WHITNEY LEACH
Postdoctoral Research Associate
RESEARCH SUMMARY
The circadian clock is a molecular timekeeping mechanism that drives rhythmic, predictable behavior in most Earthly organisms. This clock is why we experience jet lag, why we sleep or are awake at particular times of the day, and it is responsible for of the typical behaviors we exhibit during the day. The clock is entrained by different environmental signals, but light is the most common and presumably the strongest acting cue. My interests in the circadian clock are to understand: (1) the molecular signals that make up the clock in marine invertebrates (I have a proclivity for the starlet sea anemone Nematostella vectensis), (2) how light information is processed in this species and how that translates to entrainment with diel solar cycles, (3) the evolution of the animal clock from a phylogenomic and functional perspective, and (4) why having a circadian clock would be advantageous to this species. My approach to understanding these research questions integrates behavior, molecular biology, and comparative genomics.

EDUCATION
B.S. - UNC Charlotte (2011)
Ph.D. - UNC Charlotte (2019)

SELECTED PUBLICATIONS
Leach W.B., Reitzel A.M. 2020. Decoupling behavioral and transcriptional responses to color in an eyeless cnidarian. BMC Genomics. 21:361. doi.org/10.1186/s12864-020-6766-y.  

Ketchum R.N., Smith E.G., DeBiasse M.B., Vaughan G.O., McParland D., Leach W.B., Al-Mansoori N., Ryan J.F., Burt J.A., Reitzel A.M. 2020. Population genomic analyses of the sea urchin Echinometra sp. EZ across an extreme environmental gradient. Genome Biology and Evolution. doi.org/10.1093/gbe/evaa150.  

Sachkova M.Y., Macrander J., Surm J.M., Aharoni R., Menard-Harvey, S.S., Klock A., Leach W.B., Reitzel A.M., Moran Y. 2020. Some Like It Hot: Population specific adaptations in venom production to abiotic stressors in a widely distributed cnidarian. BMC Biology. 18(121). doi.org/10.1186/s12915-020-00855-8    

Leach W.B., Reitzel A.M. 2019. Transcriptional remodeling upon light remodeling in a model cnidarian: losses and gains in gene expression. Molecular Ecology. 28:14 3413-3426. doi.org/10.1111/mec.15163.  

Leach W.B., Carrier T.J., Reitzel A.M. 2019. Diel patterning in the bacterial community associated with the sea anemone Nematostella vectensis. Ecology and Evolution. 9:17. 9935-9947. doi:10.1002/ece3.5534.  

Leach W.B., Peres R., Macrander J., Reitzel A.M. 2018. Transcriptome-wide analysis of differential gene expression in response to light:dark cycles in a model cnidarian. Comparative Biochemistry and Physiology – Part D. doi.org/10.1016/j.cbd.2018.03.004.