The goal of the research conducted in our lab is twofold; one is to attempt to obtain novel microbiological data, the other is to educate students in the art of science.

Critical thinking is central to experimental design and data interpretation. Students are mentored in applying critical thinking skills to laboratory work. I also spend significant time teaching technical subtleties of various molecular techniques.

We study the bacteria and archaea that colonize the live rock that constitute the foundations of coral reefs. Live rock is the porous, calcium carbonate-based remnant of deceased corals. These coral skeletons become colonized with microflora which create microcommunity-like biofilms. We aim to characterize these microcommunities to the extent that we can using various molecular, microbiological and analytical techniques.

Closeup of live rock from Bali, Indonesia. Note the different colored coraline algae, as well as the numerous small pores. This type of rock is teeming with an incredible array of life, spanning several phyla. (Valens, 2007)

Many of these bacteria participate in various biogeochemical cycles, including the nitrogen, carbon and phosphorus cycles. In this capacity, these microbes constitute a natural filter for tropical seas. In a larger sense, they play a central role in the health of not only coral reefs, but the ocean as well.

Unidentified tubeworm among vermetid snails, macroalgaes, and corals (Anthelia and Zoanthus sp.) From our laboratory reef tank. (Valens 2008)

Available  projects center around identification of bacterial and archaeal species involved in nutrient processing in marine environments. We have  completed pilot experiments on DNA from pooled environmental specimens using universal 16S primers in PCR coupled with sequencing of cloned products. Subsequently we have identified and cultured some rare  bacteria. However our work is far from over, and we have numerous  samples which have yet to be processed. We are also conducting classical microbiological experiments on cultured isolates. Taxonomical analysis may also be a substantial component of a project.

An independent research project is meant to be somewhat independent. Therefore I am very open to hearing student ideas regarding investigation. For prospective students who are interested in discussing potential projects of their own design within our scope of research, or projects which are already waiting for someone to add their energy and motivation, feel free to stop by my office for a chat or email me at



Catalano D, Morrow M, Valens J (2010) GenBank HM989843.1

Catalano D, Morrow M, Valens J (2010) GenBank HM989842.1

Catalano D, Morrow M, Valens J (2010) GenBank HM989841.1

Catalano D, Morrow M, Valens J (2010) GenBank HM989840.1

Catalano D, Morrow M, Valens J (2010) GenBank HM989839

Catalano D, Morrow M, Valens J (2010) GenBank HM989838.1

Catalano D, Morrow M, Valens J (2010) GenBank HM641750

Catalano D, Morrow M, Valens J (2010) GenBank HM641749

Catalano D, Morrow M, Valens J (2010) GenBank HM641748

Catalano D, Morrow M, Valens J (2010) GenBank HM641747

Catalano D, Morrow M, Valens J (2010) GenBank HM641746

Catalano D, Valens J (2010) GenBank GU727549

Piazza F, Valens J, Lagasse E, Schindler C (2000) Myeloid Differentiation of FdCP1 Cells is Dependent on Stat5 Processing. Blood 96(4):1358-65

Lee C, Piazza F, Brutsaert S, Valens J, Strehlow I, Jarosinski M, Saris C, Schindler C (1999) Characterization of the Stat5 Protease. J. Biol. Chem. 274(38):26767-75


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Current graduate student Denni Catalano presenting her work at the new Paltz Student Research Symposium, April 30, 2010

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