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Diane Adams, Ph.D.

Postdoctoral Fellow
Developmental Mechanisms Section

Building 30, ROOM 523

Phone: 301-496-1392

Biographical Sketch


  • 2007 to present:  National Institutes of Health, NIDCR
    Postdoctoral Fellow IRTA
    Rapid adaptation to food availability by a dopamine-mediated morphogenetic response
    Advisor: L. Angerer

  • 2007    Massachusetts Institute of Technology
    Ph.D, MIT/WHOI Joint Program in Biological Oceanography    
    Thesis: Influence of hydrodynamics on the larval supply to hydrothermal vents on the East Pacific Rise 
    Advisor: L. Mullineaux

  • 2001    University of California, Santa Barbara 
    B.S., Aquatic Biology, summa cum laude
    Honors Thesis: Role of lipid stores in the annual variability of Antarctic krill fecundity 
    Advisors: R. Ross & L. Quetin

Research Interests/Scientific Focus

I want to solve the problem of how marine organisms cope with natural variation to gain insight into their potential resilience/frailty to environmental change. Organisms have strategies from the molecular to the metapopulation scales to buffer natural variability in the environment. Whether or not organisms can endure additional anthropogenically-driven dynamics will depend on the mechanism, robustness, and limitations of the strategies already in place. For marine organisms living on or near the seafloor, I put forth that dispersive, developing larvae are a key mediator of responses to environmental variation. My research interests lie in understanding the contributions of the larval stage to a species’ response, adaptation, and evolution within a dynamic environment. I focus on two intersecting lines of research:

1)    How do larvae alter their development in response to the environment? What are the functional consequences of those changes on performance and survival?

2)    How does the dispersal of larvae between geographically separate populations (population connectivity) contribute to species persistence and adaptation?

We need a mechanistic understanding of the biological-environmental interactions integrated from the molecular to ecosystem scale to understand the role of the larvae in controlling ecosystem structure, dynamics and reliance. Thus, my postdoctoral work has been dedicated to gaining a solid foundation in developmental mechanisms to integrate with my Ph.D. work on the hydrodynamic mechanisms driving larval transport. For what happens at the molecular level during development alters timing, larval form and behavior with implications for how larvae interact with the currents and thus connect populations.

  • The developmental response to food in pre-feeding sea urchin larvae requires dopamine signaling to inhibit feeding arm elongation. Thus, the response limits feeding potential in favor of a short arm phenotype with increased maternal lipid stores.
  • Developmental sensitivity to the environment is thought to be ancestral. However comparative analysis for the food-response mechanism in other echinoids (urchins) suggests that the developmental food-response was recently derived in the regular sea urchins.
  • Population connectivity at hydrothermal vents is temporally variable – with low connectivity (1-2 kilometers) between well established vent communities and high connectivity (100s kilometers) after a large disturbance (underwater seafloor eruption).  Mesoscale eddies generated at the surface may transport larvae at depth to facilitate the observed long distance larval dispersal after the eruption.

Selected Publications

  1. Adams, D.K., M.A. Sewell, R.C. Angerer, and L.M. Angerer. Rapid adaptation to food availability by a dopamine-mediated morphogenetic response. Nature Communications 2:592, 2011.
  2. Adams, D.K., D.J. McGillicuddy, L.M. Zamudio, A.M. Thurnherr, X. Liang, O. Rouxel, C.R. German, and L.M. Mullineaux. 2011. Surface-driven mesoscale eddies transport deep-sea products from hydrothermal vents. Science. 332:580-583. doi:10.1126/science.1201066  *Featured paper by RIDGE 2000 program, May 2011
  3. Mullineaux, L.S., D. K. Adams, S.W. Mills, and S. E. Beaulieu.  2010. Larvae from afar colonize deep-sea hydrothermal vents after a catastrophic eruption.  Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. 107:7829-7834. doi/10.1073/pnas.0913187107 *Evaluated by Faculty of 1000 Biology.
  4. Adams, D.K. and G.R. Flierl.  2010. Modeled interactions of mesoscale eddies with the East Pacific Rise: Implications for larval dispersal. Deep-Sea Research I. 57: 1163-1176.  doi:10.1016/j.dsr.2010.06.009
  5. Adams, D.K., S.W. Mills, T.M. Shank, and L.S. Mullineaux. 2010. Expanding dispersal studies at hydrothermal vents through species identification of cryptic larval forms.  Marine Biology. 157:1049-1062. doi:10.1007/s00227-009-1386-8
  6. Beaulieu, S.E., L.S. Mullineaux, D.K. Adams, and S.W. Mills. 2009. Comparison of a sediment trap and plankton pump for time-series sampling of larvae near deep-sea hydrothermal vents.  Limnology and Oceanography: Methods. 7:235-248. Open Access Article
  7. Adams, D.K. and L.S. Mullineaux. 2008. Supply of gastropod larvae to hydrothermal vents reflects transport from local larval sources. Limnology and Oceanography. 53:1945-1955. Open Access Article

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This page last updated: February 26, 2014