Postdoctoral Researchers
Kelsey Speer, PhD
NSF Postdoctoral Fellow
Kelsey is interested in understanding the molecular mechanisms that Anthozoans (sea anemones & corals) use to sense, and compensate for, changes in their internal pH. Understanding the effects of pH stress at the cellular scale will help us to predict how these keystone species will respond to the ongoing acidification of our planet's oceans  and to develop more sophisticated conservation strategies. Kelsey's research focuses on the use of molecular techniques including microinjection, live-cell microscopy and CRISPR-Cas9 genome editing in the exciting new model for coral physiology - the sea anemone Aiptasia pallida. She is also developing educational outreach activities using Aiptasia in order to spark Philadelphia high school students' interest in biological research and conservation.

Before joining to the Barott lab in 2018, Kelsey received her PhD in Cell and Molecular Biology from the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylania. For her graduate work, she investigated how protein ligands involved in early vertebrate development (Wnts) recognize and activate cell surface receptors using a combination of protein biochemistry and in vivo assays performed in the frog model Xenopus laevis. When not in the laboratory, Kelsey can usually be found knitting, running or hanging out with her dog.

Camille Gaynus, PhD
Penn Provost Postdoctoral Fellow
Camille’s research focuses on assessing algal turf diversity. Algal turfs are an integral component of coastal systems. In coral reefs, they are vital in nutrient cycling, trophic support, and have high rates of photosynthesis. Many reefs are transitioning from coral to algal dominance, an overall negative for this ecosystem. Healthy turf can be vital in this shift, as they can grow longer and proliferate into more stable macroalgae under environmental stressors. Camille plans to employ field studies and molecular techniques to assess how/if these environmental stressors shift algal diversity, as well as their influence on turf functionality. A strong component of Camille’s professional career is outreach. She hopes to use her influence and position as a platform for black young ladies in the Philadelphia area to interact with nature and learn valuable laboratory skills.

Originally from Philadelphia, Camille grew up with a keen interest in water, learning how to swim when she was three and competing as a swimmer for 15 years. In 2014, she graduated from Hampton University with a degree in Marine and Environmental Science. During her time at Hampton, she obtained her SCUBA certification and traveled to Indonesia with the Diversity Project, a University of California Office of the President Initiative run by Paul Barber and Peggy Fong. This summer experience was transformative and the following year, she started as a graduate student in the Ecology and Evolutionary Biology Department at UCLA. Camille graduated with her PhD in 2019 and started in the Barott lab in the Fall of 2019. Outside of lab, you are liable to catch her Uptown hanging with family and friends, at a concert, or watching/playing tennis.
"There is pleasure in the pathless woods, there is rapture in the lonely shore, there is society where none intrudes, by the deep sea, and music in its roar; I love not Man the less, but Nature more."  ~ Lord Byron
Research Technicians
Teegan Innis, MS
Research Specialist
I am interested in understanding the mechanisms of coral symbiosis and how it functions under different environmental conditions. The ability of some corals to survive in habitats that others cannot is partly attributed to the symbiotic partnerships that they form, and understanding these symbioses can help predict susceptibility to stress (for example, coral bleaching), which has implications for conservation and management strategies that are becoming increasingly necessary under prevailing climate change models. 

Before joining the Barott Lab, I received my B.S. in Marine Biology from the University of Rhode Island and my M.S. in Marine Biology from Northeastern University, focusing on coral reef ecology. My graduate work investigated the spatial variability and potential ecological drivers of symbiont associations in reef building corals in Hawaii.
Graduate Students
Lisa Valenti
Biology Graduate Group
The majority of Symbiodinium species are successful in two very different environments; the ocean and the host. I am interested in the physiological changes that occur when transitioning between free-living and endosymbiotic lifestyles. I hope to better understand the fundamental trade-offs encountered by Symbiodinium in the establishment of the symbiotic association; and whether environmental factors (carbon and light availability) encourage one lifestyle over the other.

Before joining the Barott lab, I received my BS in Studio Arts from New York University. I completed a post-bac in Biology at CUNY Brooklyn College, where I studied metabolic pathways related to lipid and pigment production in green algae.
Luella Allen-Waller
Biology Graduate Group
I am curious about how symbiont variation alters cooperation in mutualistic symbioses. Symbiotic corals rely on microscopic algae (Symbiodinium) for energy. However, environmental change (like ocean warming) can cause the Symbiodinium to play a more parasitic role, destabilizing this ecologically essential partnership. Understanding how changing symbiont strategies affect coral host health will help us better predict and manage reef responses to climate change, pollution, and other stress.

Before joining the Barott lab, I received my BA in Biology from Swarthmore College, where I studied novel protein interactions in the symbiotic anemone Aiptasia pallida. I also worked as a research specialist studying virulence modulation in animal-bacterial mutualism at the University of Tennessee.
Affiliated Faculty
Byron Pedler Sherwood, PhD
Senior Fellow in Biology
Senior Fellow in the Water Center at Penn
Faculty Fellow for Gregory College House
Faculty Director: Life of Water, Community resilience through art and science immersion
Liz Vallen, PhD
Professor of Biology, Swarthmore College
Dr. Vallen conducted her sabbatical research in the Barott Lab in Spring 2019, and maintains an ongoing collaboration with us.
Sarah Werner
Biology '20

My current project is seeking to further understand symbiont specificity through a direct comparison of the differential fitness effects conferred by two different clades of symbionts. By bleaching and subsequently reinfecting our anemones with clades A and B (both separately and in competition with each other), we hope to better understand the mechanisms of uptake and specificity in cnidarians. 

My interest in marine biology began when I stumbled into adopting a betta fish, which has now exploded into a fishkeeping hobby for me. When I'm not in lab or cleaning my fish tanks, you can find me hanging out with my freshmen as an RA on campus. 

I plan to pursue a Ph.D. in biology upon graduation from Penn.
Elisa Kruse
Biology '22

My current project involves investigating proteins that regulate the internal pH of various species of anemones and corals. In collaboration with other members of the lab, we hope to determine the location and activity of these proteins in order to better understand their role in the symbiotic relationship between coral and algae. This relationship requires specific cellular environments for the symbiont to remain in the host which becomes increasingly difficult to maintain as ocean pH decreases due to ocean acidification, which is a major cause of coral bleaching.

As an avid scuba diver, I fell in love with coral reefs and hope to do research to protect them in the face of Climate Change. With an undergraduate degree in Biology and minor in Environmental Studies, I hope to pursue additional research opportunities and attend graduate school after Penn.
Chris Carlson
Biology '20

Chris is curious about how changes in environmental gradients impact the cooperative dynamics of complex symbioses. He hopes to learn more about how variance in temperature experienced by hosts (such as corals or anemones), and associated algal symbionts (Symbiodinium), impact the cooperative/competitive strategies employed by these partners.  

Chris hails from central Ohio where he grew up mucking around in ponds and streams. This childhood fascination matured into a desire to study biology and eventually pursue a Ph.D. Outside of lab Chris spent a summer doing field research on the spread of the European Green Crab along the Oregon coast and completed a 2019 thru hike of the Appalachian Trail. He splits his free time between running, reading and super smash brothers.
Gabby Ortiz
Biology '22
As someone who grew up by the ocean, I strove to study and care for marine life. At Penn, I plan to continue this by pursuing an undergraduate degree in Biology and continue my education after graduation.

As an animal husbandry assistant, I work towards understanding the effects of climate change and other stressors on marine life by studying coral symbiosis. My interests include researching deep sea lifeforms and life in extreme environments to better understand how these organisms function on Earth and potentially elsewhere.
Biology '21

My work in the lab involves studying how the sea anemone Aiptasia regulates its intracellular pH and what effect symbionts may have on this process. I am currently focusing on a protein called soluble adenlyl cyclase (sAC), to further identify its role in pH control. 
I am very passionate about biology, specifically on the cellular level. I hope to pursue an MD-PhD once I graduate with the ultimate goal of doing biomedical research.
Dana Novikov
Biology '21

Meghan Doody

Lab Alumni

Rotation Students
Luke Anderson

Maria Ingersoll
Rachel Orth
Ian Bayer
Elyse Kochman
​Phoebe Somani 

High School Students
Jadira Foster
Joshua Kouassi