, I plan on obtaining a Master’s degree and then a Ph.D in the Marine Sciences so that I can add to the world’s knowledge base on marine microorganisms. Education M.S., Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi, 2023. Thesis adviser: Jeffrey W. Turner. Thesis title: Microbial diversity of beached nurdles in the Northwest Gulf of Mexico.

Download CV
h

Hailey Wallgren (Graduated)

About Despite growing up in landlocked Brandon, South Dakota, I have always been fascinated with marine life, particularly sharks. I completed my bachelor’s degree in biology with a marine concentration here at Texas A&M University- Corpus Christi, but my interests took a sharp left turn just after my junior year when I had the opportunity to do a summer internship in Dr. Turner’s lab through the TAMUCC Honors Program. I was able to design a project searching for Toxoplasma gondii in Corpus Christi Bay as well as participate in Nicole Elledge’s water quality and bacterial source tracking project. Throughout the last year of my bachelor’s degree, I was also able to work as a lab technician on projects concerning Vibrio parahaemolyticus and antimicrobial resistance in enterococci. I will be completing a master’s degree in marine biology here at TAMUCC. My research will involve virulence depression in Vibrio parahaemolyticus isolates from the Pacific Northwest. Education M.S., Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi, 2021. Thesis adviser: Jeffrey W. Turner. Thesis title: Prevalence and distribution of a novel prophage in pandemic Vibrio parahaemolyticus.

Download CV
h

Elizabeth Longo (Graduated)

About Born and raised here on the Gulf of Mexico, I have been exposed to the marine environment for my entire life. I am currently working on my Bachelor’s Degree here at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi. I am majoring in Biomedical Sciences and have a minor in music. Growing up on Corpus Christi Bay has given me first –hand experience and knowledge about the marine environment and the organisms that live there. I have always loved the water and the organisms that live in it, and since I discovered microbiology, my interest in the small things that affect everything has grown. I am particularly interested in how these microorganisms impact the health of humans and the environment. I have been working on my Honors Program Project of Excellence in Dr. Turner’s lab since Fall 2019. My project has been related to participating in Hailey Wallgren’s project with Vibrio parahaemolyticus isolates from the Pacific Northwest. After earning my Bachelor’s Degree, I plan on continuing my education and attending a pharmacy school to earn my Pharm.D. and Ph.D. in pharmaceutical sciences. My experience in this lab has furthered my laboratory skills and knowledge about microbiology invaluably. It has encouraged me to pursue my Ph.D. after pharmacy school to expand my opportunities in research and drug development.

Download CV
h

Ceejay Saenz (Graduated)

About Born and raised in Corpus Christi, Texas, I grew up enjoying the beach and wanting to learn more about our environment. I started attending Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi in 2016, and a couple of years later, I got my first experience in microbiology through the Islander Stream Team. In the semester I joined, we collected water samples biweekly to assess the quality of Oso Bay through fecal indicator bacteria. I enjoyed the time I spent working with the Islander Stream Team, and I knew I wanted to do something similar for my Project of Excellence, a research project completed for the TAMUCC Honors Program. This experience led me to the Microbial and Environmental Genomics Lab, where I was first introduced to the genomics side by Nicole Powers and Hailey Wallgren. I was able to practice assembling Vibrio parahaemolyticus genomes using different genome assemblers, like SPAdes, Velvet, and ABySS. I plan to use this new knowledge to complete my Project of Excellence, which compares the genomes of clinical and environmental Vibrio vulnificus strains to better understand their varying ability to cause disease in humans. Genomics is a new and fast-changing area of study, and I am excited to be learning and researching in this field, along with understanding how it can impact the environment and us.

Download CV
h

Lee Pinnell (Graduated)

About Born and raised in Orillia, Ontario, I grew up hundreds of miles (imperial units!) from the ocean, but through frequent trips to the coast I became fascinated with it. Despite this, I attended the even further inland University of Waterloo. Over my four years I was lucky enough to perform research on Ontario’s Great Lakes and take a marine biology field course in the Bahamas. It was there I met my future MSc. supervisor and subsequently became interested in microbes. I stayed in Waterloo for my MSc., where I focused on microbial cellulose genes in Arctic tundra soils. During these two years I gained a true appreciation for the remarkable significance of the microbial world. After my time in Waterloo I started work as a technician at SickKids hospital in Toronto where I spent two years researching the gut microbiota . Though I thoroughly enjoyed these experiences, I decided that if I was going to make research a lifelong pursuit, I needed to fuse my interest in the ocean with my scientific endeavours. A PhD. in the Marine Biology program at TAMUCC is the result of that fusion. Briefly, my research will involve incubating PET plastic pellets in the Laguna Madre and using metagenomics to characterize the microbial community that colonizes and potentially biodegrades these pellets. Education M.S., University of Waterloo, Department of Biology, 2011. Thesis adviser: Josh D. Neufeld. Thesis title: Targeted enrichment of cellulase genes using stable-isotope probing and metagenomics. Ph.D., Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi, 2019. Dissertation adviser: Jeffrey W. Turner. Dissertation title: Characterizing the microbial response to plastic and bioplastic debris in the marine environment.

Download CV