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Kimberly Tice,
NSF Graduate Fellow

NSF GK-12 Project: University of Hawaii at Manoa
The GK-12 Program in Hawaii: Using the Native Biota for Science Education
URL: http://www.hawaii.edu/gk-12/evolution/

Thesis Title: The Maintenance of Morphological Diversity in the Intertidal Snail Echinolittorina Hawaiiensis: Plasticity or Polymorphism?

College/University: University of Hawaii at Manoa

Research Advisor: David Carlon

Degree Sought

University Department and/or Lab

Research Focus
I am examining the selective factors causing and the mechanisms maintaining a morphological polymorphism in the endemic Hawaiian intertidal snail Echinolittorina hawaiiensis.

Description of Research
Echinolittorina hawaiiensis is a littorine snail that inhabits rocky, wave-swept shores throughout the Hawaiian islands, where two divergent shell morphs exist: a larger, sculptured form lives high in the intertidal in dry areas exposed to spray, but no direct swash, while a smaller, smooth form predominates in the lower intertidal where it is exposed to intense wave action. In contrast to predictions based on models of environmental “grain size,” previous research suggests that the morphological diversity in this species results from genetic polymorphism despite its long planktonic larval duration. I am using AFLP analyses to examine the association between ecomorph-type and genomic level DNA variation in Echinolittorina hawaiiensis. Differentiated AFLP loci represent regions of the genome under or linked to regions under divergent natural selection. Therefore, these data will allow me to determine whether the morphological polymorphism in E. hawaiiensis is genetically based. If so, this data will also help determine whether divergence results from the combined effects of several unlinked loci or from a region of restricted recombination. These data will help me evaluate the predictions of models based on environmental “grain size,” and determine whether alternative models are necessary to explain the evolution of polymorphism versus plasticity.

Example of how my research is integrated into my GK-12 experience
For my own research, I am using a variety of field sampling methods and molecular techniques to answer questions about the population genetics of an endemic Hawaiian intertidal snail. In collaboration with Dr. Steve Karl at the Hawaiian Institute of Marine Biology, we will be familiarizing high school teachers with a variety of these methods as they apply to coral reef ecosystems. Teachers will gain a fuller understanding of underwater sampling and laboratory methods, a greater appreciation of the variety of ecological questions that can be answered with molecular data, and the ability to effectively introduce these concepts to their students.

Profile date: June 2007
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