Lab Director Dr. Kara E. Yopak Assistant Professor, University of North Carolina Wilmington Adjunct Senior Lecturer, University of Western Australia 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 Editorial Board, Brain Behavior and Evolution UNCW Neuroscience Minor Steering Committee 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 Chair, Program 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 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) Sarah Rheinsmith, MSc Candidate, UNCW, School of Biology & Marine Biology, “Ontogenetic shifts  in the brain of the Pacific sockeye salmon, Oncorhynchus nerka” Emily Peele, PhD Candidate, UNCW, School of Biology & Marine Biology, “Effects of increased temperature on brain development in cartilaginous fishes.” Matthew Fraser-Grant, MSc Candidat), University of Western Australia, School of Animal Biology, “A quantitative approach to assessing cerebellar processing power in teleosts.' Victoria Camilieri-Asch, PhD Candidate, 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 Krista Laforest, Honors (2019) UNCW, School 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 Peyton Thomas, MSc Candidate, UNCW, "Effects of Elevated Temperature on Muscle Development in Elasmobranch Species." (Primary, S. Kinsey) Carrie Rowlands, MSc Candidate, 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 Madeline Miller, Honors Candidate, UNCW (Primary R. Danner) Rebekah James, Honors Candidate, UNCW (Primary T. Lankford) Angel Bennett, Honors Candidate, UNCW (Primary M. Galizio) Joanna Harrod, Honors (2019), UNCW (Primary, R. Satterlie) Kenya Inoue, Honors (2019), UNCW (Primary, T. Peterson) Andreana Buckenberger, Honors (2019), UNCW (Primary, R. Satterlie)

Lab Director

Dr. Kara E. Yopak

Assistant Professor, University of North Carolina Wilmington
Adjunct Senior Lecturer, University of Western Australia

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

  • Editorial Board, Brain Behavior and Evolution
  • UNCW Neuroscience Minor Steering Committee
  • 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
  • Chair, Program 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

  • 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)
  • Sarah Rheinsmith, MSc Candidate, UNCW, School of Biology & Marine Biology, “Ontogenetic shifts  in the brain of the Pacific sockeye salmon, Oncorhynchus nerka
  • Emily Peele, PhD Candidate, UNCW, School of Biology & Marine Biology, “Effects of increased temperature on brain development in cartilaginous fishes.”
  • Matthew Fraser-Grant, MSc Candidat), University of Western Australia, School of Animal Biology, “A quantitative approach to assessing cerebellar processing power in teleosts.'
  • Victoria Camilieri-Asch, PhD Candidate, 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

  • Krista Laforest, Honors (2019) UNCW, School 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

  • Peyton Thomas, MSc Candidate, UNCW, "Effects of Elevated Temperature on Muscle Development in Elasmobranch Species." (Primary, S. Kinsey)
  • Carrie Rowlands, MSc Candidate, 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

  • Madeline Miller, Honors Candidate, UNCW (Primary R. Danner)
  • Rebekah James, Honors Candidate, UNCW (Primary T. Lankford)
  • Angel Bennett, Honors Candidate, UNCW (Primary M. Galizio)
  • Joanna Harrod, Honors (2019), UNCW (Primary, R. Satterlie)
  • Kenya Inoue, Honors (2019), UNCW (Primary, T. Peterson)
  • Andreana Buckenberger, Honors (2019), UNCW (Primary, R. Satterlie)