Biology & Marine Biology

Faculty & Staff

Alison R. Taylor, Professor & Director of RMD Bioimaging Facility 

photoPh.D., Oxford Brookes University, U.K.
BSc., Leicester University, U.K. 
Dobo Hall 1082| (910) 962-2176 | 601 South College Road, Wilmington, NC 28403-5915 | RMD Bioimaging Facility 

Cell Biology of Marine Protists

Despite playing a pivotal role in our oceans, relatively little is known about the cell biology of marine protists, a large and diverse group of unicellular organisms which includes both autotrophic and heterotrophic groups. Research in my lab has focussed on the cell biology of diatoms and coccolithophores, two of the most significant groups of phytoplankton with respect to ocean primary productivity and marine biogeochemical cycles. This work has revealed that these organisms, regarded until recently to be essentially plant-like algae, possess a variety of animal-like membrane transport properties. This is supported by the recent availability of genome sequence data which confirms the presence of groups of animal-like genes including those for metabolism, ion channels and transporters. These genes have most likely been acquired from the heterotrophic ancestral host during the secondary endosymbiotic evolutionary origin of the heterokont lineage. To what degree such animal-like properties underpin the environmental physiology and contribute to the global success of these marine autotrophic protists is a driving question in our research. While a comparative approach among a range of phytoplankton and other heterotrophic marine protists is the longer-term goal of our research, work is currently centred on identifying and functionally characterising ion transport mechanisms associated with signalling and homeostasis in diatoms, coccolithophores and foraminifera. To address these questions we use a variety of conventional and novel cell physiology techniques including electrophysiology and high resolution imaging combined with molecular approaches. Current research includes the following topics:

  • Characterisation of phytoplankton membrane transporters
  • Transport processes that underpin cellular homeostasis in calcifying coccolithophores
  • Diatom membrane physiology and signalling
  • Membrane physiology of harmful algae and marine biotoxins
  • Cellular physiology of foraminifera.

Selected Publications (Graduate students and Post-docs in bold, undegraduates underlined)

Berges J.A., Young E.B., Thamatrakoln K., Taylor A.R. From genes to ecosystems: using molecular information from diatoms to understand ecological processes. In: Phytoplankton Ecology, Eds. Lesley Clementson, Ruth Signe Eriksen & Anusuya Willis. Elsevier (in press).

Keenan Bateman, T.F.; McLellan, W.A.; Rommel, S.A.; Costidis, A.M., Harms, C.A., Thewissen, J.G.M.; Rotstein, D.S.; Gay, D.M. ; Potter, C.W. ; Taylor, A.R.; Wang, Y. and D.A. Pabst (2021) Gross and histologic morphology of the cervical gill slit gland of the pygmy sperm whale (Kogia breviceps) Anatomical Record,

Stienbarger C.D., Joseph J., Athey S.N., Monteleone B., Andrady A.L., Watanabe W.O., Seaton P., Taylor A.R., Brander S.M. (2021) Direct ingestion and trophic transfer of microplastics in the early life stages of a commercially and recreationally valuable fishery species (Centropristsis striata). Env. Poll., 285, 117653

Yates P.S., Koester J.A. & Taylor A.R. (2021) Interaction of two marine toxins with a novel class of single domain voltage activated ion channels from eukaryote marine phytoplankton. Marine Drugs. #1094253

Langer G., Taylor A.R., Walker C., Meyer E., Ben Joseph O., Harper G., Gal A., Harper, G.M., Probert I., Brownlee C., Wheeler G (2021). The development and evolution of complex crystal shapes in coccolithophores. New Phytologist 231: 1845-1857 *cover article and feature commentary

Helliwell K., Chrachri A., Koester J., Wharam S., Taylor A.R., Wheeler G.L., Brownlee C. (2020). A novel Na+-selective voltage-gated channel in eukaryotes. Plant Physiology: 184 (4):1674-1683.

 Meyer, E, Langer G., Wheeler G., Brownlee C. & Taylor A.R. (2020) Sr in coccoliths of Scyphosphaera apsteinii: partitioning behavior and role in coccolith morphogenesis.  Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta 285: 41-54.

Athey S.N., Albotra S.D., Gordon C.A., Monteleone B., Seaton P., Andrady A.L., Taylor A.R., Brander S.M. (2020) Trophic transfer of microplastics in an estuarine food chain and the effects of a sorbed legacy pollutant. L&O Letters. 5: 154-162

Britta Baechler, Dorothy Horn, Jincy Joseph, Cheyenne Stienbarger, Alison Taylor, Elise Granek, Susanne Brander (2019). Microplastic occurrence and effects in commercially harvested North American finfish and shellfish: Current knowledge and future directions. L&O Letters 5: 113-136.

Emslie S., Alderman A., McKenzie A., Brasso R., Taylor A.R., Cambra O., González A., Silva A.M., Valera A., Sanjuán L.G., and Vila E.V. (2019) Mercury in Archaeological Human Bone: Biogenic or Diagenetic? Journal of Archaeological Science 108:104969

Helliwell K., Chrachri A., Koester J., Verret F., Wharam S., Taylor A.R., Wheeler G.L., Brownlee C. (2019) Alternative mechanisms for fast Na+/Ca2+ signalling in eukaryotes via a novel class of single-domain voltage-gated channels. Current Biology, 29: 1503–1511

Kramer, B., Kitchen, S.A., Bourdelais, A., Taylor, A.R. (2019) Uptake and localization of fluorescently-labeled Karenia brevis metabolites in non-toxic marine microbial taxa. Journal of Phycology 55: 47–59

Fox E., Meyer E., Panasiak Nand Taylor A.R. (2018) Calcein staining as a tool to investigate coccolithophore calcification. Frontiers in Marine Science,

Walker C., Heath S., Salmon D.L., Smirnoff N., Langer G., Taylor A.R., Brownlee C., Wheeler G. (2018) An extracellular polysaccharide-rich organic layer contributes to organization of the coccosphere in coccolithophores. Frontiers in Marine Science;

Walker C., Taylor A.R., Langer G., Heath S., Probert I, Tyrrell T., Brownlee C.
& Wheeler G. (2018). The requirement for calcification differs between ecologically important coccolithophore species. New Phytologist,

Kitchen S.A., Bourdelais A. & Taylor A.R. (2018) Interaction of a dinoflagellate neurotoxin with voltage-activated currents in a marine diatom. PeerJ 6:e4533;

Taylor, A.R., Brownlee, C. & Wheeler, G.L. (2017) Cell biology of coccolithophores: Chalking up success. Annual Review of Marine Science. 9: 283-310

Koester, J., Brownlee C. & Taylor A.R. (2016) Algal calcification and silicification.

Encyclopedia of Life Sciences. Doi: 10.1002/9780470015902.a0000313.pub2

Taylor, A.R. & Brownlee, C. (2016) Calcification. In: The Physiology of Microalgae, Developments in Applied Phycology Vol 6. p301-318, Michael Borowitzka, John Beardall & John Raven (eds), Springer.

Durak G.M., Taylor A.R., Walker C.E., Probert I., de Vargas C., Audic S., Schroeder D., Brownlee C. & Wheeler G.L. (2016). A role for diatom-like silicon transporters in calcifying coccolithophores. Nature Communications 10543 doi:10.1038/ncomms10543 *Equal contribution

Echevarria M.L. Wolfe G. & Taylor A.R. (2016) Bioelectrical regulation of behavior in the marine ciliate Favella sp. Journal of Experimental Biology 219: 445-456 doi: 10.1242/jeb.121871