Research Areas and Associated Faculty


One Health

Faculty Mentor

  Project Focus Area

Calvin Keeler Laboratory

The Keeler research group studies the pathogenomics of avian disease pathogens. We examine the molecular biology of various avian bacterial and viral agents with the goals of understanding their biology and developing improved strategies for their control and we use molecular and sequencing technologies to better understand the host (avian) innate immune response and inflammatory response to these avian pathogens. We are also characterizing the avian respiratory microbiome, emphasizing the viral microbiome while also identifying the bacterial, bacteriophage, and fungal components. 

Brian Ladman Laboratory

The Ladman laboratory is focused on the monitoring of avian pathogens affecting poultry production in Delmarva, the characterization of new isolates of bacterial and viral pathogens, and the development and testing of new control methods (vaccines) for mitigating industry losses due to these pathogens. Dr. Ladman is the head of day-to-day operations of the Charles C. Allen Laboratory, a BSL-3-Ag biocontainment laboratory at the University of Delaware. Projects in his laboratory are focused on the characterization of pathogens, vaccine testing and the measurement of vaccine responses.

Mark Parcells Laboratory

The Parcells laboratory is primarily focused on the virology and immunology of Marek’s disease virus (MDV), an oncogenic virus of poultry. Projects include: the modeling of MDV of MDV infection, the evolution of MDV virulence, pathogen-host interactions, vaccinology, and the functional analysis of MDV gene products. In addition, the Parcells laboratory collaborates with UD faculty on other projects including models for Zika virus infection, food-borne viruses, and pathogenic microorganisms.

Participating mentors in the ENWE department offer outstanding research experiences in entomology, ecology, and wildlife conservation. The research areas in ENWE emphasize whole-organism biology, conservation biology, and the interactions between humans and other species. UD Envision-participating faculty have research in a number of insect and wildlife biological fields.

Faculty Mentor

  Project Focus Area

Dr. Jeffery Buler

Dr. Buler’s Aeroecology Program uses data from the national network of weather surveillance radars to study the distribution, movement, and habitat use patterns of migratory birds in the air to advance avian ecology, conservation, and management. General research topics include: 1) modeling species distributions and habitat relationships over broad geographic scales, 2) assessing wildlife response to habitat restoration/management and climate change, and 3) studying the behavior and ecology of birds during migration. Envision students with an interest in wildlife ecology can help participate in ongoing research projects that include: 1) mapping distributions of wintering waterfowl to quantify Avian Influenza infection risk to commercial poultry farms, 2) assessing the ecological impacts of light pollution on nocturnally-migrating birds during migration, 3) studying the movement ecology and roosting behavior of Purple Martins, and 4) mapping bird distributions during migration with radar across the United States over the last 25 years to assess environmental impacts of human land use and climate change on migrating birds and their habitats.

Dr. Vincenzo Ellis

The Ellis laboratory is focused on the molecular ecology and evolution of infectious disease. We are interested in a number of topics including the evolution of host specificity, parasite phylogeography and diversification, host-parasite coevolution, determinants of parasite community structure, and the physiological responses of hosts to infection. Our main study system is the malaria parasites of wild birds, but we recently started working with black-legged ticks and their microbiomes. Potential projects may include local field work to sample birds or ticks, molecular work to identify and genetically characterize parasites, and/or statistical or bioinformatic data analyses.

Dr. Kyle McCarthy

In the Rare and Elusive Species lab we attempt to quantify population and behavioral characteristics of wild felids and other secretive mammals. To determine where species are occurring, and why, we couple non-invasive field techniques such as camera trapping, scat collection, blood-meal collection from hematophagous parasites, or sign surveys, with spatial analysis and Bayesian modelling. Undergraduate students can expect to participate in all aspects of research, from collecting data, to analysis and write up.

Dr. Chris Williams

The Williams lab oversees the Waterfowl and Upland Gamebird Ecology Program. Current research foci include better understanding waterfowl (duck and geese) and upland gamebird (quail) habitat preferences, nesting ecology, movement and behavior, and bioenergetic estimates of population carrying capacities. Further, they examine wetland availability and quality for ducks and geese along with early successional habitat management for quail. Dr. Williams also investigates wildlife policy issues for the long-term effectiveness of wildlife management and actions.

Faculty Mentor

  Project Focus Area

Rolf Joerger Laboratory

The Joerger laboratory studies food microbiology with an emphasis on foodborne pathogenic bacteria. For the Envision program, undergraduate students will be involved in research on two projects. One project will be the continuation of work studying the genetic basis of acid resistance in Salmonella enterica. Strains having mutations in genes potentially involved in acid resistance have been generated and characterization of these will be the topic of further undergraduate research. The second project studies the effectiveness of antimicrobials (primarily oxidizing agents) on Listeria monocytogenes released from biofilms. 

Kali Kniel Laboratory

The Kniel laboratory studies the ways in which microorganisms persist in the environment and contribute to produce safety and risks to public health. Specific projects include assessing bacterial survival in soil amendments that lead to contaminated raw agricultural commodities, like cucumbers and melons. Transmission of pathogens through irrigation water is also studied, including means to mitigate contamination and transfer. Bacteria, protozoa, and viruses are studied for their ability to survive in the harsh conditions of the pre-harvest environment, including elucidating mechanisms of plant-pathogen interactions. Applied and basic research is coupled with the development of educational materials for K-16 and training of produce growers. 

Changqing Wu Laboratory

The Wu laboratory is focused on the food quality and safety. Current projects include development of natural antimicrobial and antioxidant additives from food wastes, food toxicity including genotoxicity and endocrine disruption toxicity, quality evaluation tests on color, texture, and major nutrients of food products after they receive processing for reduction of foodborne pathogens. and development of testing methods for microorganisms. The Wu laboratory collaborates with USDA-ARS scientists and UD faculty on other projects such as toxicity evaluation of newly synthesized bio-based antimicrobial agents, and lignin-inspired bio-based materials.

Faculty Mentor

  Project Focus Area

Behnam Abasht Laboratory

The Abasht lab is focused on the use of functional genomic approaches to address complex metabolic disorders of meat-type chickens (broilers).  Most recently, the lab has been studying Wooden Breast, a novel muscle disorder of unknown etiology in commercial broiler chickens. The most severe cases of the disease are characterized by extreme stiffness of the breast muscle (pectoralis major), which can be detected by manual palpation. Using a combination of methods, including transcriptome sequencing (RNA-seq), histology, electron microscopy, and bioinformatics, Dr. Abasht’s lab investigates and hopes to identify factors causing this myopathy in modern broiler chickens. The lab group also studies genetic regulation of myogenesis and adiposity as they relate to healthy muscle growth in chickens.

Ryan Arsenault Laboratory

The Arsenault laboratory’s current research centers on kinomics and the gut health of poultry, and includes the topics of immunometabolism, host-pathogen interactions, feed additives and antibiotic alternatives. Current projects include host-pathogen interactions of Salmonella, Coccidiosis, and Necrotic Enteritis in broiler chickens, gastrointestinal immune development in broiler chickens, and immunometabolic responses to avian influenza in wild ducks. Dr. Arsenault’s teaching includes a graduate-level class on the microbiome and gut health, and an undergraduate class on One Health.

Carl Schmidt Laboratory

The Schmidt laboratory has projects focused on how organisms respond to environmental stress. We use poultry to explore the impact of heat stress on gene expression patterns to map genes that are responsive to thermal challenge.  We use a variety of approaches, including genome sequencing, variant analysis, transcriptome and metabolome, to study heat stress. Envision students will participate in bioinformatic projects and will learn skills in assessing genome-wide expression analysis.

Faculty Mentor

  Project Focus Area

Amy Biddle Laboratory

The Biddle Lab is interested in microbiome factors impacting equine health, and the home of the Equine Microbiome Project. This research offers summer students opportunities to apply bioinformatics to identify relationships between microbial community structure, function, and host factors, and then test those relationships using in vitro culture methods. 

Aditya Dutta Laboratory

Research in the Dutta laboratory is focused on understanding the mechanistic basis of cellular response to oxidative stress in both normal and diseased states, and the role of the microbiome in this process. In particular, the laboratory studies mitochondria-mediated mechanisms involved in the development and maintenance of reproductive organ systems. The laboratory utilizes state-of-the-art transcriptomic, proteomic, and metabolomic approaches to interrogate chicken models, mouse models, and human samples. The work aims to improve reproductive efficiency in chickens to enhance farm productivity; and identify and define drivers of ovarian cancer initiation in the human context

Tanya Gressley Laboratory

The two primary research focuses of the Gressley lab are amino acid nutrition and nutritional immunology of dairy cattle. For the amino acid work, the focus is on evaluating bioavailability and production response to feeding rumen protected amino acid supplements. The nutritional immunology work is concentrated on evaluating health effects of ruminal acidosis, particularly in the intestines. 

Yihang Li Laboratory

The main focus of the Y.Li’s Lab is intestinal development and physiology. By utilizing monogastric animal model, we want to understand the mechanisms by which the intestine rapidly responds and adapts in the long-term to environmental stressors (weaning, heat/cold, physiological stress) in early life, eventually identify novel nutritional strategies to facilitate gut adaptation and attenuate damage. Research projects will include the isolation and characterization of intestinal stem cell, evaluation on nutrient sensing/transport physiology, and mucosal barrier function and regeneration.

Food Sustainability


Faculty Mentor

  Project Focus Area

Jeff Fuhrmann Laboratory

Research in my lab focuses on the symbiosis between soybean plants and bradyrhizobia bacteria that infect the soybean roots.  The bradyrhizobia reside in root nodules and fix atmospheric nitrogen into ammonia for the host plant.  We are additionally examining how viruses of the bradyrhizobia affect the symbiosis and ultimately soybean productivity, the latter being critical to global food security.  My lab is part of a highly collaborative and supportive research group with the common themes of microbial-virus interactions and bioinformatics.  This larger group includes two other principal investigators, support personnel, post docs, and numerous graduate and undergraduate students.   

Angelia Seyfferth Laboratory

Research in the Seyfferth Lab focuses on understanding the soil biogeochemical processes that dictate contaminant and nutrient cycling and uptake by plants. We are particularly interested in how small-scale soil-chemical processes influence contaminant (e.g., As, Cd, Pb) and nutrient (e.g., Si, P, Fe, S) release or attenuation that have large-scale impacts on human and environmental health. A variety of approaches are utilized including the coupling of laboratory experiments (for mechanistic information) and field-based observations to decipher contaminant and nutrient cycling and plant interactions under environmentally-relevant conditions. We use advanced analytical techniques such as synchrotron X-ray absorption spectroscopy and imaging to unravel the species distributions of contaminants and nutrients in the rhizosphere and in plant tissues, and mechanisms of uptake by plant roots. Ultimately, we conduct basic research that can be applied to benefit society on a local-to-global scale.

Faculty Mentor

  Project Focus Area

Nicole Donofrio Laboratory

The Donofrio laboratory is focused on means to understand the intricate and sometimes quite complex nature of interactions between plants and fungal plant pathogens. Why do plants succumb to disease? And how do certain fungi take advantage of a plant’s “inner-workings” to grow and reproduce? Specifically, there are two projects going on in my lab: the first focuses on the molecular interactions between a devastating fungal pathogen of rice, barley and other cereal crops, called Magnaporthe oryzae. The second is on a fungal-like organism that is of economic interest to lima bean breeders and farmers in Delaware and is a close relative of the pathogen that caused the Irish Potato Famine. Students from the Envision program who join the Donofrio lab program will learn the basics of culturing fungi and oomycete plant pathogens, as well as learn how they interact. Depending on the specific project, they will also delve into cell biology during the interaction using microscopy, or molecular exchange during the interaction using gene expression-related techniques.

Faculty Mentor

  Project Focus Area

Stacey Chirnside Laboratory

The Chirnside laboratory is focused on water quality and nutrient (waste) management as this relates to control, treatment, and remediation. Projects in her laboratory employ analytical chemistry, soil microbiology, and bioremediation.

Hong Li Laboratory

The main focus of the Li Lab is the area of animal environmental control as this relates to agricultural air quality. Concerns about ammonia (NH3) emission are multifaceted and include issues of animal performance, health, welfare, environmental impact, and public perception. Effectively managing NH3-emissions is critical to meet foreseeable regulatory limits set for animal operations. Dietary manipulation has shown promise to be a cost effective and viable technology to reduce these emissions. Envision students will participate in trials testing new products to reduce emissions, increase public acceptance of poultry production, and increase the quality of life of poultry in production.