Brian is a Research Specialist currently with the Relyea Lab at RPI. Obtaining his BS degree in Biology from the University of Pittsburgh, he has been with the Relyea for 2 years which started when he was an undergraduate. He has a variety of research interests, ranging from freshwater ecology to developmental biology. Brian has been involved in a number of research studies that examine the effects of toxins on amphibians. These toxins are most often pesticides, with active ingredients like Chlorpyrifos and Carbaryl.
It is common practice for pesticide manufacturers to perform short-term tests on a small number of organisms. This works in a traditional lab setting, but it doesn't take into account the communities that surround these organisms.
For example, a non-lethal dose of insecticide may not directly affect a tadpole, but it may eliminate all the zooplankton in the pond the tadpole lives in. This means there is no longer anything holding back the phytoplankton in the pond. Not long after this dose of pesticide you will often see a phytoplankton bloom, which in turns blocks out most of the light that the periphyton in the pond needs to produce food. This in turn robs the tadpole of it's main food source, eventually leading to a potentially deadly environment for the tadpole. This trophic cascade clearly illustrates the connection between members of these communities, and behooves us to further understand the effects of chemicals on them.
In a recent collaboration with Duquesne University, Brian was involved in research that exposed leopard frog tadpoles to predator cues, reduced food availability, or sublethal concentrations of the pesticide chlorpyrifos. The results showed that brain morphology is a developmentally plastic trait responsive to ecologically relevant natural and anthropogenic factors. This has been one of the first studies to show that these stressors alter vertebrate brain morphology. Furthermore, it was found found that any changes to brain development were not retained after metamorphosis.
Additionally, Brian also has many interests outside of research. He has spent the past 12 years training in Tang Soo Do, a Korean martial art. Over those 12 years Brian have competed in many tournaments, represented Pittsburgh in World Championships, become a certified instructor (Kyo Sa Nim), and third degree black belt.
Center for Biotechnology and Interdisciplinary Studies