Exploring the mechanisms by which organisms solve the problems they encounter in their respective environments.

compositeThe Ecophysiology Lab at California State University Long Beach is located in the Molecular Life Science Center, room 221. It is run by Dr. Douglas Pace.

The Ecophysiology Lab specializes in understanding the physiological solutions that organisms can employ in order to survive and thrive in their natural environments. In the broadest context, this allows us to gain a better understanding on how organisms might then respond to changes in their natural conditions. Such an approach is extremely important for many reasons. Firstly, given the rapid change in the natural environment (the marine coastal environemnt, for example), it is imperative that we understand the amount and type of stresses that are being placed on organisms. With out such information, species distribution and overall survival may be adversely effected. Another important aspect of such research can also be extended to understanding parasitic relationships. By knowing how a parasite interacts with its host (which is analogous to its environemnt) and understanding its physiological strategies, we can come to a better understanding of how to disrupt this intimate and sometimes very costly relationship. Therefore leaving us in a better position to treat, or ultimately stop parasitic infections.

Currently our lab is addressing these 2 components of ecophysiology with two fundamentaly different conceptual apporaches. The first project is understanding the ecophysiology of development in marine invertebrates. These studies are investigating how marine invertebrate embryoes and larvae are able to cope and actually grow and develop in the every-changing landscape of the marine coastal environment. Specifically we are investigating how changes in highly relevant environmental variables such as food and temperature are effecting their ability to grow and develop. 

Our second project works on the ecology of a much smaller scale, that of the cellular environement. Here we are attempting to understand the molecular physiology of Apicomplexan parasites. Parasitic relationships are a basic and omnipresent strategy for life on Earth. Apicomplexan parasites originated in the marine environment and eventually evolved into some of the most dangerous parasites on Earth (e.g., the malaria parasite, Plasmodium falciparum). Our lab focuses on the human (and all mammals) parasite Toxoplasma gondii. This parasite is an obligate, intracellular parasite and has received much media attention lately for its ubiquitous distribution (it infects 20-30% of the global population) and possibility of influencing human behavior. The Ecophysiology Lab at CSULB is interested in understanding the physiological mechanisms this parasite uses that allows it to be so widespead. T. gondii is able to infect all mammals (including marine mammals) and all cells within mammals that contain a nucleus! We are primarily interested in elucidating how the parasite survives during the critical period where it leaves a host cell in search of a new host cell to invade. We are further interested in using the vast amount of data acquired for human Apicomplexan parasties (like T. gondii and the malaria parasites, P. falciparum) and using it as a starting point to understand the role of Apicomplexan parasitism in the marine environment, where this clade of parasites emerged from and is still ubiquitously found in all marine habitats today. 

Other research interests and projects (including pictures, vidoes, and publications) of Dr. Pace's research can be found by clicking anywhere on this sentence.

If you are interested in pursuing a Masters Degree in Ecophysiology at CSULB, please contact me via email (Douglas.Pace@csulb.edu). I am currently looking for highly motivated graduate students interested in working on any of the projects described above: Ecophysiology of Marine Invertebrate Development or  Molecular Physiology of Apicomplexan Parasitism. I look forward to hearing from you!

Douglas Pace, Ph.D.
Molecular Life Sciences Center, MLSC 228
Biological Sciences
Cal State University - Long Beach
1250 Bellflower Blvd
Long Beach, CA 90840-9502
(562) 985-4825
email: Douglas.Pace@csulb.edu