The Environmental Epigenetics Laboratory is a research group directed by Dr. Jose Eirin-Lopez within the Institute of Environment at Florida International University (FIU). The lab investigates the cause-effect relationships between environmental stressors resulting from global change (e.g., harmful algal blooms, nutrient loading, ocean acidification, thermal stress, etc.) and the subsequent epigenetic mechanisms regulating physiological responses in marine life. For that purpose, we develop fieldwork and laboratory experiments using model and non-model organisms, including molluscs, cnidarians, sharks and marine mammals.
We are primarily interested in studying the epigenetic contribution of chromatin components (e.g., histones and their modifications), although our research also addresses the role of DNA methylation and small RNAs. This research will help us better understand how epigenetics facilitate physiological responses to stress in marine organisms, setting the basis for improving current restoration and management strategies.
The work the lab does fulfills a dual purpose. On one hand, it addresses basic questions advancing scientific knowledge; on the other, our research builds the framework for developing applied methods to curb the effects of Global Change on marine life.
Research topics explored in the lab include:
- Global Change: We study the effects of Global and Climate Change on marine life, including natural and anthropogenic stressors.
- Epigenetics: The cause-effect links between Global Change and epigenetic modifications constitute the core of our research program.
- Physiology: Our work goes beyond epigenetic mechanisms, reaching into physiological processes involved in organismal responses.
- Ecotoxicology: We study the physiological effects of stressors using ecotoxicology approaches, trying to understand their impact on marine life.
- Ecology: We strive to understand how epigenetic responses will alter the way organisms interact among themselves and with the environment.
- Evolution: Our work will help elucidate how modifications in fitness resulting from epigenetic modifications contribute to adaptation.