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Elon University

Michael B. Kingston
         Associate Professor
       Biology Department and Environmental Studies Program  
       Campus Box 2625, Elon University, Elon, NC 27244-2010
       Office: McMichael Science Center 124E  
       Phone:  336-278-6182 
       E-mail:  kingston@elon.edu

                                         Professional Biography Publications
Wave Effects on the Vertical Migration of Two Benthic Microalgae
 Hantzschia virgata var. intermedia
 and Euglena proxima
Effect of Light on Vertical Migration and Photosynthesis of Euglena
proxima (Euglenophyta)
Effect of Subsurface Nutrient Supplies on the Vertical Migration of
 Euglena proxima (Euglenophyta)
                                        Courses Taught Professional Affiliations
Phycological Society of America
North Carolina Academy of Science
Elon University Biology Department
Elon University Environmental Studies Program
                                        Research Interests
      Intertidal Ecology
    Tropical Ecology
                                            Vertical Migration of Benthic Microalgae
Curriculum Vitae
                                       Sponsored Undergraduate Research Euglena movie


Professional Biography

     Dr. Mike Kingston came to Elon University in 1991 after completing his Ph.D. degree at Duke University.  He also holds a B.S. degree in Marine Science with a concentration in Biology from Long Island University, Southampton College campus and an M.S. degree in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology from the University of California, Irvine.  In addition to his position as an Associate Professor of Biology, he serves as the Curator of the Elon University Roger Barbour Collection of wildlife images and he served as the Biology Department Chair from 2002-2006.  He teaches a variety of courses for the Biology Department and the Environmental Studies Program on the following topics:  population biology, aquatic biology, ecology, biostatistics, and environmental issues of Southeast Asia.  He has taught study abroad field courses in Jamaica and Belize and has also taught Marine Ecology and Marine Invertebrate Zoology as an adjunct summer faculty member at the Duke University Marine Laboratory.  Over the last 20 years, his research interests have centered on the evolutionary ecology of benthic marine and freshwater microalgae with a focus on the genus Euglena.  He has conducted field research in California, Oregon, and Alaska as well as North Carolina.  Undergraduate students have served as co-investigators and coauthors on some of these projects.  He has also mentored undergraduate research projects in areas outside his professional research area including studies of feeding behavior in fiddler crabs, visual perception of freshwater fishes, community metabolism of small ponds, vertical migration of pond phytoplankton, hurricane effects on a North Carolina forest, historical human survivorship trends, fish herbivory on tropical seagrasses, coral reef diseases, freshwater invertebrate development, and  grouper recruitment in the Caribbean.  His on-going professional associations include the Phycological Society of America and the North Carolina Academy of Science (NCAS).  He is currently serving as a member of the NCAS Board of Directors and the Editorial Board for the NCAS Journal.

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                                                                Courses Taught

              • Basic Concepts in Biology (Bio 101)
              • Current Topics in Biology (Bio 105)
              • Introduction to Population Biology (Bio 112)
              • Biodiversity (Bio 121)
              • Field Biology in Jamaica (Bio 335)
              • Field Biology in Belize (Bio 335)
              • Biostatistics and Experimental Design (Bio 376)
              • Aquatic Biology (Bio 442)
              • Ecology (Bio 350)
              • Senior Seminar (Bio 462)
              • Introductory Seminar (Bio 261)
              • Environmental Issues of Southeast Asia (Ens 310/GST 399)
              • Marine Ecology (summer course at Duke University Marine Lab)
              • Marine Invertebrate Zoology (summer course at Duke University Marine Lab)

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Intertidal Ecology

     Many of the theoretical aspects of community ecology were developed by biologists who studied the populations of organisms that inhabit intertidal areas.  On rocky shores, the low intertidal community forms a dense assemblage of interacting predators, prey, and competitors whose abundance is controlled by both physical and biological factors.  Easy access and the existence of easily recognized intertidal zones dominated by a few species faciltitated the study of population-level processes that produce community structure.
     Over the course of my professional career, my intertidal research has focused on the life history strategies that permit seaweeds and microscopic algal species to inhabit this stressful habitat.  Although my continuing research interests focus on species of vertically migrating microalgae, particular within the genus Euglena, that form large visible patches on sandy beaches during low tides, my past research includes investigations into the ecological and physiological factors that affect the zonation of seaweeds in rocky intertidal areas 

Green Patch
   Euglena patch on California Beach

Kingston on Oregon Coast
West Coast Rocky Intertidal Seaweeds

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Tropical Ecology

Tropical coral reef ecosystems are areas of high biological diversity.  The health of these ecosystems is threatened worldwide by global climate change, pollution, overfishing, disease, and the impact of ecotourism.  I have supervised several undergraduate research projects examining damselfish territoriality. Currently, I am supervising a student who is completing her senior honors thesis project on her research examining grouper population structure and distribution along Long Cay and South Caicos in the Turks and Caicos Islands.  
Tropical seagrass meadows are areas of high productivity but low diversity when compared to coral reefs.  These meadows which serve as nurseries to fishes and invertebates help to stabilize the sandy sediments of coral reef lagoons.  In Belize, these meadows are dominated by two species:  turtle grass and manatee grass.  For several year, students enrolled in my Field Biology in Belize course examined the preferences of nocturnal herbivorous fish for these two seagrass species.
Coral animals  form the physical structure of tropical coral reef systems;  however, a unique partnership between corals (animals) and microscopic algae algae (protists found within the cells of the coral) is responsible for the production of large coral reefs.  The microalgae living within the cells of the coral's polyps are called zooxanthellae and they give the corals their characteristic colors--green, red, blue, purple, brown, orange, etc.  This symbiotic relationship is termed a "mutualism" because both partners benefit; the algae are supplied with nutrients to support photosynthesis and the coral receives sugars excreted by the algal cells.  The metabolic activity of the zooxanthellae also facilitates the formation of calcium carbonate to form the coral skeleton.  Occasionally, coral reefs are struck by  bleaching events which cause the zooxanthellae to leave their coral hosts.  Bleaching events are caused by environmental stresses like high water temperature or increased UV penetration in the water column.  A bleaching event  may or may not kill the coral.  Some species are resistant to bleaching and others show a remarkable ability to reacquire their zooxanthellae and recover.  I shot this photo in the Gulf of Thailand during a major bleaching event in 1998--it shows a bleached finger coral surrounded by apparently healthy neighbors. 

Tropical rainforests around the world are quickly disappearing as the result of overharvesting, conversion to agricultural land, and development.  These ecosystems harbor a wealth of biological diversity and play a crucial role in global climate balance.  I have been able to examine these ecosystems up close in Jamaica, Belize and Thailand.  The photo on the left was taken at the La Milpa Research Staion within the Rio Brazo Conservation Area in northeastern Belize.  
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Vertical Migration of Benthic Microalgae 

  My research focuses on the evolutionary and ecological significance of vertical migration of microalgae that inhabit the sandy bottoms of marine, estuarine, and freshwater habitats.  Even though these organisms are microscopic, their large numbers make them visible to the naked eye as they form green or golden brown patches on the surface of the sand.  On the banks of North Carolina streams, Euglena viridis, forms patches from a few square centimeters in size up to a few square meters in size but the same species can form patches that exceed 200 square meters on the open beaches of southern California. In North Carolina, this species exhibits a diurnal pattern of vertical migration with the cells on the surface during the day and up to 5 cm deep at night.  In California, it exhibits a tidal migration pattern with cells on the beach surface only during daytime low tide and more than 15 cm below the surface during daytime high tides and at night. NC Stream
North Carolina Stream Bank
California Beach
The microscopic algae in the photomicrograph at left belong to a group of protists known as diatoms. This species, Hantzschia virgata, lives on intertidal sand and mud flats up and down the eastern seaboard of the United States.  They display a tidal rhythm in vertical migration; at low tide they form golden brown patches on the surface of intertidal sandflats and at high tide they are found up to 2 cm below the sediment surface.  The biological clock that controls this rhythm is so accurate that the cells continue to migrate on time even after 10 days in the laboratory away from tidal changes.  Although I had not studied this species since completing my dissertation work on the North Carolina coast, it represents the most dominant species in my recent field samples from Sunset Bay, Oregon in April 2008.

Hantzschia virgata diatoms

Sunset Bay
Sunset Bay, Oregon
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   Photobiology is an interdisciplinary subject that requires the integration of knowledge from the fields of  biology, chemistry and physics.  It involves the study of how biological organisms are affected by and use the electromagnetic spectrum of energy.  My particular area of interest focuses on the visible portion of the electromagnetic spectrum in phototaxis and photosynthesis of microalgae.  My masters work included a study of the photosynthetic physiology of the red seaweed Mastocarpus papillata.  I also have supervised an undergraduate research project examining the photosensitivity of freshwater fishes to different wavelengths of visible light.  
My dissertation work included a study of the phototactic behavior of Euglena proxima under different nutritional regimes.  Under normal conditions, many species of Euglena are spindle (micrograph to the right) or tear-drop shaped, motile, and capable of orienting themselves in a light gradient.  They are particularly sensitive to wavelengths in the blue region of the spectrum.  In addition to phototactic orientation (moving toward or away from a light source), Euglena also show photokinetic responses (accelerating or decelerating in response to a light gradient) and photophobic responses (altering direction or rate of movement when subjected to a sudden change in light level.
When subjected to high irradiance levels or low nitrogen levels, some species of Euglena lose their phototactic ability, become non-motile, and adopt a spherical morphology as illustrated by the photomicrograph to the right.  

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Spawning aggregations, nursery enhancement, and ontogenetic movements of Nassau grouper, Epinephelus striatus, in the waters around South Caicos.

Chelsea Wagner


Comparative Study of Seasonality in the Cladoceran Populations of Two Lakes, Alamance County, NC

Aubrey Wilson


Vertical Migration of Euglena spp. on Nye Beach, Oregon

Jennifer Gough


Effect of Slope Aspect and Angle on Treefall Events in a Hurricane

Vanessa Kitchen


Using Internet Data Bases to Examine the Effects of Population Density and Income on Worldwide Infant Mortality

Rebecca Zimmer


Alternate Reproductive Strategies and Egg Survivorship in a Marine Midshipman Fish, Porichthys notatus

Stacey Havard


Coral Disease Abudance and Species-Susceptibility near Lee Stockard Island, Bahamas

Joshua Voss


Vertical Migration of Euglena viridis on Scripps Beach, California

Aaron Baugh


Using Large Demographic Data Bases to Examine Seasonal Variations in Human Natality and Mortality

Brian Osbourne


Fish Herbivory on Tropical Seagrasses

Amy York, Nancy Cooper, and Randy Contento


Use of Plot Analysis in Assessing Species-specific and Age-Specific Effects of Hurricane Damage

Bradley Metz


Water Quality Survey of New Hope Creek, Orange County, NC

Vanessa Gallo


Effects of Dredging on Lake Mary Nell, Elon, NC

Jeffrey Swain


Effect of Hurricane Fran on Cedarock Park, Alamance County, NC

Lee Bigger, Erin Mirrett, and Sarah Nardotti


Comparative Study of the Chemistry of Piedmont Lakes

Gregory McCune


Effect of Environmental and Personality Factors on Survival and Quality of Life of Patients with Terminally Ill Prognoses

Cynthia Stanger


Photosensitivity of Freshwater Fishes

Glenn Hovermale


Acid rain effects on the growth of stoneworts in the laboratory

Glenn Hovermale


Social facilitation in the feeding of sand fiddler crabs, Uca pugilator

Robert Horst


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This Web site was last updated on 29 July 2008.