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Elizabeth Borda

Chair of Undergraduate Research
Department of Marine Biology

Phone: +1 (409) 740.4542
Fax: +1 (409) 740.5001

Jack K. Williams Library, Office 108G


Get To Know Elizabeth Borda

What in your life drew you to your current field of study?

Growing up in New York City, I had always wanted to be a nurse due to my desire to help people but also because I had a love for biology, on the human side. However, during my Sophomore-year as a pre-Nursing student at Stony Brook University, I enrolled in an anthropology course to fulfill one of my electives, Primate Conservation. The professor, Dr. Patricia Wright, a world renowned primatology shared her story and passion for conservation, her research on the lemurs of Madagascar, as well as her work in establishing a National Park as a premiere research site for scientists from around the world and for ecotourism in collaboration with the local people of Ranomafana. Dr. Wright offered a study abroad course in Madagascar for the following Fall semester, so I unwittingly applied, not knowing what I was getting myself into, and was accepted! So this city girl packed her bags and spent a semester living in a tent in the middle of a rainforest, getting up each morning to chase after troops of the Milne Edwards sifaka lemur, running away from the rainforest’s bloodsucking terrestrial leeches and getting hooked on field biology. Needless to say, I changed my major and graduated with a B.S. in Biology.

A couple of years after college I interviewed for a Scientific Assistant position in the Division of Invertebrate Zoology of the American Museum of Natural History in New York City. I was amused that I would be reported Dr. Mark Siddall, the curator of Annelida and an expert in leeches, as I shared my horror stories of my run-in with leeches years earlier in Madagascar. Working for Dr. Siddall offered me insights into the world of research in the realm of genetics, evolution and phylogenetic systematics. During the two years that I worked as his assistant, we conducted fieldwork in Chile, South Africa, Ontario, Canada, Seychelles Islands, and I returned to Madagascar to collect leeches from around the world, and learned laboratory techniques from DNA extraction, PCR, sequencing, conducting phylogenetic analyses, microscopy and describing species new to science. In 2002, he offered me the funded opportunity to go to graduate school to unravel the biogeography and systematics of bloodfeeding terrestrial leeches of the IndoPacific, the very same leeches that gave me nightmares years earlier.

After receiving my PhD, I was awarded a Minority Postdoctoral Research Fellowship in Biology by the National Science Foundation to work on the evolution and systematics of Amphinomida, a group of marine polychaetes that includes the maligned fireworms, common in coral reef systems. As a non-marine biology, this research opened my eyes to the diversity of ocean habitats and the incredible diversity of species in the marine realm. Amphinomids are a diverse group that can be found in intertidal zones, coral and rocky reefs, living commensally with other invertebrates, as well as in deep sea chemosynthetic environments including wood fall, hydrothermal vents and cold seeps from around the world.

What do you hope your students gain from studying or working with you?

TAMUG has provided me with a wealth of opportunities for both personal and professional growth and advancement. As an evolutionary biologist, I am honored to share my passion on this subject through the research training of undergraduate students. My research focuses on the use of genetic tools to investigate the evolution and diversity of marine worms from coral and rocky reef, anchialine cave hydrothermal vent, cold seep and wood fall habits from around the globe. I have since expanded my research to include crustacean species from the Gulf of California and anchialine caves. My research interests have provided a rich platform to train several Marine Biology majors in molecular lab techniques and genetic analyses on a diversity of marine species. My most recent endeavors at TAMUG focus on establishing research programs to enhance high impact learning experiences for our undergraduates through fostering research excellence and scholarship opportunities to work with our dynamic research faculty.

What are you passionate about in your personal life?

During my free time I love to cook foods from international cuisines, eat, and spend time with my loved ones. I enjoy the outdoors, so camping, hiking and diving are on the top of my list of things to do.

Ph.D. Biology/Ecology, Evolutionary Biology and Behavior, City University of New York Graduate School & University Center, 2007
B.S. Biology, Stony Brook University, 1998
Courses Taught
2017. Gonzalez BC,Martinez A, Borda E, Iliffe TM, Fontanel D and Worse K. Phylogeny and systematics of the Aphroditiformia based on total evidence. Cladistics. DOI: 10.1111/cla.12202

2017. Gonzalez BC, Martinez A, Borda E, Iliffe TM, Fontaneto D and Worsaae K. Genetic spatial structure of an anchialine annelid indicates the presence of a crevicular spelean corridor within - but not between - islands of the Great Bahama Bank. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution. DOI: 10.1016/j.ympev.2017.01.003

2016. Tessler M, Barrio A, Borda E, Rood-Goldman R, Hill M and Siddall ME. Description of an extant soft-bodied invertebrate with microcomputed tomography and phylogenetic revision of duognathous terrestrial leeches (Haemadipsidae: Chtonobdella). Zoological Scripta. DOI: 10.1111/zsc.12165

2015. Borda E, Yáñez-Rivera B, Ochoa GM, Kudenov JD, Sanchez-Ortiz C, Schulze A and Rouse G. Revamping Amphinomidae (Annelida: Amphinomida), with the inclusion of Notopygos. DOI: 10.1111/zsc.12099

2014. Kot BW, Sears R, Zbinden D, Borda E and Gordon MS. Rorqual whale (Balaenopteridae) surface lunge-feeding behaviors: standardized classification, repertoire diversity and evolutionary analysis. Marine Mammal Science. DOI: 10.1111/mms.12115

2013. Borda E, Kudenov JD, Blake JA, Chevaldonné P, Desbruyères D, Hourdez S, Fabri M-C, Pleijel F, Schulze A, Shank T, Wilson NG and Rouse GW. Cryptic species of Archinome (Annelida: Amphinomida) from vents and seeps. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London B: Biological Sciences. DOI: 10.1098/rspb.2013.1876

2013. Ahrens J, Borda E, Barroso R, Campbell AM†, Wolf A, Nugues M, Paiva P, Rouse GW and Schulze A. The curious case of Hermodice carunculata (Annelida: Amphinomidae): evidence for genetic homogeneity throughout the Atlantic Ocean and associated basins. Molecular Ecology. DOI: 10.1111/mec.12263

2012. Borda E, Kudenov JD, Beinhold C and Rouse GW. Towards a revised Amphinomidae (Annelida, Amphinomida): description and affinities of a new genus and species from the Nile Deep-sea Fan, Mediterranean Sea. Zoologica Scripta. DOI: 10.1111/j.1463-6409.2012.00529.x

2011. Borda E and Siddall ME. Insights into the evolutionary history of Indo-Pacific bloodfeeding terrestrial leeches (Hirudinida: Arhynchobdellida: Haemadipsidae). Invertebrate Systematics. DOI10.1071/IS10013

2008. Borda E, Oceguera-Figueroa A and Siddall ME. On the classification, evolution and biogeography of terrestrial haemadipsoid leeches (Hirudinida: Arhynchobdellida: Hirudiniformes). Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution. DOI: 10.1016/j.ympev.2007.09.006
Grants and Fellowships
2016-Present: National Science Foundation. Research Experiences for Undergraduates – Ocean and Coastal Research Experiences for Undergraduates (OCEANUS). [PI: Patrick Louchouarn]. $390,259 

2016-Present: Aggies Commit to Excellence Scholarship (ACES). Texas A&M University Galveston Campus – Office of Academic Affairs, Texas A&M Galveston [$30,000 per academic year]. $90,000 

2015-Present: Texas A&M University System Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation (TAMUS LSAMP) – College Partner funding for Galveston Campus [~$26,000 per academic year]. $84,000 

2016-2017: Student Incentive Payment Program Marketing Strategy. Department of Transportation – Maritime Administration. [PI: Victor Viser]. $72,000

2010-2011: Encyclopedia of Life Rubenstein Fellowship – EOL Annelida: Fireworms (Amphinomida) of the World, with species from the Deep Sea to the Sea of Cortez. Encyclopedia of Life. $18,190 

2010-2011: University of California Institute for Mexico and the United States (UCMEXUS).  Towards a molecular baseline for marine invertebrates of the Gulf of California: an assessment of biodiversity, evolution and conservation. [PI: Greg Rouse]. $15,000

2007-2010: National Science Foundation. Minority Postdoctoral Research Fellowship – Systematics and mitochondrial genome evolution of Amphinomida (DBI–0706856). $189,000
Awards & Recognition
2014: Office of Academic Enhancement Faculty Fellow. Texas A&M Galveston. $5,000

2012: SICB Broadening Participation Travel Award. Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology. $480

2009: Ernst Mayr Travel Grant – Photo-documentation and databasing of museum types of fireworms (Annelida: Amphinomida). Harvard University. $1,000

2009: Training Award for New Investigators (TAWNI) – Deep-sea fireworms: morphological evaluation of the cosmopolitan Archinome, with descriptions and new records of amphinomids from cold seeps. Census of Marine Life. $5,000

2008: Mini-PEET Award – Taxonomic Training in Amphinomida. Society of Systematic Biologists. $2,050

2007: The Marie Stopes Student Travel Grant. The Willi Hennig Society. $500

2006: City University of New York Mario Capelloni Dissertation Fellowship. $20,000

2002-2005: City University of New York NSF–Alliance for Graduate Education and the Professoriate Award. $20,000

2002-2004: City University of New York Science Alliance Fellowship. $18,000
Professional Appointments

2017-Present: Chair of Undergraduate Research, Texas A&M University at Galveston 

2015-Present: Lecturer, Department of Marine Biology, Texas A&M University at Galveston 

2008-Present: Research Associate, Division of Invertebrate Zoology, American Museum of Natural History

2011-2015: Postdoctoral Research Associate, Department of Marine Biology, Texas A&M University at Galveston 

2007-2010: National Science Foundation Minority Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Marine Biology Research Division, Scripps Institution of Oceanography & Department of Biological Sciences, Auburn University2002 - 2007. NSF Partnerships for Enhancing Expertise in Taxonomy Graduate Student Division of Invertebrate Zoology, American Museum of Natural History 

2000-2002: Scientific Assistant, Division of Invertebrate Zoology, American Museum of Natural History