Karen Maruska
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Chase Anselmo
Lab Alumni
Graduate Student Lab Alumni
Graduate Students
Current Research Personnel
T. King
Teisha King (PhD Student; co-advised by Jeremy Brown)    email: tking21@lsu.edu

For organisms living in dominance hierarchies, social status determines accessibility to resources and reproductive success. Social status is often established based on the organisms’ environment and physiology, which can be disrupted when they encounter a pathogen. In such situations, the proper amounts of energy must be allocated to respective biological systems to ensure the survival. My research explores how an immune challenge affects behavior and physiology across social status and reproductive state. I am also interested in identifying how the immune system influences speciation rates of cichlid species. This research will expand our understanding of neuro-immune interactions and the importance of the immune system and reproductive fitness in the diversification of species.

The Maruska Laboratory

Neural Mechanisms of Behavior • Hormones and Sensory Processing • Sensory, Behavioral and Neural Plasticity



Karen Maruska (Principal Investigator)    email: kmaruska@lsu.edu                 Google Scholar Profile

Karen is currently an Associate Professor in the Department of Biological Sciences at LSU. She graduated with a B.S. degree from University of New Hampshire, and then got her M.S. degree at Florida Tech and Ph.D. degree at University of Hawaii working with Tim Tricas. She then did a Grass Fellowship in Neuroscience at the Marine Biological Lab in Woods Hole with Al Mensinger, and was a NIH postdoctoral scholar with Russ Fernald at Stanford University. Her research has used fishes as vertebrate models to study how sensory systems function, how hormones influence sensory processing, how animals communicate, and how the social environment influences behavior, brain function, and reproductive capacity.
Rose and Mira



Model System

"In the News"
Karen Field
Karen Field, Ph.D. (PhD 2018)                                    Karen's Website

Olfaction is phylogenetically among the oldest senses in vertebrates, but there is still a paucity of information on how chemosensory signals released during reproduction are perceived and processed in higher brain centers, especially in fishes. My research investigated how chemosensory signals might be integrated with other senses and with an animal’s own internal physiological state to help make behavioral decisions using the African cichlid, Astatotilapia burtoni.

Saachi Chugh (MS Student)  email: schugh1@lsu.edu

Although feeding and reproduction are fundamental and interconnected processes in all mammals, a trade-off exists between feeding and reproduction. For example, pregnant mammals consume more food to support the developing young, while some fishes, birds, amphibians, and reptiles consume less food during parental care.There is a plethora of signaling molecules which help in regulating this trade-off. My research focuses on the role of a fairly new signaling molecule, nesfatin-1, in the feeding and reproductive circuits of the maternal mouth brooding cichlid fish.

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Danielle Porter (M.S. 2015) 

Danielle worked on the neural basis of mouthbrooding in A. burtoni, by examining localization patterns, cell sizes, and gene expression of candidate anorexigenic (POMC, CART) and orexigenic (AgRP, NPY) neurons in the brain of mouthbrooding and gravid sexually-receptive females.  Danielle went on to a PhD program at the University of Mississippi Medical Center. 

Danielle Porter
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Student/Personnel Lab position & years Where did they go?
Cy Bryson Undergraduate Researcher, 2018-2019  
Ganga Tandukar LBRN Summer Undergraduate Researcher, 2019 University of Louisiana, Monroe
Sarah Whitlow Undergraduate Researcher, 2016-2019 Loyola University of New Orleans, Pre-Health Post Bac. Program
Chase Anselmo Undergraduate Honors Thesis, 2017-2019 LSU Department of Biological Sciences
Ainsley Mann Undergraduate Researcher, 2018-2019 University at Buffalo, Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences
Brandon Tramontana Undergraduate Researcher, 2016-2019 Duke University, Biomedical Engineering Program
Alexandre Nikonov, PhD Senior Research Associate, 2015-2018  
Arohan Rimal LBRN Summer Research Program, 2018 University of Louisiana, Monroe
Ashley Augustus IMSD Undergraduate Researcher, 2015-2018  
Makayla Voss Undergraduate Researcher, 2016-2018  
Victoria Huynh Undergraduate Researcher, Honors Thesis, 2016-2018 LSUHSC New Orleans, Medical School
Alabel Olinde Undergraduate Researcher, 2018 Medical Sciences Program, Mississippi College
Adaoma Ngari Undergraduate Researcher, 2016-2017 Meharry Medical College
Austin Nguyen Undergraduate Researcher, 2017-2018  
Tyler Causey Undergraduate Researcher, 2017  
David Roberts Research Associate, 2015-2017 LSUHSC New Orleans, Medical School
Chris Forester LBRN Summer Research Program, 2017 Louisiana Tech
Donald Lamotte Undergraduate Researcher, 2016-2017  
Daniel Vilchez Undergraduate Researcher, 2015-2017 Georgetown University, Masters in Physiology Program
Kara Johnson LSU-HHMI Undergraduate Researcher, 2015-2017  
Maddy Shannon Undergraduate Researcher, 2015-2017 LSUHSC New Orleans, Medical School
Zaida Salame Undergraduate Researcher, 2016-2017  
Charles de Boisblanc Undergraduate Researcher, LSU-HHMI, 2014-2016 LSUHSC New Orleans, Medical School
Joshua Campbell Undergraduate Researcher, 2015-2016 LSU Chemical Engineering Program
Christopher McVicker Undergraduate Honor's Thesis, 2014-2016 LSUHSC Shreveport, Medical School
Polly Gwan Undergraduate Researcher, 2014-2016 Medical Sciences Program, Mississippi College & LSUHSC New Orleans, Medical School
Vincent Tran Post-Bac Researcher, 2015 UT Austin Graduate Program, Statistics
Alex Manning Post-Bac Researcher, 2014-2015 LSUHSC School of Public Health Graduate Program
Lloyd Moffett Undergraduate Researcher, 2014-2015  
Haley Pilet Undergraduate Researcher, 2014-2015 LSUHSC Shreveport, Medical School
Charly Brooks LSU-HHMI Undergraduate Researcher, 2014 LSU School of Veterinary Medicine
Macy Guthrie BRCC-HHMI Undergraduate Researcher, 2014  
Kelsey Hershey Undergraduate Researcher, SURE award, 2012-2014 LSUHSC, New Orleans, Medical School
Montana McKay Undergraduate Researcher, 2013-2014 PA School, University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center
Kenny Kingston Undergraduate Researcher, 2013-2014 Ross School of Veterinary Medicine
Sudarshan Thapa Undergraduate BIOL 3999, 2013 Graduate program, Biological Sciences, LSU
Kristi Harrison Undergraduate Researcher; 2012-2013 PA School, LSU Shreveport
Anupa Prajapati Undergraduate LBRN-HHMI researcher, summer 2013 Medical Technologist, Cambridge Health Alliance, MA.

Ian Hill
(Honors College,
Undergraduate Researcher)
Mark Maier
Mark Maier (Honors College, Undergraduate Researcher)
Ian Hill





Interested in joing the lab?

Please contact Karen Maruska via email (kmaruska@lsu.edu) to discuss potential openings and current research projects.  Prospective graduate students and postdocs should also send a statement of research interests and current CV.  Prospective undergraduate researchers should be able to commit a minimum of 2 academic semesters (preferably a full calendar year) to working in the lab.

The Maruska Lab strives to create an inclusive, respectful, intellectually challenging climate that embraces individual difference in race, ethnicity, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity/expression, age, spirituality, socioeconomic status, disability, family status, experiences, opinions and ideas.

Tabitha Henry
Tabitha Henry
(Honors College, Undergraduate Researcher)
Adam Zulli
Evan Dore
Evan Dore
(Honors College, Undergraduate Researcher)
Julie Butler, Ph.D. (PhD 2019)                                         Julie's Website

Acoustic signaling is fundamental to communication and crucial for reproductive and territorial behaviors in many species. My research examines the impact of human made noises (e.g. shipping, oil exploration, sonar) on fish behavior, reproduction, and acoustic communication. By mimicking a noisy underwater environment, my research aims to understand how fish cope with the increasing underwater noise levels. In addition, I am interested in the role of the lateral line system during social interactions, and how information gained through mechanoreception may influence social decision. Julie went on to a postdoc position at Stanford University.

Julie Butler


Chase Anselmo (MS Student) email: cansel5@lsu.edu
Adam Zulli
(Honors College, Undergraduate Researcher)
Ross Calhoun
Ross Calhoun
(Undergraduate Researcher)
Ava Karam
Ava Karam
(Undergraduate Researcher)
Braden Delanzac
Braden Delanzac
(Undergraduate Researcher)
Hyerin Jeong
Hyerin Jeong
(Honors College, Undergraduate Researcher)
Rose Wayne (PhD Student) email: cwayne1@lsu.edu

Social defeat models for studying PTSD are commonly used in mammals such as rats and hamsters where subjects are exposed to and suppressed by a single aggressor animal. My research aims to show that repeated social defeat of dominant A. burtoni males can also induce behavioral phenotypes exhibiting core aspects of human PTSD, therefore making them useful as a new model organism in this context. A secondary focus of my research is to participate in science-art community outreach by creating a comic book based on research from our lab. The goal is to make science more fun, transparent, and accessible to the general public.  

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Erandi Herath
(Honors College, Undergraduate Researcher)
Erandi Herath
Jonathan Tabora
Jonathan Tabora
(Undergraduate Researcher)