Biology & Marine Biology

Faculty & Staff

Joseph A. Covi, Associate Professor

Covi3.JPGPh.D., Biological Sciences, Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge, LA, 2005
B.S., Biological Sciences/Zoology, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, CO, 1996
Dobo Hall 2100 | (910) 962-2514 | 601 South College Road, Wilmington, NC 28403-5915

Broadly speaking, I am an integrative physiologist interested in the impact of environmental toxicants on crustaceans. As reported by the National Toxicology Program under the US Department of Health and Human Services, over 80,000 chemicals are registered for use in the United States and approximately 2,000 new ones are introduced each year for use by the general public. Many of these compounds appear in water resources long before potential impacts on local species are known. Using an integrative approach allows us to assess the effects of potential toxicants without being tied down to a specific level of organization, experimental technique, or toxicant class. Students in my lab use an ever-changing set of experimental tools in their work with DNA, RNA, protein, isolated mitochondria, cultured tissues and whole animals. The organism, level of organization, and tools we use are dictated, first and foremost, by the experimental question at hand.

My lab is currently focused on two main lines of questioning:

1.  We are interested in understanding how anthropogenic activities and climate change impact zooplankton in coastal and inland waters. This work involves a combination of field and laboratory research by graduate and undergraduate students on three continents: North America, South America and Antarctica.
Recent thesis topics includes: 
a. Heavy metal exposure from coal-combustion in North Carolina
b. Chemical stressors from eutrophication in North Carolina
c. Simultaneous impacts of anthropogenic chemicals and temperature stress in Antarctica
2. We are interested in understanding the adaptations that allow a small number of zooplankton to survive in freshwater lakes in Antarctica. This work involves a combination of field and laboratory research by graduate and undergraduate students on two continents: South America (Chilean Patagonia) and islands associated with the Antarctic peninsula.
Recent thesis/dissertation topics include:
a.Biochemical changes during resurrection from embryonic dormancy
b. Early morphological changes during development following embryonic dormancy
c. Environmental limitations on the success of embryonic dormancy (thermal and chemical)

Past and side research topics we remain interested in:

  1. Understanding the impacts of lipophilic chemicals on early development in aquatic crustaceans. Many zooplankton from inland and coastal waters exhibit developmental arrest as embryos. These animals persist in anoxic sediments for weeks to decades in an arrested state where development and metabolism appear to be suspended. The effects of exposure to lipophilic toxicants during this period are largely unknown. This gap in our understanding of how anthropogenic chemicals could impact zooplankton communities is surprising and potentially costly for water resource managers.
  2. Developing an empirical model to examine the effects of environmental toxicants on the regulation of molting in decapod crustaceans. Our goal is to develop a methodology that is not limited to a single model species or class of toxicant, thus making it broadly available for environmental assessment and the management of coastal fisheries.

Select Publications:

Patterson L.N., BD Harris, and JA Covi (2020) Lack of dormancy to protect diversity: Decrease in diversity of active zooplankton community observed in lake with depauperate egg bank. Science of the Total Environment 723:138074. (

Reed, KA, H Park, SG Lee, W Lee, SH Lee, JM Bleau, TNM Munden, JA Covi (2018) Embryos of an Antarctic zooplankton require anoxia for dormancy, are permeable to lipophilic chemicals and reside in sediments containing PCBs. Scientific Reports. (

Goff, AD, P Saranjampour, LM Ryan, M Hladik, JA Covi, KL Armbrust, and SM Brander (2017) The effects of fipronil and the photodegradation product fipronil desulfinyl on growth and gene expression in juvenile blue crabs, Callinectes sapidus, at different salinities. Aquatic Toxicology. 186:96-104.

Covi, JA, ER Hutchison, CH Neumeyer and MD Gunderson. (2016) Rotenone decreases hatching success in brine shrimp embryos by blocking development: implications for zooplankton egg banks. PLoS One, DOI:10.1371/journal.pone.0163231 (

Covi, JA and CH Neumeyer (2016) A test of the carbonic anhydrase-dependent model for emergence and hatching in the brine shrimp, Artemia franciscana (Kellogg, 1906) (Branchiopoda: Anostraca). Journal of Crustacean Biology. 36:205-213.

Neumeyer, CH, JL Gerlach, KM Ruggiero and JA Covi (2015) A novel model of early development in the brine shrimp, Artemia franciscana, and its use in assessing the effects of environmental variables on development, emergence and hatching. Journal of Morphology. 276:342-360.

Hand, SC, MA Menze, A Borcara, Y Patila, JA Covi, JA Reynold, and M Tonere (2011) Metabolic restructuring during energy-limited states: insights from Artemia franciscana embryos and other animals. Journal of Insect Physiology. 57:584-594.

Covi, JA and SC Hand (2007) Energizing an invertebrate embryo: bafilomycin-dependent respiration and the metabolic cost of proton pumping by the V-ATPase. Physiological and Biochemical Zoology. 80:422-432.

Covi, JA, D Treleaven, and SC Hand (2005) V-ATPase inhibition prevents recovery from anoxia in Artemia franciscana embryos: quiescence signaling though dissipation of proton gradients. Journal of Experimental Biology. 208:2799-2808.