Professor of Biology
Ph.D., Cornell University Graduate School of Medical Sciences
B.S., Fordham University
Use of microsatellite DNA analysis to assess paternity and genetic diversity. Conservation of the diamondback terrapin. Vernal Pool Conservation Biology. Shellfish aquaculture. Biology and Conservation of River Herring.
I, along with student researchers, have partnered with Massachusetts Audubon's Wellfleet Bay Wildlife Sanctuary on Cape Cod to study and protect diamondback terrapins, Malaclemys terrapin, a salt marsh turtle that has been declining throughout its range and is currently listed as "threatened" in Massachusetts. Each summer, we capture and mark terrapins to contribute to a demographic study and collect blood and tissue samples for genetic analysis and paternity studies. We have headstarted hatchling terrapins to study their behavior and orientation. Using radio transmitters, we have tracked hatchlings and studied their travels, feeding activities and adjustment to life in the marsh.
I am also involved with other projects: a) shellfish aquaculture in the northeast: I'm assisting with an oyster reef restoration project on Cape Cod, attempting to correlate oyster disease resistance/susceptibility to genetic markers. b) The plight of alewives and blueback herring during their inland migration to spawning areas and attempts to restore estuaries and rivers
Biochemistry, Biomedical issues, microbes, viruses, immunology, nutrition and fitness, biotechnology, molecular genetics.
Environmental preservation, science fiction, running, bicycling, swimming and tennis.
A reassessment of the efficacy of Anglo-Saxon medicine by Barbara Brennessel, Michael D.C. Drout and Robyn Gravel. in Anglo Saxon England 34: 183-195 (2006)
Paucity of genetic variation at a MHC Class I gene is Massachusetts populations of the diamondback terrapin (Malaclemys terrapin): cause for concern or "evolution at a turtle's pace"? by S. Shawn McCafferty, Amanda Shorette and Barbara Brennessel. Conservation Genetics (accepted for publication).
Good Tidings: the History and Ecology of Shellfish Farming in the Northeast. University Press of New England 2008.
Selected Publications, Creative Work, or Performances
Various presentations for the general audience:
- Diamondback Terrapins of Wellfleet Bay
- The Salt Marsh is a Critical Nursery Habitat for Diamondback Terrapins
- Everything you wanted to know about turtles
- Conservation of Diamondback terrapins on Cape Cod
- Farming on the Flats: the History and Practice of Shellfish Aquaculture
Students in my laboratory are extracting DNA from blood and tissue samples obtained from diamondback terrapins and performing genetic analysis of the DNA. Their work was recently highlighted at an Undergraduate Research Symposium at Boston College.
Students who are part of Wheaton's Vernal Pool Research team have collected samples and performed a preliminary microsatellite analysis of DNA from spotted salamanders.
Under the Mars fellowship program and with a grant from the Sounds Conservancy, students have conducted field studies on diamondback terrapins on Cape Cod. Their work at several conferences including the Environmental Science Conference at Bridgewater State College, the State of the Harbor Conference in Wellfleet, MA and the Cape Cod Natural History Conference.
Students on our Medieval Medicine Research team have replicated remedies described in Anglo Saxon texts and tested the effectiveness of these "potions" in inhibiting microbial growth. Their findings were published in the journal, Anglo Saxon England. In collaboration with Professor Mike Drout, in the English Department, students are now working on the use of DNA to track the origin of ancient manuscripts.