Lab Director Dr. Kara E. Yopak Associate Professor, University of North Carolina Wilmington PhD, Biological Sciences, University of Auckland, 2007 BA, Biology, Boston University, 2002 Twitter: @ProfSharkBrain yopakk@uncw.edu Research Interests I received my B.A. in Biology (with a specialization in marine science) from Boston University in 2002 and completed my PhD at the University of Auckland in New Zealand in 2007, before completing postdocs at the University of California San Diego and the University of Western Australia. In this time, my research has focused on comparative neurobiology and the adaptive, developmental, and phylogenetic forces acting on evolution of the brain, particularly within the clade of cartilaginous fishes. My research interests lie in the evolution of neural systems, particularly the ways in which variation in brain size, structure, and cellular composition underlies complex behaviors and cognitive capacity in fishes. Through my academic career, I have found the best way to answer scientific questions is to cross traditional academic boundaries, employing novel techniques, such as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and flow cytometry, in conjunction with traditional histology and comparative phylogenetic statistics, and applying these seemingly disparate methods to explore the adaptive, developmental, and evolutionary processes driving brain evolution. As such, I consider myself an integrative biologist, with research at the nexus between marine biology, neuroscience, functional morphology, evolutionary biology, and MR physics. If you want to hear about some of our ongoing projects, check out our Research page. Photo credit: Jeff Janowski Professional Memberships Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology (SICB) Association for Women in Science (AWIS) Society for Neuroscience (SfN) J.B. Johnston Club for Evolutionary Neuroscience (JBJC) Oceania Chondrichthyan Society (OCS) American Elasmobranch Society (AES) Selected Professional Service Co-Editor-in-Chief, Brain Behavior and Evolution Chair, UNCW Dept. of Biology, Neuroscience Minor Board of Director, American Elasmobranch Society Scientific Advisory Board, oVert: Open Exploration of Vertebrate Diversity in 3D, a NSF-funded Thematic Collections Network (TCN), NSF’s Advancing the Digitization of Biological Collections (ADBC) program Executive Committee, J.B. Johnston Club for Evolutionary Neuroscience Chair, American Elasmobranch Society Carrier Award Committee Guest Editor of a special issue of Brain Behavior and Evolution: “The Nervous System of Cartilaginous Fishes” (Vol 80 (2): 73-166) Graduate/Honors Students MSc/PhD Russell Ward, MSc Candidate, UNCW, School of Biology & Marine Biology, “Effects of water quality on salmon nervous system development.” Derek Sauer, PhD Candidate, University of Auckland, School of Biological Sciences, “How do sharks localize sound? Variation in inner ear morphology in cartilaginous fishes.” (co-supervisor with Dr. C. Radford) Emily Peele, PhD Candidate, UNCW, School of Biology & Marine Biology, “Effects of increased temperature on brain development in cartilaginous fishes.” Sarah Rheinsmith, MSc (2021), UNCW, School of Biology & Marine Biology, “Ontogenetic shifts  in the brain of the Pacific sockeye salmon, Oncorhynchus nerka” Victoria Camilieri-Asch, PhD (2019), University of Western Australia, School of Animal Biology, “Neurobiological indicators of olfactory sensitivity in elasmobranchs.” (co-supervisor with Dr. S. Collin) Christopher Mull, PhD (2017), Simon Fraser University, Biological Sciences, “Maternal investment and brain development in chondrichthyans.” (co-supervisor with Dr. N. Dulvy) Lucille Chapuis, PhD (2017), University of Western Australia, School of Animal Biology, “The auditory abilities of sharks and their relatives.” (co-supervisor with Dr. S. Collin) Carlos Salas, PhD (2016), University of Western Australia, School of Animal Biology, “Central visual pathways of the southern hemisphere lampreys, Geotria australis and Mordacia spp.” (co-supervisor with Dr. S. Collin) Honors Alayna Mahon, Honors (2021), UNCW, Department of Biology & Marine Biology, "Sexual Dimorphism in Brain Size Scaling in Cartilaginous Fishes.' Rachel Zino, Honors (2020), UNCW, Department of Biology & Marine Biology, "Effects of temperature on the peripheral nervous system in cartilaginous fishes.” Krista Laforest, Honors (2019) UNCW, Department of Biology & Marine Biology, “Ontogenetic shifts in the brain of Rhizoprionodon terranovae." Matthew Fraser-Grant, Honors (2014), University of Western Australia, School of Animal Biology, “Quantitative assessment of motor output in the cerebellum of fishes” Rebecca Wassell, Honorss (2012), University of Western Australia, School of Animal Biology, “Quantitative Measures of Brain Evolution in cartilaginous and bony fishes”(co-supervisor with Dr. S. Collin) Graduate/Honors Committees MSc/PhD Lydia Naughton, PhD Candidate, UNCW, " Dermal photoreception on hogfish” (Committee Member, Primary, L. Schweikert) Olivia Jackson, PhD Candidate, UNCW, "Comparative morphology of the brain lymphatic system in marine mammals” (Committee Member, Primary, M. Tift) Chris Spear, MSc Candidate, UNCW, "Autophagy and Physiology in wild vs. hatchery reared black sea bass." (Committee Member, Primary, S. Kinsey) Peyton Thomas, PhD Candidate, UNCW, "Effects of Elevated Temperature on Muscle Development in Elasmobranch Species." (Primary, S. Kinsey) Carrie Rowlands, MSc (2021), UNCW, "Spinal Cord Morphology in Deep and Shallow Diving Cetaceans."  (Primary, A. Pabst) Kelly Platfoot, MSc (2019), UNCW, "Innervation of swim musculature by peptidergic neurons in the pteropod mollusk, Clione limacina." (Primary, R.  Satterlie) Alana Arnone, MSc (2019), UNCW. "Innervation of buccal cones in the pteropod mollusk, Clione limacina" (Primary, R.  Satterlie) Samantha Ehnert, MSc (2017) University of North Florida, "Mercury Accumulation and Effects in the Brain of Atlantic Sharpnose Sharks (Rhizoprionodon terranovae)." (Primary: J. Gelschleiter) Undergraduate Emily Burrell, Honors Candidate, UNCW, Dept. of Biology and Marine Biology (Primary, K. Bruce) Dylan Marshall, Honors Candidate, UNCW, Dept. of Psychology  (Primary, K. Bruce) Scott Jernigan, Honors Candidate, UNCW, Dept. of Psychology  (Primary, T. Peterson) Victoria Baer, Honors (2021), UNCW, Dept. of Biology and Marine Biology (Chair, K. Kiser, BIO) Laura Brock, Honors (2021), UNCW, Dept. of Psychology  (Primary: T. Peterson) Nicholas Blackburn, Honors (2021), UNCW, Dept. of Psychology (Primary K. Bruce) Madeline Miller, Honors (2021), UNCW, Dept. of Biology and Marine Biology (Primary R. Danner) Rebekah James, Honors (2020), UNCW, Dept. of Biology and Marine Biology (Primary T. Lankford) Joanna Harrod, Honors (2019), UNCW, Dept. of Biology and Marine Biology (Primary, R. Satterlie) Kenya Inoue, Honors (2019), UNCW, Dept. of Psychology (Primary, T. Peterson) Andreana Buckenberger, Honors (2019), UNCW, Dept. of Biology and Marine Biology (Primary, R. Satterlie)

Lab Director

Dr. Kara E. Yopak

Associate Professor, University of North Carolina Wilmington

PhD, Biological Sciences, University of Auckland, 2007
BA, Biology, Boston University, 2002

Twitter: @ProfSharkBrain
yopakk@uncw.edu

KaraYopak_preview

Research Interests

I received my B.A. in Biology (with a specialization in marine science) from Boston University in 2002 and completed my PhD at the University of Auckland in New Zealand in 2007, before completing postdocs at the University of California San Diego and the University of Western Australia. In this time, my research has focused on comparative neurobiology and the adaptive, developmental, and phylogenetic forces acting on evolution of the brain, particularly within the clade of cartilaginous fishes.

My research interests lie in the evolution of neural systems, particularly the ways in which variation in brain size, structure, and cellular composition underlies complex behaviors and cognitive capacity in fishes. Through my academic career, I have found the best way to answer scientific questions is to cross traditional academic boundaries, employing novel techniques, such as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and flow cytometry, in conjunction with traditional histology and comparative phylogenetic statistics, and applying these seemingly disparate methods to explore the adaptive, developmental, and evolutionary processes driving brain evolution. As such, I consider myself an integrative biologist, with research at the nexus between marine biology, neuroscience, functional morphology, evolutionary biology, and MR physics.

If you want to hear about some of our ongoing projects, check out our Research page.

Photo credit: Jeff Janowski
Photo credit: Jeff Janowski

Professional Memberships

  • Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology (SICB)
  • Association for Women in Science (AWIS)
  • Society for Neuroscience (SfN)
  • J.B. Johnston Club for Evolutionary Neuroscience (JBJC)
  • Oceania Chondrichthyan Society (OCS)
  • American Elasmobranch Society (AES)

Selected Professional Service

  • Co-Editor-in-Chief, Brain Behavior and Evolution
  • Chair, UNCW Dept. of Biology, Neuroscience Minor
  • Board of Director, American Elasmobranch Society
  • Scientific Advisory Board, oVert: Open Exploration of Vertebrate Diversity in 3D, a NSF-funded Thematic Collections Network (TCN), NSF’s Advancing the Digitization of Biological Collections (ADBC) program
  • Executive Committee, J.B. Johnston Club for Evolutionary Neuroscience
  • Chair, American Elasmobranch Society Carrier Award Committee
  • Guest Editor of a special issue of Brain Behavior and Evolution: “The Nervous System of Cartilaginous Fishes” (Vol 80 (2): 73-166)

Graduate/Honors Students

MSc/PhD

  • Russell Ward, MSc Candidate, UNCW, School of Biology & Marine Biology, “Effects of water quality on salmon nervous system development.”
  • Derek Sauer, PhD Candidate, University of Auckland, School of Biological Sciences, “How do sharks localize sound? Variation in inner ear morphology in cartilaginous fishes.” (co-supervisor with Dr. C. Radford)
  • Emily Peele, PhD Candidate, UNCW, School of Biology & Marine Biology, “Effects of increased temperature on brain development in cartilaginous fishes.”
  • Sarah Rheinsmith, MSc (2021), UNCW, School of Biology & Marine Biology, “Ontogenetic shifts  in the brain of the Pacific sockeye salmon, Oncorhynchus nerka
  • Victoria Camilieri-Asch, PhD (2019), University of Western Australia, School of Animal Biology, “Neurobiological indicators of olfactory sensitivity in elasmobranchs.” (co-supervisor with Dr. S. Collin)
  • Christopher Mull, PhD (2017), Simon Fraser University, Biological Sciences, “Maternal investment and brain development in chondrichthyans.” (co-supervisor with Dr. N. Dulvy)
  • Lucille Chapuis, PhD (2017), University of Western Australia, School of Animal Biology, “The auditory abilities of sharks and their relatives.” (co-supervisor with Dr. S. Collin)
  • Carlos Salas, PhD (2016), University of Western Australia, School of Animal Biology, “Central visual pathways of the southern hemisphere lampreys, Geotria australis and Mordacia spp.” (co-supervisor with Dr. S. Collin)

Honors

  • Alayna Mahon, Honors (2021), UNCW, Department of Biology & Marine Biology, "Sexual Dimorphism in Brain Size Scaling in Cartilaginous Fishes.'
  • Rachel Zino, Honors (2020), UNCW, Department of Biology & Marine Biology, "Effects of temperature on the peripheral nervous system in cartilaginous fishes.”
  • Krista Laforest, Honors (2019) UNCW, Department of Biology & Marine Biology, “Ontogenetic shifts in the brain of Rhizoprionodon terranovae."
  • Matthew Fraser-Grant, Honors (2014), University of Western Australia, School of Animal Biology, “Quantitative assessment of motor output in the cerebellum of fishes”
  • Rebecca Wassell, Honorss (2012), University of Western Australia, School of Animal Biology, “Quantitative Measures of Brain Evolution in cartilaginous and bony fishes”(co-supervisor with Dr. S. Collin)

Graduate/Honors Committees

MSc/PhD

  • Lydia Naughton, PhD Candidate, UNCW, " Dermal photoreception on hogfish” (Committee Member, Primary, L. Schweikert)
  • Olivia Jackson, PhD Candidate, UNCW, "Comparative morphology of the brain lymphatic system in marine mammals” (Committee Member, Primary, M. Tift)
  • Chris Spear, MSc Candidate, UNCW, "Autophagy and Physiology in wild vs. hatchery reared black sea bass." (Committee Member, Primary, S. Kinsey)
  • Peyton Thomas, PhD Candidate, UNCW, "Effects of Elevated Temperature on Muscle Development in Elasmobranch Species." (Primary, S. Kinsey)
  • Carrie Rowlands, MSc (2021), UNCW, "Spinal Cord Morphology in Deep and Shallow Diving Cetaceans."  (Primary, A. Pabst)
  • Kelly Platfoot, MSc (2019), UNCW, "Innervation of swim musculature by peptidergic neurons in the pteropod mollusk, Clione limacina." (Primary, R.  Satterlie)
  • Alana Arnone, MSc (2019), UNCW. "Innervation of buccal cones in the pteropod mollusk, Clione limacina" (Primary, R.  Satterlie)
  • Samantha Ehnert, MSc (2017) University of North Florida, "Mercury Accumulation and Effects in the Brain of Atlantic Sharpnose Sharks (Rhizoprionodon terranovae)." (Primary: J. Gelschleiter)

Undergraduate

  • Emily Burrell, Honors Candidate, UNCW, Dept. of Biology and Marine Biology (Primary, K. Bruce)
  • Dylan Marshall, Honors Candidate, UNCW, Dept. of Psychology  (Primary, K. Bruce)
  • Scott Jernigan, Honors Candidate, UNCW, Dept. of Psychology  (Primary, T. Peterson)
  • Victoria Baer, Honors (2021), UNCW, Dept. of Biology and Marine Biology (Chair, K. Kiser, BIO)
  • Laura Brock, Honors (2021), UNCW, Dept. of Psychology  (Primary: T. Peterson)
  • Nicholas Blackburn, Honors (2021), UNCW, Dept. of Psychology (Primary K. Bruce)
  • Madeline Miller, Honors (2021), UNCW, Dept. of Biology and Marine Biology (Primary R. Danner)
  • Rebekah James, Honors (2020), UNCW, Dept. of Biology and Marine Biology (Primary T. Lankford)
  • Joanna Harrod, Honors (2019), UNCW, Dept. of Biology and Marine Biology (Primary, R. Satterlie)
  • Kenya Inoue, Honors (2019), UNCW, Dept. of Psychology (Primary, T. Peterson)
  • Andreana Buckenberger, Honors (2019), UNCW, Dept. of Biology and Marine Biology (Primary, R. Satterlie)