My interests in teaching biology stem from a life-long appreciation for the natural world and experiences gained as a university student. During my time at UA, it has been my goal to maintain a student-centered environment in the classroom through active learning, realworld and clinical examples, and traditional approaches to pedagogy. Currently, I teach Human Anatomy and Physiology I (BSC 215), Human Anatomy and Physiology II (BSC 216), and serve as the laboratory coordinator for both courses.
My research integrates phylogenetics, phylogeography, population genetics, and ecology to answer questions relating to diversification and conservation of freshwater organisms. Using freshwater fishes as a model, my research seeks to answer questions in three major avenues of research: (1) diversification and speciation in freshwater organisms; (2) conservation genetics of freshwater organisms; and (3) colonization genetics of novel habitats.
Our recent research is focused on the application of genetics to the conservation of freshwater fishes in Alabama and surrounding states. We use a variety of molecular tools to understand patterns of genetic variation in some of the most imperiled fishes in the southeastern United States (e.g., Trispot Darter, Etheostoma trisella). From these studies, we have been able to define appropriate management units for conservation planning by state and federal agencies, prioritize conservation needs on a population-by-population basis, and determine whether historical and/or contemporary factors have contributed to the species’ endangerment.
We are also interested in understanding how human activities such as landscape alteration, urbanization, and construction of dams affect gene flow and connectivity in freshwater organisms. In collaboration with Dr. Bernard Kuhajda (Tennessee Aquarium Conservation Institute) and Dr. Phillip Harris (UA), we investigated how riverine impoundment and reservoirinduced fragmentation influences genetic structure, gene flow, and genetic diversity in small stream-inhabiting fishes in the Mobile Basin. Using a multi-locus approach and population genetic methods, we examined genetic structure and diversity between reservoir-fragmented and non-fragmented populations of two species of stream fishes with differing dispersal capabilities (Tallapoosa Darter and Tallapoosa Shiner). Our data revealed that reservoir fragmentation has negatively impacted genetic characteristics of these two species in the Tallapoosa River system over a relatively short time period (approximately 85 years). Thus, it appears that reservoir-induced fragmentation may have a greater impact on small stream species than previously appreciated, which is of particular interest in biodiversity hotspots such as the southeastern United States where hydroelectric and recreational reservoirs restrict connectivity in aquatic systems. As a result of this work, we are planning to conduct similar studies using fish and non-fish models to further evaluate reservoir-induced fragmentation in aquatic systems, with the goal of developing a general framework to minimize the impact of reservoir construction on connectivity in small stream-inhabiting organisms.
Fluker B. L., Kuhajda B. R., Harris P. M. (In press) The effects of riverine impoundment on genetic structure and gene flow in two stream fishes in the Mobile River basin. Freshwater Biology DOI: 10.1111/fwb.12283
Fluker B. L., Pezold F., Minton R. L. 2011. Molecular and morphological divergence in the Inland Silverside (Menidia beryllina) along a freshwater-estuarine interface. Environmental Biology of Fishes 91:311−325.
Fluker B. L., Kuhajda B. R., Lang N. J., Harris P. M. 2010. Low genetic diversity and small long-term population sizes in the spring endemic Watercress Darter, Etheostoma nuchale. Conservation Genetics 11:2267−2279.
Duncan R. S., Elliot C., Fluker B. L., Kuhajda B. R. 2010. Habitat use of the Watercress Darter, Etheostoma nuchale: an endangered fish in an urban landscape. American Midland Naturalist 164(1):9−21.
Fluker B. L., Kuhajda B. R., Duncan R. S., Salter E. L., Schulman M. 2009. Impacts of a small dam removal on the endangered Watercress Darter. Proceedings of the Southeastern Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies 63:188−195.