Research Focus Areas
The School of Biology and Ecology aims to achieve departmental breadth with course offerings that span level of organization from the cell to the ecosystem. Additionally, we maintain focal areas of expertise centered around the following research clusters:
Systematics and Evolutionary Biology
Evolutionary theory is one of the foundations of modern biology. All levels of biological study, from the molecular through cellular, tissue, and organismal levels to the level of ecosystems, require consideration of the patterns and processes of evolution. Among SBE faculty, eight are investigating core evolutionary concepts as they apply to animals, plants, and fungi, including the origins of biodiversity, phylogenetic relationships of taxa at all levels of the hierarchy, from species groups to phyla, and the nature of evolutionary processes that continually shape species interactions with their environment.
Physiology and development biology lie at the core of advances in biomedical research. Seven SBE faculty members conduct research along these lines, variously studying mechanisms in the function of the heart, kidney, and sensory organs and in the molecular mechanisms underlying embryonic development of muscle and epithelial-mesenchymal interactions.
Development and Genetics
Integrative approaches to biology and ecology are so strong in the fields of development and genetics that new terms have been coined to accommodate them: Eco-Devo and Evo-Devo. SBE faculty in these fields use molecular and genetic tools to investigate problems such as genetics of behavior, the genetics and molecular biology of differentiation, cardiac pacemaker physiology, and the genetics of environmental adaptation.
Evolutionary and Behavioral Ecology and Ecophysiology
The relationships between between organisms and their environment can be investigated at a number of levels, from the physiological and behavioral responses of the individual to the broad ecological interactions of whole populations. Research by SBE faculty in the fields of behavioral ecology, ecological physiology, population biology, community ecology, and conservation biology all contribute to clarification of these relationships.
Maine has more lakes, miles of rivers, and acres of wetlands than all of the remaining New England states combined. These aquatic resources have provided ecosystem services to Maine residents since prehistory, and sustaining development in the State depends on thorough understanding of their ecology. The University is uniquely positioned to lead in research and education in aquatic ecology, in no small part through the strength of the SBE faculty focusing on this discipline.
Pest Management and Invasion Ecology
Managing pests such as plant-infesting insects and fungi and controlling invasions of exotic species requires research tools from the molecular and physiological to the broadly ecological. The State of Maine has a natural-resource based economy that is heavily dependent on forestry, agriculture, and tourism, all of which are influenced by pest insects, fungi, and viral and other pathogens.