Charles Amsler, Ph.D.

Research Description
I am a marine biologist, chemical ecologist, and algal biologist.  The research that my students and I conduct is centered in several areas but most involve chemical interactions between organisms or ways in which organisms perceive, respond to, or otherwise interact with their chemical environments.  We seek to understand how these interactions structure communities as well as the mechanistic trade-offs involved in producing/releasing chemicals for such uses.  Much of my research is done in Antarctica or with Antarctic organisms we have in culture at UAB, but projects with local or Gulf of Mexico organisms are also common.

On area of study in my lab is how organisms like algae or sessile invertebrate animals that cannot flee from predators utilize chemical defenses to deter the predators.  These experiments involve offering potential prey to predators and if they are not eaten, then extracting their chemical components, adding those compounds to otherwise palatable artificial foods, and testing to see if that makes the artificial foods unpalatable to the predator.  Similar kinds of projects examine how organisms may use such chemicals to defend themselves from pathogens or fouling organisms that would overgrow them.  Another area of study is how motile larvae, spores, or other microscopic organisms (including bacteria and single-celled algae or protozoa) sense their chemical environments and use that information for deciding where to swim to and/or settle.  These experiments usually involve a fairly unique computer-assisted motion-analysis system available in my laboratory. We have used the same technology to study chemically-mediated behavior of macroscopic organisms.