Eric Saillant, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor, Department of Coastal Sciences

Our research program articulates around three main themes described below.

• Conservation genetics of marine fishes – Our research seeks to improve our understanding of the structure and demography of populations of marine fishes of importance in the Gulf of Mexico region in order to assist with the design and management of conservation units for fisheries and stock enhancement. To achieve this goal we study patterns of genetic variation at molecular markers such as microsatellites, mitochondrial DNA sequences, and single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs). Current research opportunities include studies of the spatial scale of connectivity resulting from pelagic larval dispersal in reef fishes (snappers and triggerfishes) and estuarine dependent fishes (sciaenids), and analysis of adaptive genetic variation in red snapper populations using high throughput genomic approaches. Also, we recently initiated studies of the population structure of large pelagics (yellowfin and blackfin tunas) in the Atlantic basin. A second important aspect of our conservation genetics research is the assessment of effects of stock enhancement on genetic diversity and fitness of supplemented populations (on-going studies on spotted seatrout and red snapper).

• Aquaculture genetics and genomics – Our efforts focus on developing the molecular tools needed for domestication and breeding of emerging marine species. On-going collaborative research on the red snapper focuses on the application of next generation sequencing technologies to functional genomics studies of phenotypic traits (RNA-seq analysis) and large scale discovery and survey of SNPs (RAD-Tag sequencing) for genome mapping and population genomics. Additional interests in the lab include sex determination and sex control, and the quantitative genetics of aquaculture traits such as growth rate, cold tolerance or disease resistance.

• Control of reproduction and hatchery technologies – This research aims to contribute to a better control of reproduction and larval development of species of aquaculture interest in the Gulf region and support the development of genetic programs. Recent collaborative work focused on investigating the disruptions of the sexual cycle of red snapper in aquaculture systems, and the application of hormonal therapies to achieve spawning of captive held broodfish. We are also developing in-vitro fertilization technologies to allow implementation of large scale crossing designs required for genetic studies and domestication programs. Studies are also conducted to develop protocols for larviculture of marine species of interest (red snapper, Atlantic croaker and tripletail).

There are opportunities for interns to get involved in any of these laboratory themes.