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Christopher Blanar, Ph.D.

Christopher Blanar
Assistant Professor
Dept. of Biological Sciences
(954) 262-8041 cblanar@nova.edu

Education

  • 2008 – Ph.D. – University of New Brunswick (Saint John)
  • 2004 – Diploma in University Teaching – University of New Brunswick (Fredericton)
  • 2001 – M.Sc. – McGill University
  • 1997 – B.Sc. – Concordia University

Area(s) of research

My research interests bisect the fields of parasitology and general ecology. I study the natural and anthropogenic processes that structure parasite communities in aquatic organisms. I also do the reverse and track changes in parasite community structure to answer larger questions about ecosystem processes and ecological health. My projects typically involve some combination of field work in critical Florida habitats (Everglades, mangrove swamps, coral reefs, sargassum mats), laboratory-based work (whether in my facility on NSU’s main campus or with partnering labs at the OCE), and the use of multivariate statistics. That said, my interests extend to the biocontrol of parasites, parasite-induced host behavior modification, and host-parasite interactions in general. My ongoing research partnerships and potential research projects are listed below.

Parasitism in coastal habitats. Projects include a) parasite communities in invasive fishes, particularly the lionfishes (Pterois spp.), and how those communities change over time as the invader becomes established in its expanded range; b) parasite communities in Florida reef fishes and their relation with host trophic guild and foraging behavior; c) the study of how parasite communities change in fishes that undergo ontogenetic niche shifts; d) parasite communities in seabirds in relation to host phylogeny and foraging behavior; and e) parasite transmission in sargassum mats. This research is a partnership with David Kerstetter. Additional partners include Amy Hirons, Sean Locke, and Nicole Kirchoff.

Parasites and migratory behavior in Everglades fishes. This project explores how body morphology, condition, and parasitism affect swimming behavior in small-bodied fishes such as mosquitofish (Gambusia holbrooki), sailfin molly (Poecilia latipinna), Bluefin killifish (Lucania goodie), and golden topminnow (Fundulus chrysotus). We use a combination of field and lab-based methods, including video analysis, morphometrics, and the use of multivariate tools to link parasite community structure & compositions, morphology, and swimming behavior. This research is a partnership with J-Matt Hoch and Joel Trexler.

Biocontrol of parasitic nematodes using engineered bacteria. Using a synthetic biology approach, we are engineering bacteria to produce chemoattractants (e.g. AHLs) and toxins (e.g. Bt) to attract and kill the soil-dwelling stages of parasitic nematodes. Having established proof-of-concept with the nonparasitic model Caenorhabditis elegans, our work is now turning to testing our system against various nematodes and using mathematical modelling to optimize attractant / toxin production in engineered bacteria. This work is a partnership with Rob Smith and Evan Haskell.

Parasite community ecology. I also work on several additional projects, including a) parasite community structure in small-bodied fishes in response to industrial development and landscape use; b) assessing the role that distance decay, host range, and post-glacial recolonization play in parasite communities of sticklebacks (Gasterosteus aculeatus); and c) meta-analyses of bias in parasite community studies. My primary partner in this work is David Marcogliese.

Potential undergraduate (BS and BS Hon) and graduate (MS) projects could be derived from any of the above research collaborations. I also have openings for students interested in studying parasitism in sargassum-dwelling organisms, as well as in columbines (i.e. pigeons & doves). Students interested in joining my lab should email me at cblanar@nova.edu.

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