Environmental Science Research With Faculty

Each student has the option of conducting research alongside a faculty member in their area of expertise. These experiences allow students to apply concepts learned in the classroom to a scientific question, and to carry out the scientific method from designing the study through presentation of the results. Students participating in research present their work during Ignatian Scholarship Day at Canisius, and frequently attend national and international professional conferences with their mentor. They also publish in respected, peer-reviewed research journals. 


Dr. Katie Costanzo

Research in the Costanzo lab focuses on how interactions with the abiotic and biotic environment affect population dynamics, life history traits, and behavior in mosquitoes. These traits may impact disease transmission by the mosquito vectors, so we can determine how the environment may alter transmission over spatial and temporal scales. We also study a number of mosquito species including invasive and native species to the New World, which allow us to determine how their responses vary, along with the impacts invasive species may have on the native community.  The studies performed in my lab include field studies and laboratory studies working with both the aquatic immature larval stage and the terrestrial adult stage.

Dr. Robert Grebenok

In addition to the collaborative research involving the examination of natural steroid defenses in higher plants (see keeping the food supply safe), Dr. Grebenok’s lab also investigate the steroidal regulation of the photosynthetic process and the plants use of steroids as signaling molecules throughout their growth and development.

The examination of steroidal regulation of the photosynthetic process involves the examination of transgenic tobacco that maintain bacterial genes that allow the transgenic tobacco to photosynthesize at a faster rate and accumulate elevated levels of photosynthetic products, than controls. The transgenic manipulation alters the membrane environment in which the photosynthetic process takes place and the manipulation allows a faster rate of electron movement and an increased ability of the transgenic plants to accumulate products of photosynthesis.

The examination of movement of steroids within the phloem involves the isolation of phloem from many plants at varied developmental times.  These steroids appear to be highly regulated in their appearance and their presence appears to correlate with development of the plant and environmental stimuli.

Dr. Daniel Haeusser

Research in the Haeusser Lab focuses on bacterial cell division, particularly on factors expressed by viruses (bacteriophage) that infect cells and alter host shape or cytokinesis. Environmental Science majors could pursue potential research projects that involved observation, isolation, and/or characterization of bacteria and bacteriophage from the environment, such as soil, waterways, or other habitats.

Student research projects in the Haeusser Lab allow mentoring in genetics, microscopy, and biochemical techniques in the context of basic microbiology research with potential medical applications. Outside of ‘wet lab’ experiences, students may work with Dr. Haeusser in science communication through Small Things Considered or in research on the inclusion of microbiology in literature and media.

Dr. Robin Foster

Dr. Foster’s research program focuses on applied conservation and wildlife management, and on the integration of animal behavior with conservation assessment and planning.  She is particularly interested in interdisciplinary approaches to conservation, and in the development and application of minimally invasive wildlife sampling techniques.  Dr. Foster works closely with practitioners from a variety of state, federal, and nonprofit wildlife agencies, conducting research aimed at improving scientific evidence for conservation decision-making.  Students on her research team work on a variety of field and lab oriented projects, and regularly have the opportunity to network with professionals in these partner organizations.  In addition, Dr. Foster is extremely interested in Central American conservation and ecology, and teaches an annual course in tropical ecology and conservation – usually in Belize.  She is developing several research projects in conjunction with a Belizean nonprofit wildlife management agency, and is interested in exploring the relationship between the people of Belize and its diverse wildlife.

Dr. Steven Szczepankiewicz

Dr. Szczepankiewicz and his research group investigate carbon dioxide activation using photocatalytic systems. Their research has broadened fundamental understanding of polyoxometalates and their redox behavior in unique environments. The ultimate goal is using catalysts with earth abundant elements to produce valuable organic compounds while mitigating the negative environmental impacts of atmospheric CO2.

Dr. Jonathan O'Brien

The goal of Dr. O’Brien’s research is to understanding how human activities alter the basic functions an ecosystem, such as ability to metabolize carbon, cycle nutrients and support a diverse food web. The O’Brien lab is currently working on projects that examine the effects of agricultural runoff and pharmaceuticals on river biofilms. The lab is also examining the effects of invasive species and urbanization on food web dynamics in streams. The ultimate goal of this research is to apply the knowledge we generate to help restore degraded ecosystems.


Katie Costanzo - Recent Student Research Projects & Presentations

Recent Student Research Projects: 

Genetic and environmental effects on the size-fecundity relationship in the Asian tiger mosquito, Aedes albopictus
Students: Gabriel Barthelme, Mary Bridge, Paul Hart, Courtney Kramer, Michael Piombino, Kaitlyn Taylor, Kira Voyer, Katarina Wagar, Austin Wuerch
Collaboration with Dr. Katie Westby, Tyson Research Center, Washinton University, St. Louis.

The effects of road salt and petroleum on aquatic invertebrate communities.
    Collaboration with Stephanie Schlelbe, adjunct instructor, Canisius University

The effects of photoperiod on female size, fecundity, and blood feeding behavior in the yellow fever mosquito, Aedes aegypti.  
Students: Kathryn Jerz, Zachary Kozslowski, Austin Nottingham, Marissa Verdi, Brian Zylinski

The effects of photoperiod on life history and population dynamics in the yellow fever mosquito, Aedes aegypti.
Students: Romain Dahan, Mwengwe Ndholu, Ofure Okhiwu, Daniel Radwan

The effects of photoperiod on female size, fecundity, and blood feeding behavior in the Asian tiger mosquito, Aedes albopictus.
Students: Stephanie Schelble

The effects of photoperiod on life history and population dynamics in the Asian Tiger mosquito, Aedes albopictus
Students: Michael Keenan, Katie Little, Mwengwe Ndholu, Stephanie Schelble, Sarah Whittington

Student Presentations:

2013     Ndhlovu, M., Radwan, D., Keenan, M., Schelble, S. and K.S. Costanzo. Phenotypic plasticity in Aedes albopictus and Aedes aegypti across photoperiod regimes.  Eastern Branch of the Entomological Society of America. Lancaster, PA, 

2013    Keenan, M., and K.S. Costanzo.  The effects of photoperiod on life history in mosquito vectors.  Medical Advisory Board Meeting Canisius University. 

Robert Grebenok - Student Projects, Collaborations & Awards

Students work on all aspects of the projects, and they earn authorship on publications written that describe the outcomes of their research. 

Student Projects:

Effect of the volatile, methyl jasmonate, on the production of steroids in the phloem of higher plants
Jacob DeBell

Effect of damage and oxidizer application on the production of steroids in the phloem of higher plants
Rizwan Hassan and Syed Kamal

Effect of caffeine’s surface application on the production of steroids in the phloem of higher plants
Marnae Gerace and Hayden Senn

Effect of ethylene on the production of steroids in the phloem of higher plants
Eric Acosta and Mike Wieler

Inhibition of the sterol C-8,7 sterol isomerase using surface applied sigma ligands in tobacco
Josh Harkins and Alyssa Tzetzo

Isolation and assessment of photosynthetic tissue from control and transgenic tobacco
Alexis Grebenok

Generation of transgenic A. thaliana using siRNA techniques
Ivy Chen – Texas A & M University


The examination of the modification of photosynthesis in transgenic tobacco involves the collaboration between the Grebenok lab and the Becker lab at Pomona College, Claremont CA.

The examination of food security involves a research team focused on assisting plants in defending themselves against herbivorous insect attack.  The interdisciplinary team includes faculty researchers, postdoctoral research associates, graduate students and undergraduate students at Texas A&M University, Cornel University, the Max Planck Institute in Jena East Germany and Canisius University.  
The examination of steroids in the phloem of higher plants involves a-collaboration between the Grebenok lab of Canisius University and Cornel University and Texas A & M University.

Student Awards:

Supervised 33 undergraduate research students who have earned the Canisius Earning Excellent Fellowship
Supervised 15 undergraduate research assistants that have earned a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Fellowship
Supervised Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship Award Winner from American Society of Plant Biologists (Summer 2007 Michael Galante)

Daniel Haeusser - Current Student Research Projects

Current Student Research Projects: 

Inhibition of Bacillus subtilis cell division by gp56 of bacteriophage SP01.
Amit Bhambhani

Characterization of intragenic suppressors of the ftsZ84 temperature sensitive allele of Escherichia coli.
Collaboration with Dr. Anu Janakiramon, Ph.D., The City College of New York.
Christian Montes

Isolation of ftsZ mutants that permit bypass of essential zipA in Escherichia coli.
Collaboration with Dr. William Margolin, Ph.D., UT Health Science Center at Houston.
Laura Cavallari

Characterization of bacteriophage Mu product Kil in alteration of Escherichia coli cell shape.
Samantha Weiss

Potential Environmental Science Project Opportunities for Students:

Potential utilization by aphids of hopanoids derived from bacterial endosymbionts.
Collaboration with Dr. Robert Grebenok, Ph.D., Canisius University 

Isolation of novel environmental bacteriophage and characterization of their effects on bacterial ecology.

Use of bacteriophage to inhibit toxic freshwater cyanobacterial blooms.

Role of bacteriophage in environmental transfer of antibiotic resistance.

Developmental changes in bacterial cell shape and division within the environment.

Contributions of science writing to Small Things Considered.

The inclusion of microbiology in science fiction or fantasy literature.