Mars Center for Science and Technology 1134
I am an aquatic biologist with a strong focus on invasive invertebrates and the parasites which infect them. In particular, I am interested in understanding how human activities such as dam construction, aquaculture, shipping, etc. can influence the dispersal and subsequent evolution of aquatic invasive species. My lab uses a combination of tools to address this issue including DNA barcoding, population genetics, physiological experiments and biophysical modelling. In terms educational innovation, I have developed several pedagogical tools to create a more student-centric environment in the classroom which not only engages and challenges students but is also inclusive and utilizes real-world applications. A recent example can be found here.
When I am not in the lab or the classroom, I am an avid martial artist and actively practice a variety of disciplines including Brazilian Jiu Jitsu (my primary focus), Judo, Muay Thai and Iaido (a specialized form of Japanese swordsmanship that involves the drawing and sheathing of the katana). I have an eclectic taste in music and enjoy anything from Scandinavian death metal to late 90s-early 2000s hip hop to jazz. I also enjoy travelling, with Prague being my favorite destination.
I was born in Trinidad &Tobago and grew up in New York City which I consider home.
Ph.D., Zoology: Stellenbosch University, Stellenbosch, Republic of South Africa (2015)
M.Sc., Biology: Hofstra University, Long Island, New York (2011)
B.S., Biology: St. John’s University, Queens, New York (2009)
The Davinack Lab is currently engaged in three research programs:
The ability to detect a non-indigenous species as early as possible in its recipient environment is a crucial part of preventing an invasion event. As a result routine biomonitoring is often a recommended step for environmental authorities when assessing community and ecosystem health. However, cryptic complexes can complicate biomonitoring of certain taxa, especially those that exhibit high levels of diversity. Consequentially, the incorporation of molecular data becomes an invaluable tool for developing more robust presence/absence data either through traditional DNA barcoding methods or metabarcoding/e-DNA barcoding pipelines. The incorporation of DNA barcoding into the New England Rapid Assessment Surveys, sponsored by the Massachusetts Office of Coastal Zone Management has resulted in the detection of several polychaete species that were either overlooked in past surveys due to lack of taxonomic expertise or were recent arrivals to the region. In the Adirondack Park, the largest protected forested reserve in the contiguous United States, undergraduates in the Davinack Lab used DNA barcoding to make several important discoveries which included the first report of the freshwater gastropod, Sinotaia cf. quadrata in the United States and showed that two mystery snails, not one (as was previously thought) was present in the lakes and rivers in the region. The BARCODE program is an excellent way to get undergraduate students interested in molecular biology as it allows them to design their own questions and hypotheses, while also working with real animals.
The large-scale anthropogenic movement of marine and freshwater fauna across different biogeographic regions is one of the greatest threats facing global biodiversity. While the ecological impacts of these introductions have been well documented and are often the main focus of invasion biology research, a more hidden threat, specifically the genetic homogenization of species, has garnered much less attention. The presence of dispersal barriers across seascapes and riverscapes maintains the genetic structure of a species and over time allows for the diversification of lineages. Limited dispersal across these barriers (‘leakage’) may allow for the maintenance of a coherent but diverse evolutionary unit. In nature, these patterns are often in flux, and large-scale changes can only occur over geological time scales where events such as sea level rises, can change the course of a species’ evolutionary trajectory. However, with increases in marine traffic across the globe and the growing aquaculture industry, marine organisms are being moved across natural barriers at a breathtaking pace. Such rapid and consistent bidirectional movement across these barriers have the potential for skewing phylogeographic patterns of a species towards a panmictic state. As a consequence, detecting whether a specific genetic pattern is due to natural movement, anthropogenic movement or both is crucial for making conservation decisions.
While phylogeography and molecular barcoding allows us to detect new invasive species and track their spread, it does not tell us why a non-native species thrives in its introduced range. To answer this question, the Davinack Lab has been investigating the physiological tolerance of invasive species by culturing animals under climate change stressors and measuring responses. We have used indirect methods for measuring tolerance such as regeneration rates of polychaete worms after amputation under varying salinity regimes, larval survivorship and developmental of polychaetes under varying temperature regimes and shell repair rates of freshwater gastropods that were intentionally damaged under varying pH regimes.
- Introduction to Biology
- Biological Data Analysis
- Biology Senior Seminar: Ecology of Infectious Diseases
- BIO 401: Senior Seminar in Ecology of Infectious Diseases
- BIO 298: Principles of Parasitology
- BIO 200: DNA Barcoding (Research Experience)
Davinack A.A. (2023) Can ChatGPT be leveraged for taxonomic investigations? Potential and limitations of a new technology. Zootaxa 5270: 347 – 350.
Abeyrathna W.A.N.U., *Barreto A., Sanders S.H., Davinack A.A. (2023). First genetically confirmed report of the Japanese mystery snail, Heterogen japonica (Martens, 1861) from California more than a century after its first introduction. BioInvasions Records 12: 501 – 511.
Sindičić M., Davinack A.A., Bujanić M., Bugarski D., Mirčeta J., Ferroglio E., Konjević D. (2023). A new insight into genetic structure of Danube and Italian foci of fascioloidosis. Veterinary Parasitology 314: 109854.
Davinack A.A., Hill L. (2022) Infestation of wild bay scallops on Nantucket Island by the shell boring polychaete, Polydora neocaeca. Diseases of Aquatic Organisms 151: 123 – 128.
David A.A., *Krick M. (2019) DNA barcoding of polychaetes collected during the 2018 Rapid Assessment Survey of floating dock communities from New England. Marine Biology Research 15: 317 – 324.
Davinack A.A. (2022) Towards a more inclusive and diverse invasion biology workforce. BioInvasions Records 11: 307 – 311.
David A.A. (2021) Climate change and shell-boring polychaetes (Annelida: Spionidae): current state of knowledge and the need for more experimental research. Biological Bulletin 241: 4 – 15 [invited review]
*O’Leary E., *Jojo D., David A.A. (2021) Another mystery snail in the Adirondacks: DNA barcoding reveals the first record of Sinotaia cf. quadrata (Caenogastropoda: Viviparidae) from North America. American Malacological Bulletin 38: 1 – 5.
David A.A., Williams J.D., Simon C.A. (2021) A new cryptogenic Dipolydora species (Annelida: Spionidae) in South Africa. Journal of the Marine Biological Association of the United Kingdom 101: 271 – 278.
Pederson, J., Carlton, J.T., Bastidas, C., David, A., Grady, S., Green-Gavrielidis, L., Hobbs, N-V., Kennedy, C., Knack, J., McCuller, M., O’Brien, B., Osborne, K., Pankey, S., Trott, T. (2021). 2019 Rapid Assessment Survey of marine bioinvasions of southern New England and New York, USA, with an overview of new records and range expansions. BioInvasions Records 10: 227 – 237.
David A.A. (2021) Introducing Python programming into Undergraduate Biology. The American Biology Teacher 83: 33 – 41.
*Parker A., David A.A. (2021) Genetic characterization of the giant liver fluke, Fascioloides magna (Platyhelminthes: Fascioloidae) from the Adirondack region of northern New York. Acta Parasitologica 66: 259 – 263.
David A.A. (2020) Oyster reef restoration and biological invasions: an overlooked or a non-issue? Frontiers in Marine Science 7: 544691
David A.A., *Pettit L., *Edmund M. (2020) Resilience of a highly invasive freshwater gastropod, Viviparus georgianus (Mollusca: Viviparidae) to CO2-induced acidification. Journal of Molluscan Studies 86: 259 – 262.
David A.A., *Cahill J. (2020) Tri-oceanic connectivity of the supposedly cosmopolitan polychaete, Harmothoe imbricata (Annelida: Polynoidae): insights from the COI marker. Marine Biology Research 16: 256 – 264.
David A.A., *Cote S. (2019) Genetic evidence confirms the presence of the Japanese mystery snail, Cipangopaludina japonica (von Martens, 1861) (Caenogastropoda: Viviparidae) in northern New York. BioInvasions Records 8: 793 – 803.
David A.A., Janáč, M. (2018). Twenty-year anniversary of the ICAIS: progress and challenges towards a better understanding of aquatic invasions. Aquatic Invasions 13: 433-437.
David A.A. (2018). Reconsidering panmixia: the erosion of phylogeographic barriers due to anthropogenic transport and the incorporation of biophysical models as a solution. Frontiers in Marine Science 5, 280.
*Pickett T., David A.A. (2018) Global connectivity patterns of the notoriously invasive mussel, Mytilus galloprovincialis Lmk using archived CO1 sequence data. BMC Research Notes 11: 231.
David A.A. (2018) Using project-based learning to teach phylogenetic reconstruction for advanced undergraduate biology students: Molluscan evolution as a case study. American Biology Teacher 80: 278-284.
David A.A., Loveday B.R. (2018). The role of cryptic dispersal in shaping connectivity patterns of marine populations in a changing world. Journal of the Marine Biological Association of the United Kingdom 98: 647 – 655.
David A.A., *Gardner K. (2017) Repurposing of archived CO1 sequence data reveals unusually high genetic structure between North American and European zebra mussels (Dreissena polymorpha). Mitochondrial DNA Part B 2: 853 – 855.
David A.A., Lewis A., *Yhann A., *Zhou H., *Verra S. (2017) DNA barcoding of the banded mystery snail, Viviparus georgianus (Gastropoda: Viviparidae) in the Adirondacks with quantification of trematode prevalence in the species. American Malacological Bulletin 35: 175 – 180.
David A.A. (2017) A student-centered approach for teaching undergraduate Parasitology. Trends in Parasitology 33: 420 – 423. [invited article]
David A.A., Matthee C.A., Loveday B.R., Simon C.A. (2016). Predicting the dispersal potential of an invasive polychaete pest along a complex coastal biome. Integrative and Comparative Biology 56: 600 – 610.
David A.A., Williams, J.D. (2016) The influence of hypo-osmotic stress on the regenerative capacity of the invasive polychaete, Marenzelleria viridis (Annelida: Spionidae) from its native range. Marine Ecology 37: 821-830
David A.A., Simon C.A. (2014) The effect of temperature on larval development of two non-indigenous poecilogonous polychaetes (Annelida: Spionidae) with implications for life history, establishment and range expansion. Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology 461: 20-30.
David A.A., Matthee C.A., Simon C.A. (2014) Poecilogony in Polydora hoplura (Polycheata: Spionidae) from commercially important molluscs in South Africa. Marine Biology 161: 887-898.
David A.A., Williams J.D. (2012). Morphology and natural history of the cryptogenic sponge associate, Polydora colonia (Polychaeta: Spionidae). Journal of Natural History 46: 1509-1528.
David A.A., Williams J.D. (2012). Asexual reproduction and anterior regeneration under high and low temperatures in the sponge associate Polydora colonia (Polychaeta: Spionidae). Invertebrate Reproduction and Development 56: 315-324.
Current student projects
Hannah Brunelle (’23) – Assessing impacts of multiple parasites on Striped Bass (Morone saxatilis) across age classes and rivers in the Chesapeake Bay. (BIO 500 Honors Thesis)
Ophelia McGrail (’23) – Unraveling a potential cryptic species complex of Polydora colonia and Polydora spongicola through morphology and DNA barcoding. (BIO 500 Honors Thesis)
Katie Vidic (’23) – DNA barcoding of parasitic worms extracted from the invasive Japanese mystery snail Heterogen japonica (BIO 399 Independent Study)
Margaret Strong (’23) – Population genetics of shell-boring worms associated with the oyster, Crassostrea virginica from Wellfleet Harbor, Cape Cod. (BIO 399 Independent Study)
Eric Galindo (’23) – Genetic diversity of Dirofilaria immitis variants from globally segregated populations (BIO 399 Independent Study)
Maia Ondrasenek (’23) – Genetic connectivity of Dirofilaria immitis variants from globally segregated populations
Ashley Barreto (’26) – DNA barcoding of the Japanese mystery snail (Heterogen japonica) from California.
2023. Nantucket Biodiversity Initiative General Biodiversity Grant: “DNA barcoding of marine invertebrates collected from marinas and docks on Nantucket Island”
2023. Donald Palladino Fellowship – Friends of the Herring River: “Investigating mud blister disease in oysters from Wellfleet Harbor using DNA barcoding”
2022. Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution Program Development Grant: “Genetic connectivity of the shell boring polychaete, Polydora neocaeca along the New England coast”