The Charger Blog

Graduate Student’s Research Explores DNA, Algae, and Climate Change

While researching algae in Long Island Sound this summer, Ryan Assini ’21 M.S. investigated important questions raised by climate change, and his findings could assist with conservation efforts.

September 16, 2020

By Renee Chmiel, Office of Marketing and Communications

Picture of the Long Island Sound
Ryan Assini’s research often brought him outdoors this summer.

Ryan Assini ’21 M.S. is passionate about spending time outdoors and about environmental conservation. He spent part of his summer conducting research that brought those interests together.

A candidate in the University’s graduate program in cellular and molecular biology, he spent part of his summer sampling algae from sites around Connecticut’s southern shore, including around Long Island Sound. He’s hoping to get a better idea of where algae blooms are coming from.

Ryan and his dog Rolo.
Ryan Assini and Rolo.

“If we can gain more information about the algae in the area, we can plan management much more efficiently,” he said.

Working with Amy Carlile, Ph.D., Assini has been studying the population structure of Ulva, a group of algae, throughout Long Island Sound. He’s been extracting DNA from the samples and conducting molecular analysis on them to determine what species the samples belong to and how closely the samples are related to each other.

“This research is important because as climate change accelerates, there will be more algae growing due to warmer ocean temperatures,” he said. “This could cause ‘green blooms’ of algae to grow out of control, and it could damage ecosystems and water site usage.”

Assini has especially enjoyed sampling the sites and immersing himself in each of the areas he has investigated. He is also grateful that his work has enabled him to gain the experience and the skills he will need after graduation.

“We do a lot of practical work in my classes, which are extremely hands-on and discussion oriented,” he said. “This is preparing me very well for a professional setting.”

Picture of algae.
Ryan Assini sampled algae around Connecticut’s southern shore.