Kirsten Müller carries out research in Phycology and is a world expert on the Bangiales.
Office: B2 245A
Phone: 519-888-4567, ext. 32224
- Freshwater and Marine Algae
- Invasive species
- Bloom forming algae
The red algae (Rhodophyta) are an ancient lineage with some members being reported in the fossil record as far back as 1.2 billion years. This group is of considerable economic importance since they contain compounds (agar, carrageenan, etc.) that are used extensively as thickeners in products such as yogurt, ice cream and toothpaste. Genera such as Porphyra (aka. Nori, laverbread) and Palmaria (a.k.a. Dulse) are important food sources and are global billion dollar aquaculture industries. In addition, the red algae are a critical group in the evolution of photosynthetic life on earth through secondary endosymbiosis of chloroplasts. This simply means that several lineages currently capable of photosynthesis have gained that ability by engulfing and keeping other photosynthetic organisms inside them. For example, red algae are the common ancestors to the chloroplasts contained in the division, Heterokontophyta (e.g. large kelps common to Atlantic and Pacific coasts). This was a pivotal event in the evolution of photosynthetic life. Despite the obvious importance of this group, very little is known about what are considered “Bangiophyte” species. Even more fascinating is that even though the fossil, Bangiomorpha, exhibits the first example of sexual reproduction in the fossil record (1.2 billion years ago), many of these groups do not appear to undergo sexual reproduction or have lost the ability entirely.
Dr. Müller's research focuses on speciation, taxonomy and evolution of sexuality within this enigmatic group and uses molecular techniques to discern if sexual reproduction is or is not occurring within populations. This research will provide a foundation for current genome sequencing projects within the red algae. In addition, she is also interested in the impact and genetics of nuisance algae (e.g. Cladophora and Chara in Laurentian Great Lakes), invasive species (e.g. Bangia atropupurea in the Great Lakes) and their biogeography within problem areas. Dr. Müller is also studying Cyanobacteria that release toxins and taste and odour compounds in drinking water (Lake Ontario) from a molecular viewpoint in order to determine if particular genotypes present in the water body are contributing to water fouling events.
Professor Müller teaches both undergraduate and graduate courses. Course offerings have included
- BIOL 165 Diversity of Life
- BIOL 250 Organismal Evolutional Ecology
- BIOL 330 Molecular Biology
- BIOL 359 Evolution
- BIOL 365 Resources in Bioinformatics
- BIOL 366 Introduction to Bioinformatics
- BIOL 435L Molecular Biology Techniques
- BIOL 426 Phycology/Applied Phycology
- BIOL 450 Marine Biology
- BIOL 610 Biosystematics and Evolution
- BIOL 612 Phylogenetic Reconstruction & Analysis
- Field Course 2 (Jamaica)
- Rainforest & Reef: Field Course in Costa Rica
Recent publications include
- Ruffell, S. E., Frank, R.A., Woodworth, A.P., Bragg, L. M., Bauer, A. E., Deeth, L.E., Müller, K.M., Farwell, A. J., Dixon, D. G., Servos, M. R. & McConkey, B.J. Assessing the influence of algal species indigenous to oil sands process-affected waters on mixtures of oil sands acid extractable organic. Accepted by Ecotoxicology and Environmental Safety, May 2016.
- Ruffell, S.E., Muller, K.M., McConkey, BJ. 2015. Comparative assessment of microalgal fatty acids as topical antibiotics. Journal of Applied Phycology. pp 1-10
- Baxter, L., Brain, R., Hosmer, A., Nema, M., Müller, K. M., Solomon, K. 2015. Exposure of yellow-spotted salamander (Ambystoma maculatum) egg masses to a PSII inhibitor during embryonic development. Environmental Pollution. 206: 324-331.
- Laughinghouse, H. D. Müller, K. M., Adey, W. H., Lara, Y. Young, R. & Johnson, G. 2015. Evolution of the northern rockweed Fucus distichus in a regime of glacial cycling: implications for benthic algal phylogenetics. PLoS ONE 10(12): e0143795. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0143795. Müller & Laughinghouse are co-first authors.
- Shea, T.B., Sheath, R.G., Chhun, A., Vis, M.L., Chiasson, W.B. & Müller, K.M. 2014. Distribution, seasonality and putative origin of the non-native red alga Bangia atropurpurea (Bangiales, Rhodophyta) in the Laurentian Great Lakes. Journal of Great Lakes Research. 40: 27-34.
Awards and Distinctions
- Recipient of a Outstanding Performance Award, University of Waterloo (2016)
- Recipient of theExcellence in Science Teaching Award (ESTA), Faculty of Science, University of Waterloo (2016)
- Received the Luigi Provasoli Award in recognition for authoring an outstanding paper published in the Journal of Phycology, Phycological Society of America (2011)
- Recipient of the 1st Dr. Jack Carslon Memorial Departmental Teaching Award, Department of Biology University of Waterloo (2005)
- Recipient of Early Researcher Award (ERA), Government of Ontario (2005)
Professional Associations and Service
- Journal of Phycology, Associate Editor
- Communications Director for the Phycological Society of America, Elected Director
- Science Undergraduate First Year Courses Committee
- Canadian Phycological Culture Collection, Director
The following news stories have featured Professor Müller's research:
August 12, 2016 - Waterloo biologist explains the science behind Rio's green pools
1999 PhD Botany, University of Guelph
1995 BSc Biology, Memorial University of Newfoundland