Jennifer L. Salerno, Ph.D.
Principal Investigator, Salerno Laboratory of Integrative Microbial Ecology, Potomac Environmental Research and Education Center
Assistant Professor, Department of Environmental Science and Policy (ESP), George Mason University
Ph.D. University of Hawaii, Zoology
M.A. College of William and Mary, Biology
B.S. Rutgers University, Biological Sciences and Marine Science (double major)
Dr. Salerno’s research interests focus on symbiotic and free-living microorganisms and the role that they play in maintaining and destabilizing organism health and ecosystem function. Recognizing the important link between human health and ecosystem health, this research is approached through the lens of seeking to advance basic science, while also developing environmental monitoring tools, practical applications, and policy guidance for environmental resource management and conservation. Dr. Salerno uses traditional microbiological techniques, as well as molecular biology, next generation sequencing, bioinformatics, and microscopy to characterize microbial (bacterial, archaeal, and fungal) diversity and function in organismal and environmental microbiomes and how they respond to environmental change (temperature, sedimentation, chemical exposure). Previous projects have focused on characterizing the biogeography of bacterial communities associated with reef-building corals in the Pacific and how these communities respond to environmental change; the transmission and nutritional contribution of bacterial symbionts in deep-sea bivalves; mapping the microspatial distribution of soil microorganisms; and the impacts of hydrocarbons and chemical dispersant on the structure and function of deep-sea coral and shipwreck microbial communities. The Salerno Laboratory is currently working on projects pertaining to coral disease, the role of microbiomes in susceptibility of macroorganisms to non-microbial parasites, and microbes as biological indicators of aquatic health.
Dr. Salerno also engages in science communication and interdisciplinary work at the intersection of science, policy, and diplomacy. She previously worked on coastal and ocean issues in the U.S. House of Representatives as a NOAA Sea Grant Knauss Fellow and served as an American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) Science and Technology Policy Fellow at the U.S. Department of State, Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs, Office of Economic Policy. In this capacity she advised and coordinated U.S. policy on science and technology, energy, and oceans issues across U.S. federal agencies and in the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC).
Valerie is a Masters student in ESP working on the microbiome of the Harris mud crab (Rhithropanopeus harrisii (Gould, 1841)) and its potential role in mediating the crab’s susceptibility to infection by parasitic barnacle Loxothylacus panopaei.
Kim is a Masters student in ESP working on developing a minimally invasive technique to detect mycobacteriosis in Chesapeake Bay striped bass (Morone saxatilis).
Eric is a Masters student in ESP using Fluorescent in Situ Hybridization (FISH) and laser capture micro-dissection (LCM) to identify intracellular microbes in tropical and deep sea corals.
Jordan is a Ph.D. student in ESP interested in combining molecular and microscopy techniques to study coral reef disease ecology and the influence of microbial biofilms on coral larval settlement. She completed her B.S. in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at Rice University in May 2020, where she studied the effects of temperature and nutrient stress on coral microbiomes in Dr. Adrienne Correa’s lab.
Tom is a Mason OSCAR summer research scholar in the lab. He is working on a project to identify microbes as potential biological indicators of aquatic health in an urban watershed (Cameron Run and Hunting Creek). He has also launched the lab’s first project to characterize microbial succession and biofilm formation on microplastics in the nearby Occoquan River.
Morgan is our fantastic volunteer researcher. She helps take care of our mud crabs and assists with ongoing research projects in the lab.
Dhanush was a 2019 summer ASSIP intern in the lab from Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology. He has been working on a project to identify microbes as potential biological indicators of aquatic health and assisting with the microplastics project.
Hannah was a summer 2019 research volunteer from WT Woodson High School. She assisted graduate and undergraduate students in the lab with their research projects.
Preeti was a 2020 summer ASSIP intern in the lab from Fairfax High School. She assisted with conducting a meta-analysis to compare coral disease prevalence inside and outside of marine protected areas (MPAs) to determine if they are an effective tool for mitigating coral disease.
Krithika was a 2020 summer ASSIP intern in the lab from Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology. She assisted with conducting a meta-analysis to compare coral disease prevalence inside and outside of marine protected areas (MPAs) to determine if they are an effective tool for mitigating coral disease. She is currently analyzing data from the microplastics biofilm field study to quantify the presence of pathogenic bacteria.