Biology Alumna Keri Shelton Becomes Published Researcher

Meredith College alumna Keri Shelton, ’16, became a published researcher when her senior research project on entocytherid ostracods, more commonly known as seed shrimp, and their distribution in New York and New Jersey was published in the latest edition of Northeastern Naturalist. One of the photos from her report, New Records of Entocytherid Ostracods from New York and New Jersey, was used as the cover image for that issue of the journal.

“It’s very exciting to see my research published and it was really exciting to discover that the journal chose my picture for the cover,” said Shelton. “I know I could not have done it without the encouragement and support of my mentors, Bronwyn Williams and Trish Weaver.”

Williams is the research curator of invertebrates at the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences (NCSM), while Weaver is the collections manager of paleontology and geology.

Shelton partnered with Williams and Weaver to conduct her research, which involved examining more than 100 crayfishes using a dissecting microscope and carefully removing any ostracods that she found among them. Ostracods are a little-known group of tiny organisms that live on the bodies of other crustaceans and depend on them for survival.

“The purpose of the research was to see if we could expand the known distribution of species of ostracods in the family Entocytheridae in New Jersey and eastern New York,” said Shelton. “Ostracods are interesting in that they live on crayfishes, but little is known about the diversity or distribution of these organisms in the northeastern United States.”

From her research, Shelton identified two different species of entocytherid ostracod, which expanded her understanding of the distribution of entocytherid ostracods in the region. Her research also extended the distribution of one of these species, and filled a major gap in the known range of the second species.

“Her results fill an important knowledge gap for these tiny organisms, which has significance for understanding the ecology and evolution of crayfish-symbiont relationships,” said Williams. “Keri learned a huge amount about a group of organisms of which she had no knowledge prior to embarking on this project. She became incredibly proficient at identifying these ostracods, and picked up on the many subtleties that make this a challenging group to study.”

Shelton graduated in May and currently works at the waste water treatment plant in Roanoke Rapids, N.C., where she is a lab technician. In her role, she is responsible for testing the waste water that will eventually make its way back into the rivers.

Melyssa Allen

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