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Maria Abate

Maria Abate
Assistant Professor
Science Center, S258


Research Interests

Fish evolution
Marine ecology
Phenotypic plasticity
Stress response mechanisms

A concept that is central to my research is that individuals of many aquatic species can vary their traits in response to changes in the environment during their lifetimes. My laboratory focuses on the central role that this plasticity plays in fish adaptive responses and resistance to environmental stressors. This research program has implications for environmental science, evolutionary biology and biomedicine. For example, by studying these plastic responses of fish under different conditions, we can test why and when a trait should evolve under natural selection. One area of interest is the plasticity of fish development in response to predators, which are ubiquitous natural stressors and fear inducers, to see how fish adapt their sensory systems to increase survival. I also have interest in the molecular basis of development to determine which genes are especially important for fish stress responses. These stressors may include abiotic factors such as rising temperatures, changes in pH, and contaminants which are all relevant to our understanding of the impact of environmental degradation on fish populations. In addition, our close evolutionary relationship with fish enables their use as a model for informing us about the impact of environmental stressors on human health. We use a variety of techniques including behavioral assays and video techniques, light and scanning electron microscopy and bioinformatics to explore these questions in fish we raise in my husbandry program.

The Team Danio undergraduate researchers raise zebrafish (Danio rerio) and explore their responses to the environment as they grow. One and nine-day-old zebrafish are shown.

Honors and Awards

  • Visiting Researcher, Department of Biology and Marine Program, Boston University, 2011- present
  • Guest Editor, Current Zoology, Special Issue: Behavior, Ecology and Evolution of Fishes, 2010
  • Visiting Scientist, Environmental Science Department, Universita' Ca' Foscari, Venice, Italy, 2004

Selected Publications

Abate, M. E., A. G. Eng, and L. Kaufman. 2010. Alarm cue induces an antipredator morphological defense in juvenile Nicaragua cichlids Hypsophrys nicaraguensis. Current Zoology 56(1):36-42.

Abate, M. E. 2010. Forward: Proceedings of the 2008 Ecological and Evolutionary Ethology of Fishes Conference. Current Zoology 56(1):1-2.

Abate, M. E., A. Gracey, S. Malavasi, and P. Torricelli. 2009. A comparison of brain gene expression from black goby (Gobius niger) females and males with alternate mating phenotypes. Abstract. Integr. Comp. Biol. 2009 49 (Supplement 1): e191/P3.187.

Abdu, R. W., M. E. Abate, and L. Kaufman. 2009. A test for the influence of offspring behavior on parental care in the convict cichlid (Archocentrus nigrofasciatus). Abstract. Integr. Comp. Biol. 2009 49 (Supplement 1): e191/P3.129.

Abate, M. E. 2005. Using a popular pet fish species to study territorial behaviour. Journal of Biological Education 39(2):81-86.

Student Mentored Research

Using scanning electron microscopy to test for the effect of predation on lateral line development; Anna Huynh supported by Student Research Fund

Cellular stressors of fish health; Hitomi Takahashi presented at the 2012 Ecological and Evolutionary Ethology of Fishes Conference at Windsor University, Canada

Testing for genomic and development responses of fish under physical stress; Elizabeth Suos, senior research project

Elizabeth Suos presenting at the Simmons Undergraduate Research Day.