Biological Sciences, Lehigh University Lehigh University home page Department of Biological Sciences home page
Faculty, Biological Sciences, Lehigh University

Layla Al-Shaer

Layla Al-Shaer
Ph.D. Candidate

Research Interest:
Behavioral Ecology
Evolution

Iacocca Hall
111 Research Drive, D209
Bethlehem, PA 18015

610-758-4523

email Ms. Al-Shaer

 
Research

Effects of biparental care on offspring behavior and development in the convict cichlid

Layla Al-ShaerMy primary research in Dr. Itzkowitz’s lab explores how biparental convict cichlids (Amatitlania siquia) can influence the development and behavior of their offspring through both their life experiences prior to reproduction, and their interactions with their young during the parental care period. My work focuses on three primary questions: 1) what effects do parents have on the development and behavior of their offspring before, during, and after the parental care period 2) are two parents more effective than one when it comes to manipulating their offspring's antipredator behavior in the presence of a threat 3) is one sex more effective than the other at manipulating their offspring's antipredator behavior in the presence of a threat? During the extended parental care period, parents accompany their free-swimming fry while they forage and move around the environment. For this to be successful, parents must be able to influence the immediate behavior of their offspring in order to keep them away from potential threats. When parents are alarmed they will "call" their offspring, causing the shoal to tighten, descend closer to the substrate and move towards their parents. Although both parents are capable of performing all parental care duties, there are differences in the parental roles of each sex, with females typically spending more time in direct contact with the offspring than males. This makes it possible that one sex may be more effective at alerting their offspring when a threat is present than the other. Another component of parental care in this system may be to prepare offspring for independence by teaching them about the environment that they are born into. As humans we can relate to this scenario because as parents, we recognize that we may not always be around to help our children, so we must prepare them the best we can for life on their own. Although I have found evidence that offspring are capable of learning from their parents, it is unknown if both parents are necessary, or equally effective when it comes to teaching. Finally, there is growing evidence that unpredictable environmental conditions can lead to the manifestation of transgenerational effects that alter offspring phenotype in ways that allow them to better survive. Therefore I am also investigating how predation related cues present within the maternal environment, prior to reproduction, can affect offspring antipredator phenotype.

Conserving and monitoring of the endangered Leon Springs pupfish

Layla Al-ShaerI am also involved in research aimed at conserving and understanding the behavior of the endangered Leon Springs pupfish (Cyprinodon bovinus), a desert fish that is geographically restricted to a single spring system near Fort Stockton, Texas. The conservation of this species poses a unique problem because not only do these fish face breeding habitat loss, but they also co-occur with the endangered Pecos gambusia (Gambusia nobilis) which is a known egg predator of C. bovinus. Our conservation efforts have included renovating their natural habitat in order to provide additional breeding area and decrease negative interspecific interactions, and the release of captive bred C. bovinus back into the wild in order to expand the range of this species. The efficacy of these strategies continues to be monitored. Based on the behavior, population growth, and habitat use of the wild and captive bred fish, our conservation strategies appear to be a success.

Field Research

Layla Al-Shear

Lake Xiloá, Nicaragua

Differences in how the number and sex of parents present affects how they deal with intruders and manage their fry shoal was studied in the biparental convict cichlid. 

Grand Cayman

Studied the formation, movement, and composition of mixed groups of coral reef fish.

Diamond Y Draw, Texas

Monitoring the behavior and habitat use of an endangered desert pupfish (Cyprinodon bovinus) and implementing different conservation measures.

Rocky Mountains, Colorado

Studied black fly larvae distribution in select alpine and subalpine regions in the Rocky Mountains. Collected Prosimullium sp. larvae in order to develop hypotheses about their feeding habits.

Education

Graduate Studies

Lehigh University
Bethlehem, PA
Ph.D. Candidate
Integrative Biology: Evolution
Expected completion: Winter 2017

Courses:

Epigenetics, Adavanced analysis of experimental data, Genes and the brain, Introduction to R statistics, Advanced behavioral ecology, Speciation, Adavanced behavioral neuroendocrinology, Central nervous system and behavior, Professional skills for biology graduate students, Evolution, Endocrinology of beheavior

Undergraduate Studies

Metropolitan State University
Denver, Colorado
B.S., Biology
Minor in Chemistry

Courses:

Biology:
Symbiosis and the environment, Survey of Costa Rica field ecology, Animal physiology, Animal ecology, Vertebrate zoology with lab, Invertebrate zoology with lab, Microbiology with lab, Genetics, Alpine and sub alpine field ecology of the Rocky Mountains, Animal behavior with lab, General biology 2 with lab, General biology 1 with lab

Chemistry:
Biochemistry with lab, Organic chemistry with lab, Analytical chemistry with lab, General chemistry 2 with lab, General chemistry 1 with lab

Publications

Al-Shaer L, Paciorek T, Carroll Z, Itzkowitz M. 2016. The fish that cried wolf: the role of parental care in novel predator recognition in juvenile convict cichlids (Amatitlania siquia). Behaviour. DOI: 10.1163/1568539X-00003381

Layla Al-ShaerAl-Shaer L, Bloch AN, Paciorek T, Carroll Z, Black AN, Itzkowitz M. 2016. Renovated breeding habitat use in wild & captive-bred populations of an endangered desert pupfish. Biodiversity & Endangered Species (4)1.

Black AN, Snesker J, Al-Shaer L, Paciorek T, Bloch AN, Little K, Itzkowitz M. 2015. A review of the Leon Springs pupfish (Cyprinodon bovinus) long-term conservation strategy and response to habitat restoration. Aquatic Conservation: Marine & Freshwater Ecosystems. DOI: 10.1002/aqc.2608.

Al-shaer L, Pierce AK, Larson D, Hancock RG. 2015. Notes on facultative predation in Prosimulium black fly larvae (Diptera:Simuliidae) in alpine and subalpine Colorado streams. Journal  of the American Mosquito Control Association (31)1: 113-116.

Paciorek T, Al-Shaer L, Itzkowitz M. 2014. How territoriality affects the density of an egg predator: Habitat renovation and reintroduction as a method of conserving two endangered desert spring fish. Current Zoology (60)4: 527-533.

Grants, fellowships and awards

2016

  • Thorne Fellowship
    awarded by department of biological sciences, Lehigh University

2015

  • Guy Jordan research fund grant
    awarded by the American Cichlid Association
  • Co-author, best graduate research at Lehigh Valley Ecology & Evolution Symposium
    Al-Shaer L, Paciorek T*, Carroll Z, Itzkowitz M. The fish that cried wolf: The role of parental care in novel predator recognition in convict cichlids (*presenter)
  • Forum student research grant
    awarded by Lehigh University

Layla Al-Shaer2014

  • Doctoral travel grant for global opportunities
    awarded by Lehigh University
  • Mountaintop summer research fellowship
    awarded by Lehigh University
  • Travel grant
    awarded by Lehigh University

2013

  • Biosystems Dynamics Summer Institute fellowship
    awarded by Lehigh University

2011

  • Undergraduate travel award
    awarded by Metropolitan State University of Denver
Research presentations and posters

2016

  • Al-Shaer L, Itzkowitz M. How the number and sex of parents present during intruder events affects the defense and behavior of offspring: a field study of the biparental convict cichlid in Lake Xiloá, Nicaragua. Lehigh Valley Ecology & Evolution Symposium, Lehigh University, Bethlehem, PA.

2015

  • Al-Shaer L, Bloch AN, Paciorek T, Carroll Z, Black AN, Itzkowitz M. Comparison of natural and renovated breeding habitat use in wild and captive bred populations of the Leon Springs pupfish. Lehigh Valley Ecology & Evolution Symposium, Muhlenberg College, Allentown, PA

2014

  • Al-Shaer L, Paciorek T, Carroll Z, Itzkowitz M. The fish that cried wolf: the role of parental care in novel predator recognition in convict cichlids. Department of biological sciences seminar series, Lehigh University.

  • Al-Shaer L, Paciorek T, Carroll Z, Itzkowitz M. The fish that cried wolf: the role of parental care in novel predator recognition in convict cichlids. Animal Behavior Society, Princeton University, Princeton, NJ.

  • Al-Shaer L, Itzkowitz M. Developing an experimental approach for the conservation of a highly endangered desert pupfish, Mountaintop summer research project series, Lehigh University.

2013

  • Al-Shaer L, Pierce A, Larson D, Hancock R. Facultative predation and cannibalism in Prosimulium black fly larvae (Diptera: Simuliidae) from high elevation sites in Colorado. American Mosquito Control Association, Atlantic City, NJ.

2012

  • Al-Shaer L, Larson D, Hancock R. Survey of larval black flies (Diptera: Simuliidae) in select Rocky Mountain Streams of Colorado. Metropolitan State University of Denver, Undergraduate Research Conference, Denver, CO.
  • Al-Shaer L, Larson D, Kosak K, Minichino-Sikora B, Hancock R. Stream selection, altitudinal distribution and voltinism in Helodon onychodactylus. West Central Mosquito & Vector Control Association, Grand Junction, CO.
  • Al-Shaer L, Larson D, Kosak K, Minichino-Sikora B, Hancock R. Facultative predation by larvae of the alpine black fly Prosimulium frohnei, West Central Mosquito & Vector Control Association, Grand Junction, CO.

 

Teaching experience

2016

  • Teaching Assistant: Cellular and molecular biology laboratory; Lehigh University

2014

  • Guest Lecturer: Conservation and endangered species; Lehigh University
  • Teaching Assistant: Integrative and comparative biology laboratory; Lehigh University

2013

  • Teaching Assistant: Integrative and comparative biology laboratory; Lehigh University
  • Teaching Assistant: Genetics laboratory; Lehigh University

2012

  • Teaching Assistant: Genetics laboratory; Lehigh University
  • Private Tutor: Biology and general chemistry; WyzAnt Tutoring, Inc.

 

Undergraduate mentorship

Zachary CarrollHaving the opportunity to help teach undergraduates on a one on one basis (both in the lab and in the field), and share in the excitement of scientific discovery are things that I enjoy deeply. I am lucky to be able to mentor and collaborate with undergraduates when they sign up for research experience in the Itzkowitz lab and during summer research team programs at Lehigh University. 

Undergraduates mentored
Zachary Carroll
Lanshi Li
Louise McCallie
Caroline Rago
Rose Tatarsky
Amelia Cotter
Thomas Fontana
Cameron Feathers
Katherine Walters
Lena Ma
Maaz Haleem

Undergraduate led posters and talks

2016

  • Carroll Z*, Al-Shaer L, Paciorek T, Itzkowitz M. The effects of differential female convict cichlid size on male mate choice. Lehigh University, Undergraduate research symposium.

2015

  • Carroll Z*, Al-Shaer L, Paciorek T, Itzkowitz M. The effects of differential female convict cichlid size on male mate choice. Lehigh University, Undergraduate research symposium.

2014

  • Carroll Z*, Cotter A*, Feathers C*, Fontana T*, Ma L*, Walters K*, Al-Shaer L, Bloch A, Kuchka M, Itzkowitz M. Developing an experimental approach for the conservation of a highly endangered desert pupfish (Cyprinodon bovinus). Summer Mountaintop Project research symposium, Lehigh University.

2013

  • Carroll Z*, Li L*, McCallie L*, Rago C*, Al-Shaer L, Paciorek T, Samollow P, Itzkowitz M. Consequences of habitat restoration and genetic isolation of a desert spring pupfish (Cyprinodon bovinus). Biosystems Dynamics Summer Institute symposium, Lehigh University.

 

Video
Layla Al-Shaer
Biological Sciences
111 Research Drive
Bethlehem, PA 18015
Phone: 610-758-3680
Fax: 610-758-4004
Email: inbios@lehigh.edu

©2015