Loyola University Chicago

College of Arts & Sciences

Grants

The Stuart lab was recently awarded a National Science Foundation CAREER award for their work in evolution research!

Photo of a G. Doryssus skeleton
Figure: Low armored (top) and high armored individuals of G. doryssus. The low armored for evolved from the high armored form over ~20,000 years (10,000 generations). The low armored form has a reduced pelvic girdle, missing pelvic spines, and only a single dorsal spine.

Can biologists predict long-term outcomes of evolution by extrapolating what we know about short-term evolutionary processes? Does knowing something about populations and the forces acting on them today help predict where populations will eventually evolve? The answers to these questions relate to pandemic forecasting, design of medicines for infectious disease and cancer, as well as predicting how agriculture and agricultural pests will respond to human activity. And yet they are hard questions to answer because the time scale scientists need to observe are typically inaccessible to experiment and observation. Biologists either observe evolution today for as long as possible to extrapolate forward or observe evolutionary endpoints and infer backwards. Both approaches miss the middle of the evolutionary trajectory. The Stuart lab was recently awarded a National Science Foundation CAREER award to aim for the middle, documenting 20,000 years of evolution of a fossilized lineage of Threespine Stickleback fish (Gasterosteus doryssus). Stuart will measure the population at the start of the trajectory and test whether that information predicts evolution observed by the end of the trajectory.

Using a museum collection of fossil G. doryssus, the Stuart lab will measure 19 anatomical traits from ~4,500 fish sampled at a continuity, resolution, and length of time rarely available in studies of living or extinct species. Because Stuart is observing evolution directly in a single lineage through time, the ancestral form is known. Thus, Stuart can better ask about rates of evolutionary change, how selection shaped trends, how ancestral genetic correlations among traits constrained evolution, and whether constraint itself evolved. This study organism has the added strength of being a stickleback and part of a family whose evolution, ecology, genetics, and development have been thoroughly studied in living populations. As such, Stuart can place observed change in G. doryssus into a broader biological context to better answer whether macroevolution is microevolution predictably writ large.

You can read more about Stuart Lab research here, and a bit more about this system, with pictures, here

A person uses tools to measure and gather samples of rock. Figure: Diatomite rock is formed from dead diatoms, which inhabited this lakebed 10 million years ago. When they died at the end of each season, diatoms sank to the bottom and fossilized, creating a new layer each year. Fish would fossilize alongside the diatoms. Here, colleague T. Frank is measuring distance between diatomite layers, akin to measuring tree rings, to help date time between fish specimens. There are about three layers (years) per mm of rock. Occasionally, there were volcanic ash falls (the thick layer near Tanner’s hands), which allow us to radioisotope date the rock. We can follow stickleback evolution over 20,000 years by cutting out the rock, splitting it open, and finding fish fossils.

 


Professor Devery and students stand behind the sign for Flanner Hall at Loyola University's Lake Shore Campus, Chicago

 

Dr. Jim Devery, Associate Professor of Organic Chemistry, has received a grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) for $404,000 to use over the next three years. The award will continue to support the research the Devery lab has explored in carbonyl-olefin metathesis and Lewis acid catalysis. Click here to read more.

 


Professor Catherine DeCarlo Santiago

NIH Grant awarded to Associate Professor Catherine DeCarlo Santiago in the Department of Psychology

The Children Adapting to Stress and Adversity (CASA) research team, directed by Dr. Cate DeCarlo Santiago at Loyola University Chicago is continuing to expand their work supporting refugee and immigrant newcomer students in Chicago!

Associate Professor Catherine DeCarlo Santiago and her research team received a grant from the National Institute of Mental Health (R15MH128722) for $413,187, entitled “Supporting Refugee and Immigrant Youth’s Mental Health: Examining Effectiveness and Implementation of a School-based Intervention” .  This award will enable the evaluation of the Supporting Transition Resilience Of Newcomer Groups (STRONG) program in Chicago Public Schools over the next 3 years. The project will employ a group randomized design to evaluate the effectiveness of STRONG in promoting mental health and resilience among newcomer students. This research enhances understanding of effectiveness of an intervention optimized for refugee and immigrant youth and delivered in schools to promote access. Ultimately, building the evidence-base for and expanding implementation of the intervention has the potential to support the mental health of many more refugee and immigrant children across the United States.

STRONG was developed to reduce the potential for mental health disparities among newcomer students by (1) promoting positive adjustment during resettlement through a trauma-informed, strengths-based approach and (2) improving access to mental health supports through school-based programming. Using a mixed methods approach, we conducted interviews with students and parents. In partnership with Center for Childhood Resilience (CCR) at Lurie Children’s Hospital and Chicago Public Schools (CPS), CASA piloted this school-based intervention for newcomer students in Chicago during the 2019-2020 school year. Despite the disruption of the pilot due to the COVID-19 pandemic and school closures, the feasibility, acceptability, and impact of the STRONG program was examined, and the results were promising. This award supports expansion of this partnered work and provides valuable information about how to better support the mental health of refugee and immigrant youths, as well as support for graduate and undergraduate student researchers.

Congratulations, Prof. Santiago! We are looking forward to hearing more about the project’s successes in the future!

 

 


Check back soon for information about current and past grants awarded to Loyola University's College of Arts and Sciences! In the meantime, check out the Office of Research Services to learn more about grants that are currently funded.