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Faculty & Staff Profiles

Tamara Frank

Associate Professor
Lab Website


Area(s) of research

Visual and Zooplankton Ecology

The two major areas of research in my lab are zooplankton/nekton ecology and the visual ecology of marine animals.  We are utilizing new and traditional technologies to examine plankton biodiversity, particularly over coral and other hard bottom communities, to determine if a correlation exists between plankton abundance and coral/hard bottom ecosystem health.   As plankton are food sources for many species of commercially important fish, shrimp, crab, squid, and all of these groups have planktonic larval stages, getting baseline assessments of abundance and diversity are essential  databases against which environmental perturbations can be monitored.  In addition, we are involved in a Census of Marine Life project (Mar-Eco), quantifying the abundance and distribution of deep-sea pelagic and benthic crustaceans around the Charlie Gibbs Fracture Zone at the Mid-Atlantic Ridge.  The other major research area involves studying the adaptation of photoreceptors to environment.  Previous and current studies examined how the visual systems of pelagic and benthic shrimp and crabs are adapted, both optically and physiologically, to these extremely dim light environments. We are also expanding our work to include how animals adapt ontogenetically, or with life history stage, to vastly different light environments.  In the deep-sea,  the larval and juveniles stages are found in much shallower and brighter light environments that the deeper living adults, and somehow, their eyes have to compensate for these dramatically different light environments.  These studies require special temperature insulated, light-tight collectors deployed from opening/closing Tucker Trawls, submersibles and ROVs.  In addition, off our own coasts, juvenile stages of many shark species are found in the turbid Indian River Lagoon, while adults are found in clearer ocean water, again possibily requiring a shift in photosensitivity with life history stage, and we are currently determining whether such a shift is apparent between juvenile and adult the bull sharks.  We are also studying how habitat and prey preferences are also reflected in visual physiology, i.e. do fish that selectively prey on slow moving bottom dwelling animals that may be very effectively camouflaged against the sediment, have eyes with slower “shutter speeds” for greater contrast sensitivity, compared to  fish that actively chase their prey through the water column.

Graduate Students

McComb, D.M., T.M. Frank, R.E. Hueter and S.M. Kajiura (2010). Temporal Resolution and Spectral Sensitivity of the Visual System of Three Coastal Shark Species from Different Light Environments. Physiological and Biochemical Zoology 83(2):299-307) (cover article)

Frank T.M. 2009. Vision in the deep. JMBA Global marine Environment 9: 2-3.

Frank, T.M., M. Porter, T.W. Cronin (2009). Spectral sensitivity, visual pigments and screening pigments fin two life history stages of the ontogenetic migrator Gnathophausia ingens. Journal of the Marine Biological Association of the United Kingdom 89(1): 119-129

Wagner, H.-J., R.H. Douglas, T.M. Frank, N.W. Roberts, J.C. Partridge (2009). A novel vertebrate eye using both refractive and reflective optics. Current Biology 19(2):108 - 114.

Whitehill, E.A.G., T.M. Frank, and M.K. Olds (2009. The structure and sensitivity of the eye of different life history stages of the ontogenetic migrator Gnathophausia ingens. Marine Biology 156: 1347 - 1357

Matz, M.V., T.M. Frank, N.J. Marshall, E.A.Widder, S. Johnsen (2008). Giant deep-sea protist produces bilaterian-like traces. Current Biology 18 (23): 1849 - 1854

Cohen, J.H., and T. M. Frank (2007). Vision in the hyperiid amphipod Scina crassicornis. Journal of the Marine Biological Association of the United Kingdom

Cohen, J.H. and T. M. Frank (2006). Visual Physiology of the Antarctic Amphipod Abyssorchomene plebs. Biological Bulletin (Woods Hole) 211: 140-148. (cover article)

Myslinski, T., T. M. Frank and E. A. Widder (2005). Correlation between photosensitivity and downwelling irradiance in mesopelagic crustaceans. Marine Biology 147(3): 619-629

Frank, T. M. (2004). Effects of light adaptation on the temporal resolution of deep-sea crustaceans. Integrative and Comparative Biology 43(4): 559 - 570.

Marshall, N. J., T. W. Cronin and T. M. Frank (2003). Visual adaptations in Crustaceans: chromatic, developmental, and temporal aspects. In: Sensory Processing in Aquatic Environments (S. P. Collin and N. J. Marshall, eds.), Springer, New York, pp. 343-372.

Vecchione M., C. F. E. Roper, E. A. Widder, T. M. Frank (2002). In-situ observations of three species of large-finned deep-sea squids. Bulletin of Marine Science 71(2): 893-901.

Frank, T. M. and E. A. Widder (2002). Effects of a decrease in downwelling irradiance on the daytime vertical distribution patterns of zooplankton and micronekton. Marine Biology 140 : 1181-1193.

Widder, E. A. and T. M. Frank (2001). The speed of an isolume: a shrimp's eye view. Marine Biology 138: 669-677.

Frank, T. M. (2000). Temporal Resolution in Mesopelagic Crustaceans. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London Series B 355: 1195-1198.

Frank, T. M. and E. A. Widder (1999). Comparative study of the spectral sensitivities of mesopelagic crustaceans. Journal of Comparative Physiology 185: 255-265.

Lindsay, S., M., T. M. Frank, J. Kent, J. C. Partridge, and M. I. Latz (1999). Spectral sensitivity of vision and bioluminescence in the midwater shrimp Sergestes similis. Biological Bulletin (Woods Hole) 197: 348 - 360.

Frank, T. M. (1999). Comparative Study of Temporal Resolution in the Visual Systems of Mesopelagic Crustaceans. Biological Bulletin (Woods Hole) 196: 137-144.

Frank, T. M. and E. A. Widder (1997). The correlation of downwelling irradiance and staggered vertical migration patterns of zooplankton in Wilkinson Basin, Gulf of Maine. Journal of Plankton Research 19(12): 1975-1991.

Cronin, T.W. and T. M. Frank (1996). A short-wavelength photoreceptor class in a deep-sea shrimp. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London B263: 861-865.

Frank, T.M. and E.A. Widder (1996) UV light in the deep-sea: In situ measurements of downwelling irradiance in relation to the visual threshold sensitivity of UV-sensitive crustaceans. In: Zooplankton: Sensory Ecology and Physiology (eds PH Lenz, D K Hartline, J Purcell, D Macmillian; CRC Press, 590 p.

Frank, T. M. and E. A. Widder (1996). UV light in the deep-sea: In situ measurements of downwelling irradiance in relation to the visual threshold sensitivity of UV-sensitive crustaceans. Marine and Freshwater Behavior and Physiology 27: 189-197.

Frank, T. M., and E. A. Widder (1994). Evidence for behavioral sensitivity to near-UV light in the deep-sea crustacean Systellaspis debilis. Marine Biology 118 : 279-284.

Frank, T. M., and E. A. Widder (1994). Comparative study of behavioral-sensitivity threshold to near-UV and blue-green light in deep-sea crustaceans. Marine Biology 121: 229-235.

Feng, J. J., T. M. Frank and A. Fein (1991). Excitation of Limulus photoreceptors by hydrolysis-resistant analogs of cGMP and cAMP. Brain Research 552: 291-294.

Frank, T. M. and A. Fein (1991). The role of the inositol phosphate cascade in visual excitation of invertebrate microvillar photoreceptors. Journal of General Physiology 97: 697-723.

Frank, T. M. and J. F. Case JF (1988). Visual spectral sensitivities of bioluminescent deep-sea crustaceans. Biological Bulletin (Woods Hole) 175: 261-273.

Frank, T. M. and J. F. Case (1988). Visual spectral sensitivity of the bioluminescent deep-sea mysid,

Latz, M. I., T. M. Frank and J. F. Case (1988). Spectral composition of bioluminescence of epipelagic organisms from the Sargasso Sea. Marine Biology 98: 441-446.

Latz, M. I., T. M. Frank, M. R. Bowlby, E. A. Widder, and J. F. Case. (1987). Variability of flash characteristics of a bioluminescent copepod. Biological Bulletin (Woods Hole) 173: 489-503.

Latz, M.I., T. M. Frank, J. F. Case, E. Swift and R. Bidigare (1987). Bioluminescence of colonial radiolaria in the western Sargasso Sea. Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology 109: 25-38.

Frank, T. M., E. A. Widder, M. I. Latz and J. F. Case (1984). Dietary maintenance of bioluminescence in a deep-sea mysid. Journal of Experimental Biology 109: 383-389.