People

Graduate Students

Student Research Bio

Jessica Balerna

Program: Ph. D.
Supervisor: Lewis
Tampa campus
jbalerna@usf.edu

jbalerna

My dissertation will examine the relationships between water management and wetland condition utilizing both ecologic and ethnographic data. 

I will ask questions about the impacts of land-use and groundwater extraction on wetlands’ hydroperiod, groundwater quality, and soil properties as well as about how residents and managers perceive and react to wetland ecohydrological change.

Kourtney Barber

Program: M.S.
Supervisor: Bell
Tampa campus
ksbarber@usf.edu

 

 

Olivia Blondheim

Program: Ph. D.
Supervisor: Gemmell
Tampa campus
onblondheim@usf.edu

ob

My research investigates the effects of anthropogenic disturbance and environmental change on the methods of prey capture in gelatinous zooplankton in coastal and pelagic ecosystems. My Ph.D. dissertation investigates the impacts of crude oil on the feeding behaviors of the upside-down jelly (Cassiopea).

Through this project, I aim to better understand how cnidarians may respond to crude oil and ultimately, how changes in feeding behaviors may affect the structure of food webs in affected coastal and pelagic ecosystems. I am also a dedicated science communicator and serves as a member of the EarthEcho International Youth Leadership Council, an organization founded by Philippe Cousteau Jr. that works to inspire young people worldwide to act now for a sustainable future.

 

Christian Brown

Program: Ph. D.
Supervisor: Deban
Tampa campus
cbrown43@usf.edu

cb

I am pursuing a PhD in the IB Department at the University of South Florida. My research interests include the movements of amphibians, especially plethodontid salamanders, ranging from fine-scale biomechanics of locomotion to dispersal at the ecosystem level. 

I'm currently studying the mechanisms by which plethodontid salamanders jump, how different mechanisms influence performance, and the underlying ecomorphological implications. In the past I have monitored the migration of breeding spotted salamanders in Kentucky, conducted population-level fitness analyses on tiger salamanders in the Rockies, and tracked the habitat use and movements of plethodontids in northern California over space and time using PIT-telemetry.

 

Jeanette Calarco

Program: Ph. D.
Supervisor: Harwood
Tampa campus
jcalarco@usf.edu 

jc

I am currently a PhD student in Dr. Harwood’s lab. Before joining the lab as a graduate student, I worked as a lab technician on a CDC-funded project researching critical barriers to antibiotic resistant ESKAPE pathogens in reclaimed water treatment trains.

I have not yet determined what my research project will be, but I would like to stay within the topic of antibiotic resistant pathogens in the environment.

Cassandra Campbell

Program: Ph.D.
Supervisor: Lewis
Tampa campus
cacampbell@usf.edu

ccampbell240

I study how climate change drives shifts in vegetation in wetland communities, and investigate the resulting changes in plant-soil dynamics. My current dissertation research focuses on the recent expansion of mangroves into salt marsh territory on Florida's Gulf Coast. I am exploring the factors driving changes in the spatial arrangement of mangrove forests, and documenting changes in soil properties that occur as a result of mangrove encroachment. Because mangroves are expanding poleward following changes in climate and sea level, I hope that my work will be used to predict changes in wetland ecosystem dynamics on a global scale.

 

Meghan Craft

Program: M.S.
Supervisor: Doody
St. Petersburg campus
meghancraft@usf.edu

meghan craft

I am a second year master's student in the Conservation Biology graduate program. My thesis focuses on gopher tortoises and their ability to compensate for climate change through nest-site choice.

I also conducted research focused on early hatching in snakes in my first year at USF.

James Conrad

Program: Ph.D.
Supervisor: Harwood
Tampa campus
conradj2@usf.edu

jc

Currently I am investigating bacterial DNA methylation. Through the use of single molecule real time sequencing, RT-qPCR, and exposing bacteria to a variety of environmental conditions I hope to elucidate the role of DNA methylation on bacterial stress response and virulence.

Potentially bacteria which lack definitive virulence factors, such as the opportunistic human pathogen V. vulnificus, may use genomic methylation to regulate gene expression and express a virulent phenotype.

Bryan Delius

Program: Ph. D.
Supervisor: Rohr
Tampa campus
bryan.delius@gmail.com

  

Carley DeFilips

Program: M.S.
Supervisor: Lewis
Tampa campus
cdefillips@usf.edu

Carely DeFilips

I previously attended USF as an undergraduate where I graduated with a B.S. in Environmental Biology. I am currently pursuing a M.S. in Biology with Dr. David Lewis.

My research interests include ecosystem ecology and biogeochemical cycling. My master’s thesis will examine the persistence and movement of microplastics through freshwater environments. 

Christopher (Cole) Duckett

Program: M.S.
Supervisor: Bell
Tampa campus
cduckett@usf.edu

  

David Durieux

Program: Ph.D.
Supervisor: Gemmell
Tampa campus
daviddurieux@usf.edu

  

Chandler Eaglestone

Program: M.S.
Supervisor: McCoy
Tampa campus
eaglestone@usf.edu

ce

I came to USF in January 2017 to work with Drs. Earl McCoy and Henry Mushinsky after obtaining a B.S. in Wildlife Conservation from Virginia Tech. My master’s thesis is on movement patterns of the Florida Sand Skink (Plestiodon reynoldsi).

Sarita Emmanuel

Program: Ph. D.
Supervisor: Lewis
Tampa campus
skemmanuel@usf.edu

se

I recently started as a Ph.D. student with the Lewis Lab in the Integrative Biology Department. Prior to this I completed my M.Sc. in Wetland Science and Conservation at Bangor University, North Wales.

I previously worked on the soil biogeochemistry of natural wetlands: peatland and mangrove swamps. I am  originally from Trinidad and Tobago, and I am familiar with the implications of coastal stressors on deteriorating wetland areas of island systems. 

Faith Frings

Program: M.S.
Supervisor: Prevost
Tampa campus
faithfrings@usf.edu

ff

I completed my B.S. degree in Marine Biology at the University of South Florida in May 2020. I am currently pursuing my master’s degree in Ecology and Evolution with the Dr. Prevost Lab.

My research interests are in biology education with an emphasis on evolutionary education. I want to analyze how undergraduate students interpret and construct phylogenetic trees to help minimize misconceptions when students are learning phylogeny.

Javier Gallard

Program: Ph.D.
Supervisor: Harwood
Tampa campus
gallardj@usf.edu

jg

My research in Dr. Harwood’s laboratory will focus on public health-related sediment microbiology, ranging from wastewater indicator organisms to community perceptions and knowledge on water quality.

Specifically, my dissertation is focused on determining the best methods for DNA extraction from sediment, the survivability of pathogens and microbial markers in sediment, and determining the risk associated with sand at a recreational beach.

Matt Gamache

Program: Ph.D.
Supervisor: Parkinson
Tampa campus
mhgamache@usf.edu

matt gamache

I joined the Parkinson lab at USF in 2020 to use molecular tools in order to relate how the genomes of corals and their algal symbionts affect their response to climate change. Some research plans include observing the level to which corals adapt or evolve (or both) to climate-induced thermal stress.

Additionally, I plan to use environmental DNA (eDNA) to observe coral biodiversity patterns with different levels of impact, including hurricane damage. I previously used eDNA to detect the presence of Hippocampus seahorses in Tampa Bay and The Bahamas during my undergraduate career at the University of Tampa, where I earned my B.S. in Marine Science-Biology. Throughout my time at UT and USF, I have always emphasized science communication, and I find great value in teaching.

 

Pablo Garcia

Program: Ph. D.
Supervisor: Deban
Tampa campus
pablogarcia@usf.edu

pg

My research focuses on the cranial biomechanics of lizards, including biting and skull kinesis. I have studied the effects of bite out-lever and gape angle on bite-force performance in the brown anole and plan to expand my studies to include lizards with more pronounced cranial kinesis and complex jaw mechanics.

Christyn Geniesse

Program: M.S.
Supervisor: Lejeunesse
Tampa campus
cgeniesse@usf.educgeniesse

I am currently a master’s student working with Dr. Lajeunesse.

During my time as an undergraduate at USF, I started research on cannibalism in herbivorous insects, which I will continue to study in my thesis.

Colin Goodman

Program: Ph. D.
Supervisor: Deban
Tampa campus
colingoodman@usf.educgoodman

I joined the Department of Integrative Biology in the Fall of 2020, after receiving an M.S. from the University of Florida. At UF, I used the ongoing invasion of the tropical clawed frog to examine how individual differences in dispersal-related traits can be spatially selected during the process of range expansion.

I am interested in intra- and interspecific variation in the morphological and physiological traits related to dispersal. Specifically, I am interested in how trade-offs can constrain or facilitate variation in such traits.

Adriana Gonzalez

Program: Ph.D.
Supervisor: Harwood
Tampa campus
gfa@usf.edu

ag

My research focuses on improving methods for characterizing microbial water quality in tropical and sub-tropical regions, as a means to improve the management of coastal ecosystems.

My dissertation research will be focused on the relationship between microbial pathogens and indicators at a polluted, tropical beach. My research is part of a larger, US National Science Foundation-funded investigation, entitled the MERA Investigation.

Christopher Grissett

Program: Ph.D.
Supervisor: Prevost
Tampa campus
cgrisset@usf.edu

cgrissett 240

I graduated with a B.S. in Biology from St. Petersburg College and an M.S. in Marine Biology from Nova Southeastern University.

I have been an instructor for various institutions for the past 7 years and has conducted research with manatees for his masters and as a freelance contractor. 

In August 2017 I joined the Prevost Lab for Biology Education Research, to pursue a PhD studying how students understand and learn food web dynamics.

Grace Henderson

Program: M.S.
Supervisor: Kramer
Tampa campus
graceh1@usf.edu

 gh

I received her B.S. in Conservation Biology from Central Michigan University. iIam currently pursuing her M.S. in Integrative Biology (EEB) with Dr. Andrew Kramer. 

My research involves applying machine-learning species distribution models to zebra and quagga musssels in the Great Lakes.

Stephen Hesterburg

Program: Ph.D.
Supervisor: Bell
Tampa campus
hesterberg@usf.edu

sh

I focus on topics related to marine community ecology, particularly those associated with coastal and estuarine benthic systems (i.e., oyster reef, mangrove, and seagrass habitats). Much of my research aims to understanding how biological processes interact with the physical structure of these habitats to influence communities.

I also possess an interest for research that extends our temporal understanding of marine systems beyond annual timescales to elucidate the long-term processes that influence coastal ecosystems and the true magnitude of human impact.

Arig Ibrahim Hashim

Program: Ph.D.
Supervisor: Richards
Tampa campus
arigibrahimh@usf.edu

aih

I am a 2nd year PhD student co-advised by Associate professor Richards & Professor Joel Brown (UIC & Moffitt, Adjunct in USF IB). My main research interests lie in the field of cancer evolution, and epigenetics.


My ongoing project studies the tumor-host evolutionary arms race. My work will use in vivo mouse models and genomics approaches in artificial selection experiments. In addition to pursuing my PhD, I work as a researcher at Moffitt Cancer Center and I hope to use my PhD project to better understand cancer and develop treatments.

Taylor Kelsay

Program: M.S.
Supervisor: Deban
Tampa campus
tkelsay@usf.edu

 

  

Alexander Kirk

Program: Ph.D.
Supervisor: Carney
Tampa campus
akirk@usf.edu

ak

I am pursuing a PhD in Integrative Biology (Physiology and Morphology) at the University of South Florida - Tampa. My current research focuses on using digital techniques to build a scientifically accurate 3D reconstruction of Archaeopteryx using a combination of photogrammetry and X-ray data. This digital model will be used to improve our anatomical understanding of this iconic specimen through 3D geometric morphometrics and functional morphology of joint surfaces.

Meredith Krause

Program: Ph.D.
Supervisor: Lejeunesse
Tampa campus
meredithk@usf.edu

mk

Over the past couple of years, my focus and interests within my education have drastically changed. I have, however, always had an interest in infectious diseases. After conducting research in the Master’s program here at USF, I am now furthering my education by completing a PhD. My hope is to work with U.S. Fish and Wildlife or a similar organization in conservation efforts through disease ecology research.

I am currently close to completing a meta-analysis of the Red Queen Hypothesis (RQH). Thus far, this meta-analysis has shown that the combined 69 studies show evidence for the RQH. Due to the wide variety of asexual strategies, there appears to be differences in results of RQH experiments. This variation in results has prompted me to further investigate these different forms of asexual reproduction and how they affect Red Queen dynamics in addition to providing much needed insight into the function and evolution of lesser studied asexual strategies.

In order to further understanding of this area, I plan to model Red Queen dynamics in which hosts undergoing different types of asexual reproduction will compete with one another in the face of parasite infection. I hope that, through my research on RQH and asexual reproduction, I am able to further the scientific understanding of host-parasite interactions.

Aldo Lobos

Program: M.S.
Supervisor: Harwood
Tampa campus
aldo2@usf.edu

 

Kema Malki

Program: Ph.D.
Supervisor: Scott
Tampa campus
Email

  

Noreen Mathews

Program: M.S.
Supervisor: Bell
Tampa campus
Email: noreenmathew@usf.edu

nm

I received my B.S. in Marine Biology from the University of South Florida and I am now pursuing an M.S. to further study coastal and estuarine ecology. I am originally from Maryland and worked for a bit in freshwater systems with the Maryland Department of Natural Resources after completing my undergraduate degree.

I hope to more closely examine the relationship between mangroves and oysters, and how their dynamics affect their surrounding community. I intend for my research to help provide better resources for future conservation management endeavors.

Lindsey Mixer

Program: M.S.
Supervisor: Kramer
Tampa campus
lindseymixer@usf.edu

lm

I am from Berkeley, California and completed her undergraduate degree in biology at Loyola University New Orleans. I joined Dr. Kramer’s quantitative ecology lab in June 2018 as the lab technician/manager. I began my Masters in August 2019 in the Kramer lab where my project examines seasonal dynamics of native and invasive species within freshwater zooplankton communities.

Research wise, I am interested in population ecology and dynamics, aquatic ecology, invertebrates, and coding for data analysis. In her free time, Lindsey loves to practice languages (she speaks Spanish and Portuguese and is working on a fourth) and explore nature.

Jeannie Mounger

Program: Ph.D.
Supervisor: Richards
Tampa campus
jmounger@usf.edu

jm

My research explores epigenetic and genetic diversity in coastal plant species as they respond to natural and human altered environmental challenges. Presently, I am investigating genetic and epigenetic diversity in natural and experimental populations of Spartina alterniflora (saltmarsh cordgrass) found on the Atlantic Coast of the US across narrow environmental gradients. My goal is to examine how different strains of this critical salt marsh plant react to stressful environmental variation, and how response to stress may be facilitated by interactions with stress tolerant fungal endophytes. Additionally, I am comparing these populations to an invasive population of S. alterniflora found along the Atlantic Coast of Northern France in order to assess the genetic and epigenetic mechanisms that may contribute to the success of this species in novel environments. I am also working with Tampa Bay populations of Rhizophora mangle (red mangroves) and their offspring to assess population genetics and epigenetic inheritance.

Eva Muir

Program: Ph. D.
Supervisor: Kramer
Tampa campus
evamuir@usf.edu

em

I am interested in the population ecology of small and threatened populations. In particular, I am fascinated by populations which exhibit positive population density, and the evolutionary biology of these organisms.

My research involves using theoretical modelling and experimental approaches to investigate the evolutionary interactions between mate finding traits and predator avoidance in low density populations of sexually reproducing organisms.

Fargam Neinavaie

Program: Ph. D.
Supervisor: Kramer
Tampa campus
fargam@usf.edu

  

Dana Nieuwkerk

Program: Ph.D.
Supervisor: Harwood
Tampa campus
dnieuwke@usf.edu

  

Elizabeth (Betsy) Potter

Program: M.S.
Supervisor: Gemmell
Tampa campus
potter7@usf.edu

bp

I am a University of Georgia grad pursuing my MS in Marine Ecology. I study the behavior of pelagic gelatinous ctenophores using in situ high speed videography.

Jennifer Sabater

Program: M.S.
Supervisor: Harwood
Tampa campus
jsabater@usf.edu

  

Elizabeth Salewski

Program: Ph.D.
Supervisor: Bell
Tampa campus
salewski@usf.edu

  

Sarah Schmid

Program: M.S.
Supervisor: Scott
Tampa campus
sschmid@usf.edu

ss

My research focuses on a novel inorganic carbon transporter found in bacteria from unique environments such as hydrothermal vents, hot springs or acid mine drainage.

My goal is to biochemically characterize this transporter to confirm its function and the mechanisms of transport. The goal is to one day be able to apply these mechanisms to bioengineering organisms to be used in carbon neutral industrial processes.

Sheila Scolaro

Program: M.S 
Supervisor: Riedinger-Whitmore
St. Petersburg campus
sscolaro@usf.edu 

 sscolaro

I graduated with a B.S in Plant Science from the University of Florida and I am currently a graduate student in the Conservation Biology program.  

Prior to pursuing a graduate degree, I was part of a team who researched seagrass ecology and water quality throughout the Florida Gulf Coast. Presently, my research is centered around seagrass reproductive ecology and phylogeny.

Specifically, I investigate sexual reproductive effort and life history dynamics of the seagrass Thalassia testudinum to understand overall seagrass habitat health in Tampa Bay, Florida. 

Victoria Scriven

Program: M.S 
Supervisor: Gemmell
Tampa campus
vscriven@usf.edu

 sscolaro

I received my Bachelors of Science in Oceanography from Texas A&M University and am now pursuing a Masters in Biology with a focus on Ecology and Evolution. I joined Dr. Gemmells Lab in the Fall of 2020 and am a Teaching assignment for the Integrative Biology Department. In the past I have worked with Toxic diatoms in the Gulf of Mexico and tracked their bloom cycles using Imaging Flow Cytometry. I have also been on numerous oceanographic research cruises deploying and recovering the SV3 Wave glider, Slocum Gliders and CTDs.

I am now looking to focus on the interconnectivity of marine organisms and their physical environment. Marine science is inherently interdisciplinary and I hope to use my background to explore the predator/prey relationships of deep sea gelatinous zooplankton using approaches that bridge advanced technology, biology and oceanographic principles.

Nancy Sheridan

Program: Ph.D.
Supervisor: Richards
Tampa campus
nsherida@usf.edu

ns

I am interested in genetic diversity of marine organisms, particularly those organisms collected for the aquarium trade, and how this diversity evolves over time. Currently, I am investigating genome-wide patterns of variation and differentiation in the sea anemone Condylactis gigantea found throughout the tropical western Atlantic Ocean, Caribbean Sea, and Gulf of Mexico.

My goal is to discover how evolutionary processes generate and maintain diversity and identify extrinsic forces that may be driving diversification. Additionally, while C. gigantea is a managed species in Florida, management throughout the rest of its range varies and population genomic structure is unknown, thus this work will ultimately provide crucial information to resource managers for its effective management. 

Austin Smith

Program: Ph. D.
Supervisor: Kramer
Tampa campus
amsmith11@usf.edu

as

I am a Ph.D. student and research assistant in the Kramer Lab. My research interests include implementing mathematical/statistical techniques to ecological data in order to understand species invasions, niche structure/ habitat suitability, and epidemiological pathways.

My current research involves environmental degradation by invasive waterfowl, Coronavirus transmission network analysis, and creating biologically informative machine learning algorithms. 

Maki Tabuchi

Program: Ph.D.
Supervisor: Harwood
Tampa campus
mtabuchi@usf.edu

  

Nils Tack

Program: Ph. D.
Supervisor: Gemmell
Tampa campus
ntack@usf.edu

nt

I am a French nature lover currently enrolled in a PhD program (Physiology and morphology) at USF. Through my research projects I try to make sense of the morphologies and the behaviors that animals display to move efficiently through their environment. Specifically, my research interests gravitate around the study of the biomechanics and animal-fluid interactions in marine organisms including several species of fish (Coral catfish, Mojarras, Great Barracudas) displaying widely different body plans and locomotor modes.

Through the non-invasive measurement of metabolic activity, swimming kinematics, pressure fields and force vectors around the body of a fish I intend to provide additional evidences for the evaluation of the evolution of locomotor modes among aquatic species.

Additionally, my work primarily serves as a means to better understand the energetics, hydrodynamics, and biomechanics of different swimming modes to better inform individual models that can be used in bio-inspired design and bio-mimicry applications.

Shea Volkel

Program: Ph. D.
Supervisor: 
Tampa campus
sheavolkel@usf.edu

shea vokel

I am a PhD student in Dr. Kramer’s lab (joined August 2019). My research focuses on invasive species, species interactions, population dynamics, and spatial ecology in large aquatic systems.

I am currently investigating the spatial and trophic dynamics of invasive lionfish and regal demoiselle in the Gulf of Mexico, along with the ecological interactions among these invasive species and native fishes.

Jana Wieschollek

Program: Ph. D.
Supervisor: Scott
Tampa campus
jwieschollek@usf.edu

jana w

Hey, I am Jana and I am a graduated student from Germany! This year, I joined Dr. Scott’s lab as a PhD student. My earlier research includes work on the biochemistry of army ants and their parasites as an undergraduate student and a Master Thesis focused on mitigation of the Florida Red Tide organism Karenia Brevis via algicidal bacteria.

My PhD project is going to focus on genetically interesting bacteria. These bacteria produce Carboxysome microcompartments, which help the organism with CO2-fixation. Interestingly, the bacteria seem to miss genetic information for important enzymes that are necessary for CO2-fixation. I hope to solve some puzzle pieces in this paradox for a better understanding of those organisms. A better understanding could lead to multiple applications, such as bioengineered CO2 fixation (not part of Scott’s lab research).

Paul Wieczorek

Program: M.S.
Supervisor: McCoy
Tampa campus
plw@usf.edu

  

Zachary Winstead

Program: M.S.
Supervisor: Doody
St. Petersburg campus
zwinstead@usf.edu

zachary winstead

My name is Zachary Winstead and I am a masters student in the Conservation Biology program. I am currently researching hatching behaviors in lizards.

In the future I look to continue research studying the behavior and ecology of a wide range of different reptiles.

Daniel (Jake) Zydek

Program: Ph.D.
Supervisor: Lajeunesse
Tampa campus
dzydek@usf.edu

jake zydek

Hi! I'm a PhD candidate in biology: ecology and evolution, in the Lajeunesse lab at USF Tampa. My dissertation focuses on host specialization in plant-eating mites and insects. I used experimental evolution on Tetranychus spider mites to test how well relatedness among multiple novel host plant species predicts a population's phenotypic response, in terms of fecundity and development, to selection on one of them.

My research also includes a meta-analysis of herbivore split-brood experiments, which explores the quantitative genetic underpinnings of evolutionary tradeoffs. I'm a big fan of outdoor rec, and enjoy getting out on the water when it's hot, and hiking when it's cool. I discovered my love of biology via sustainable agriculture, and previously worked on small produce farms in Florida and Tennessee.