• EQO

Expert Spotlight: Dr. Erika Schwarz Taylor

Updated: Mar 16

EQO Co-Founder



Background:

Dr. Schwarz Taylor earned her B.S. in Biology and M.S. in Marine Biology from University of North Carolina, Wilmington and her Ph.D. in Plant Biology from University of Texas at Austin. Currently, she is an Assistant Professor of Biological Sciences and Bioinformatics Specialist at St. Mary’s University in San Antonio, TX.


Research Focus:

Both her undergraduate and masters research focused on developing quantitative molecular probes to identify diatom and dinoflagellate species in water samples from freshwater and marine environments in North Carolina.


During her masters, she developed species-specific molecular markers for closely related Alexandrium peruvianum and Alexandrium ostenfeldii. Both dinoflagellate species produce toxins and are found in different geographic regions though they do co-occur in some locations. There had previously been a debate surrounding whether the two dinoflagellates should be considered one or two species but through morphological and molecular evidence we maintain that they are two, distinct species.


Designing species-specific markers for closely related dinoflagellates and other algae is important for a couple of reasons:

  1. Toxic species pose a threat to the shellfish industry as well as to humans and other animals that utilize aquatic resources - rapid detection allows rapid action to keep people safe, and

  2. Monitoring allows us to track species distributions and determine when the range of a toxic organism has expanded into local territory


The molecular probes were shared with NOAA as well as with colleagues monitoring areas in the Baltic and Mediterranean Seas.


alcofluor White stained cells representing A. peruvianum showing the anterior sulcal (s.a.) plates, the ventral pore (v.p.), first apical plate (1’) and the 6th precingular plate (6’’); a) AP0411-1, b) B2-NR, c) C10-NR, d) D4-NR, e) AOTVA4 and f) AOF0933.
Image from Dr. Schwarz Taylor's research

Her dissertation work focused on chloroplast and mitochondrial genome evolution in legumes. This work contributed to increasing the availability of genomic data related to legumes which are important commercial crops. Additionally, by understanding more about genomic rearrangements, and rates of evolution in these genomes we can more easily identify genomic regions ideal for designing barcodes for plants and other related groups.