Dr Rowena Stern is a research fellow in molecular ecology where she applies molecular methods to explore changes in planktonic microbial eukaryotes (or protist) dynamics and their evolution. Her focus is on changing dynamics of harmful or cryptic phytoplankton organisms and parasites. Rowena uses specialised genetic methods to extract DNA from historic CPR samples collected to understand species diversity and distribution in the past decades and how they have changed. This approach provides a unique opportunity to review past diversity patterns with current information on microbial diversity and functioning.
Rowena has experience in developing DNA barcoding methods to identify different types of phytoplankton at the University of British Columbia, in Dr. Patrick Keelings lab. Here she successfully used barcoding to determine phytoplankton diversity from environmental samples, and has worked with others in this field to develop recommendations for protist barcoding. She has held postdoctoral positions applying genetic methods to understand and develop a test to identify the genetic causes of human neural developmental disorders. During her PhD, Rowena used molecular methods to explore cellular and genetic changes when parasites infect their host cell.
Rowena is involved in the development of algae as model systems to understand their cellular processes as part of a Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation grant with Prof Willie Wilson. As part of the EU funded AtlantOS programme, she is also applying genetic methods as an aid to rapidly deliver biological data for automated sampling platforms.