Morgan Kelly, PI

phone: 225.578.0224 | office: LSA 309 | lab: LSA 325/327
My research is driven by questions that integrate many areas of biology, from ecology to genetics to physiology and evolution. One of the most basic goals of ecology is to understand the distribution and abundance of organisms. Are species's distributions set by their tolerance of abiotic stressors? And, if so, what are the evolutionary limits to increased tolerance? I use selection experiments and next-generation sequencing to identify the genetic basis adaptation to the abiotic environment and to understand the mechanistic overlap between plastic and evolved responses to stress. (full cv)

Kevin Johnson, NSF Postdoctoral Fellow

My research focuses on describing the epigenomic variations between populations of the eastern oyster (Crassostrea virginica) along a natural salinity gradient in the Gulf of Mexico. This work utilizes epigenomic sequencing to characterize population-specific DNA methylation patterns from both parental populations (F0) and common-garden reared second-generation offspring (F2). This work leverages the emerging field of epigenomics with classic metrics for oyster health (i.e. digestion rate and growth rate) across multiple generations to explore the role DNA methylation plays in oyster salinity tolerance and local adaptation.

Joanna Griffiths, PhD student

I am interested in marine species that have adapted to past climate change and may do so in the future. As a phD student in the Kelly lab, my research focuses on identifying plasticity in coral Balanophyllia elegans populations along the West coast. I will be using genetic and modeling data to identify refugia during the last interglacial period that may also serve as future refugia. My research will also incorporate climatic data extracted from fossilized corals. website

Scott Riley, Masters student

I am passionate about all things oysters. My research project will use Next Gen DNA sequencing to identify potential loci responsible for local adaptation of salinity tolerance in the eastern oyster, Crassostrea virginica. In addition to Next Gen sequencing, we will measure growth and survival of oysters spawned from low and high salinity parent stock at outplant sites in coastal Louisiana. With coastal marsh loss and proposed freshwater diversions in the Mississippi River Delta, this information will be useful for oyster aquaculture, management, and restoration in the Gulf of Mexico and beyond. Before coming to LSU, I taught fish farming to smallholder farmers as a Peace Corps volunteer in Zambia.

Hollis Jones, Masters student

My research interests focus on improving the resilience of our coastal marine ecosystems. Specifically, I would like to investigate the potential for improving the stability of restored oyster reefs. Variation in the genotypes of the eastern oyster, Crossostrea virginica, used in restoration projects could strengthen the resulting community. I am also interested in exploring how the environmental variability in ocean pH could predict how local populations of organisms will react to ocean acidification.

Kyle Sirovy, PhD student

My passion involves life-long learning and integrating that knowledge to solve evolutionary problems in the marine system. I am currently using next-generation sequencing to study local adaption along a salinity gradient in the Gulf of Mexico in the eastern oyster, Crassostrea virginica. I plan to extend the techniques learned from this project to study local adaptation in a mollusc (TBD), living along major temperature gradients along the coast of Japan. I previously researched with Dr. Eernisse at Cal State Fullerton, using systematics to resolve the phylogeny of the chiton family, Lepidochitonidae.

Current Undergraduate Students

Clockwise from left to right: Vidal Villela, Angela Yoon, Hope Roberts, Colleen Cecola, Soray Castro, Elle Foster, Daniel Liu. Not pictured: William Murdock, Cassidy Woolie, and Carey Laiche.

Colleen Cecola

Colleen Cecola is a senior at LSU, majoring in Biological Sciences with a concentration in Marine Biology and minoring in Fine Arts. In her free time, she enjoys studying the plasticity of gene expression and heat tolerance of Tigriopus californicus in the Kelly Lab.

Vidal Villela

Vidal is a fourth year undergraduate student majoring in microbiology and minoring in chemistry. He is currently studying the costs of heat tolerance in Tigriopus californicus.

Hope Roberts

Hope is a fourth year undergraduate student majoring in microbiology and biochemistry and minoring in anthropology. She is also designed this awesome website, an is the copepod culture maintenance and label-maker extraordinaire.

Angela Yoon

Angela is a fourth year undergraduate in the College of Science, majoring in biology with interests in Veterinary Medicine. She is doing her honors thesis in the Kelly lab.

Errol Morgan

Errol is the Kelly Lab's education and outreach coordinator. He is a senior, majoring in biological sciences (pre-dental) with a minor in business administration and psychology. He enjoys reading and being out doors, and his favorite amphibians are frogs.


Melissa DeBiasse, Postdoc

As an evolutionary ecologist I am interested in the processes that generate biodiversity in the ocean. My research examines the distribution of genetic and phenotypic variation within and among populations in marine invertebrates. In Mike Hellberg’s lab at LSU my dissertation research used model-based methods to test hypotheses of historical demography and species boundaries in the Caribbean coral reef sponge Callyspongia. As a postdoc in the Kelly Lab, I am determining the genomic and phenotypic responses of marine invertebrate (sponges, corals, and copepods) to environmental stressors using experimental and next generation sequencing approaches. website .]

Jessica Miglicco

Jessica, a former research intern for Dr. Kelly, and is now attending LSU New Orleans Medical School

Elle Foster

Elle majored in Biological Sciences with a minor in Chemistry. She did her thesis with Dr. Kelly investigating the phenotypic effects of intraspecific variation in mtDNA. She is now attending LSU New Orleans Medical School