Cynthia Kicklighter

Associate ProfessorBiology

Cynthia Kicklighter is an Associate Professor of Biology at Goucher College in Baltimore, Maryland. She completed her doctorate, with a specialization in predator-prey interactions in marine invertebrates, in 2003. Prior to her arrival at Goucher in 2006, she was a postdoctoral associate, investigating chemical defenses utilized by prey species, with a  focus on how these defenses impact their predators. At Goucher College, Dr. Kicklighter’s research focuses on the invasive marsh grass, Phragmites australis, and its defenses against herbivores in the Chesapeake Bay. She also teaches several courses in the biology and environmental studies programs that include introductory biology, ecology, evolution, and marine ecology.

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Research, Scholarship, Creative Work in Progress

My main research interests focus on predator-prey interactions and, specifically, the strategies that prey species use to avoid or deter predators from eating or attacking them. Of primary interest is the use of chemical deterrents by prey species, including invasive species. Much of my research focuses on the invasive marsh grass Phragmites australis and its chemical defenses against herbviores and fungal pathogens. Overall, my research involves a combination of field and laboratory work and combines techniques from a variety of disciplines, including organic chemistry, molecular biology, microbiology, and animal behavior. Most recently, I have become interested in plastic pollution (primarily plastic microfibers) in aquatic environments and tap water sources, including the prevalence of these microfibers and impacts on small grazers.

Publications

(*denotes student author)

Kicklighter, C.E. *Duca, S., Jozwick, A.S., *Locke, H., *Hundley, C., *Hite, B., and *Hannifin, G. In press. Grazer deterrence and fungal inhibition by the invasive marsh grass Phragmites australis and the native sedge Bolboschoenus robustus in a mesohaline marsh. Chemoecology.

Hay, M.E. and Kicklighter, C.E. 2016. Grazing, Effects of Biodiversity. In: The Encyclopedia of Biodiversity, 2nd Ed. Oxford University Press. Burlington, USA.

Kicklighter, C.E. 2012. Chemical Defenses Against Predators. In: Chemical Ecology in Aquatic Systems. Oxford University Press, Cary, USA.

Hay, M.E. and Kicklighter, C.E. 2012. Grazing, Effects of Biodiversity. In: The Encyclopedia of Biodiversity, 2nd Ed. Oxford University Press. Burlington, USA.

*Hendricks, L.G., *Mossop, H., and Kicklighter, C.E. 2011. Palatability and Chemical Defense of Phragmites australis to the Marsh Periwinkle snail Littoraria irrorata. Journal of Chemical Ecology. 37: 838-845.

Kicklighter, C.E., Kamio, M., Nguyen, L., Germann, M.W., and Derby, C. D. 2011. Mycosporine-like Amino Acids are Multifunctional Molecules in Sea Hares and Their Marine Community. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, USA. 108: 11494-11499.

Kamio, M., Kicklighter, C.E., Nguyen, L., Germann, M.W., and Derby, C.D. 2011. Isolation and structural elucidation of novel mycosporine-like amino acids as alarm cues in the defensive ink secretion of the sea hare Aplysia californica. Helv Chim Acta. 94: 1012-1018.

Kicklighter, C.E., Kamio, M., Germann, M., and Derby, C.D. 2007. Molecular identification of alarm cues in the defensive decretions of the sea hare Aplysia californica. Animal Behaviour. 74: 1481-1492.

Derby, C.D., Kicklighter, C.E., Johnson, P.M., and Zhang, X. 2007. Chemical composition of inks of diverse marine molluscs suggests convergent chemical defenses. Journal of Chemical Ecology. 33: 1105-1113.

Kicklighter, C.E. and Hay, M.E. 2007. To avoid or deter: Interaction among defensive and escape strategies in sabellid worms. Oecologia. 151: 161-173

Kicklighter, C.E. and Derby, C.D. 2006. Multiple components in Aplysia californica ink are aversive to the anemone Anthopleura sola. Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology. 334: 256-268.

Kicklighter, C.E. and Hay. M.E. 2006. Defenses of mobile marine invertebrates are integrated with life-style, mobility, and distribution. Ecological Monographs. 76: 195-215.

Johnson, P.M., Kicklighter, C.E., Schmidt, M., Kamio, M., Yang, H., Elkin, D., Michel, W.,  Tai, P.C., and Derby, C.D. 2006. Packaging of chemicals in the defensive secretory glands of the sea hare Aplysia californica. Journal of Experimental Biology. 209:  78-88.

External Awards, Honors, Grants

National Science Foundation Research Opportunity Award (2015)

Conference Papers & Panel Participation

Kicklighter, C., *Lee, M., and Slocum, B. 2016. Plant-Herbivore Interactions in Native and Invasive Phragmites australis Subspecies. Benthic Ecology Meeting (Portland, Maine).

Kicklighter, C. *Lee, M., and Slocum, B. 2015. Plant-herbivore interactions in Native and Invasive Phragmites australis subspecies. Ecological Society of America (Baltimore, MD)/

Kicklighter, C.E., *Hearl, M.K., and *Locke, H.E. 2012. The effects of nutrients and grazing on the estuarine marsh invader, Phragmites australis. Ecological Society of America (Portland, OR).

Kicklighter, C.E. 2007. Taste bad or hide: Interactions among defensive and escape strategies in sabellid worms. International Polychaete Conference (Portland, ME).

Invited Talks

Anita C. Leight Estuary Center. 2014. Phragmites australis a toxic intruder

Smithsonian Environmental Research Center. 2012. Palatability and defense of Chesapeake Bay marsh plants

Georgia Institute of Technology REU program. 2009. A career in science in three acts

Academic or Professional Associations

Ecological Society of America

Other Professional or Scholarly Activity

Volunteer with the National Aquarium in Baltimore

Serve as an ad-hoc reviewer for several research journals

Poster presentations (undergraduate research students indicated with an asterisk):

The Goucher Symposium, 2018 *Kieffer, R. and Kicklighter, C. Plastic microfibers in tap water.

Landmark Summer Research Symposium, 2017 (Susquehanna University) *Hundley, C. and Kicklighter, C. Investigation of the anti-fungal and anti-herbivory chemical defenses of the native marsh plant Schoenoplectus robustus.

Landmark Summer Research Symposium, 2017 (Susquehanna University) *Hannifin, G. and Kicklighter, C. Anti-fungal defense in the invasive marsh grass, Phragmites australis and assessment of fungal diversity within a fungal-farming snail, Littoraria irrorata, in relation to plant biodiversity.

Benthic Ecology Meeting (Myrtle Beach, South Carolina) 2017 *Duca, S. and Kicklighter, C. Characterization of the chemical defense system in the marsh grass, Schoenoplectus americanus, using a bioassay-guided fractionation approach.

Landmark Summer Research Symposium, 2016 (Moravian College) *Duca, S., *Greene, E., and Kicklighter, C. 2016. Environmental factors affecting the palatability of an invasive marsh grass, Phragmites australis subspecies australis.

Landmark Summer Research Symposium, 2016 (Moravian College) 2016 *Hite, B., *Greene, E., and Kicklighter, C. The chemical defense of Phragmites australis subspecies australis against the periwinkle snail Littoraria irrorata and other small herbivores.

Landmark Summer Research Conference, 2014 (Juniata College) *Lee, M. Slocum, B., and Kicklighter, C. 2014. Plant-Herbivore Interactions in Native and Invasive Phragmites australis Subspecies.

Landmark Summer Research Conference, 2014 (Juniata College) *Truitt, L. and Kicklighter, C. 2014. An Investigation of the Chemical Defense Utilized by the Invasive Marsh Grass
Phragmites australis subspecies australis Against a Snail Herbivore.

Landmark Summer Research Conference, 2013 (Susquehanna University) *Truitt, L. and Kicklighter, C. 2013. An Investigation of Herbivory on the Invasive Grass Phragmites australis subspecies australis.

Benthic Ecology Meeting, 2013 (Savannah, GA). *Locke, H.E. and Kicklighter, C.E. 2013. Efforts toward the Elucidation of the Chemical Defense of Phragmites australis against Grazing by the Periwinkle Snail Littoraria irrorata.

Landmark Summer Research Conference, 2012 (Moravian College). Locke, H. and Kicklighter, C. Efforts in the Elucidation of the Chemical Defense of Phragmites australis against Herbivory by the Periwinkle Snail Littoraria irrorata.

Landmark Summer Research Conference, 2012 (Moravian College). Privett, A. and Kicklighter, C.E. Factors affecting periwinkle snail feeding on two natives and one invasive Chesapeake Bay marsh plants.

Landmark Summer Research Conference, 2009 (Susquehanna University). *Hearl, K. and Kicklighter, C.E.. Feeding by the salt marsh periwinkle snail on sympatric marsh grasses. (Student poster)

Benthic Ecology Meeting, 2009 (Corpus Christie, TX).  *Hendricks, L.G. and Kicklighter, C.E. Palatability of the invasive marsh grass Phragmites australis to the snail Littoraria irrorata (Student talk)

Benthic Ecology Meeting, 2008 (Providence, RI). Kicklighter, C.E. Inter- and Intraspecific variation in prey escape and deterrence strategies: An investigation of sabellid and serpulid worms (Talk)

Benthic Ecology Meeting, 2008 (Providence, RI). *Hendricks, L.G. and Kicklighter, C.E. Palatability of the invasive marsh grass Phragmites australis to the snail Littoraria irrorata (Student poster)

Benthic Ecology Meeting, 2007 (Atlanta, GA). Kicklighter, C.E., Kamio, M., Germann, M., and Derby, C.D. Pyrimidines and mycosporine-like amino acids function as alarm cues in the defensive secretions of the sea hare Aplysia californica. (Talk)