Graduate Student Directory

      • Picture of Heather Abernathy in the field
      • Heather Abernathy

        Research Interests: My dissertation will aim to elucidate the effects of changing hydrological conditions, predation pressure, and hunting regulations on white-tailed deer populations in south Florida. Broadly, my research interests include: landscape ecology, conservation planning, resource selection patterns, movement ecology, disturbance ecology, predator-prey dynamics, and adaptive management (Advisor: Cherry).

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      • Robert Alonso

        Research Interests: I am studying the predation and scavenging ecology of black bears, bobcats, and coyotes as well as potential impacts these carnivores may have on white-tailed deer populations in the western mountains of Virginia. Broadly my research interests include predator-prey dynamics, carnivore ecology, and wildlife-habitat interactions (Advisor: Kelly).

      • Picture of Graduate Student Gisele Aubin
      • Gisele Aubin

        Research Interests: I am fascinated by the questions of how human activity impacts the health of ecosystems and animal communities. I am particularly interested in wildlife and predator-prey ecology, conservation management and human-wildlife conflict. I want to dedicate my scientific career to finding conservation solutions that protect and sustain wildlife ecosystems while also serving the needs and aspirations of local communities. While at VT, I will be working on the Appalachian Deer Study looking at fawn survival and factors that effect their survival such as predators, habitat, fire and logging. I will also be looking at cause specific mortality (Advisor: Cherry).

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      • Elaine Barr

        Research Interests: My research focuses on bat populations impacted by white-nose syndrome and wind energy development. I seek to understand broad-scale drivers of bat activity during the summer maternity season and throughout migration and overwinter periods (Advisor: Ford).

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      • Joseph Barron

        Research Interests: My work is focused on reptile and amphibian conservation and management. Currently, I am using quantitative methods to research Bog Turtle populations in southwest VA (Advisors: Haas & Frimpong).

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      • Amo Barungwi

        Research Interests: Spatiotemporal analysis of the African elephant (Loxodonta Africana) population in Northern Botswana (1986-2013) and environmental covariates affecting the population (Advisor: Alexander).

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      • Henrietta Bellman

        Research Interests: I am a masters student co-advised by Drs Jim Fraser and Dan Catlin. My thesis research focuses on quantifying hurricane and human habitat changes on New York barrier islands, and the potential impacts for a federally endangered shorebird, the piping plover. I use remote sensing methods combined with field-collected data to address questions about piping plover habitat use and availability. I am interested in applied coastal conservation, spatial ecology and remote sensing, as well as promoting science communication. I hope my work will help guide habitat management for piping plover (Advisor: Fraser & Catlin).

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      • Earle Berge

        Research Interests: I enjoy studying the dynamic ecology of island habitats and overlooked resource manipulation to increase population parameters. Currently, I'm studying pollinator-friendly flower plantings on small-scale farming operations in Maryland and Virginia's coastal zone (Advisor: Karpanty).

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      • Rujia Bi

        Research Interests: My current research focuses on spatial stock structure and movement of yellow perch (Perca flavescens) in Lake Erie (Advisor: Jiao).

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      • Kat Black

        Research Interests: I study red fox habitat use and activity patterns on Fire Island, NY. My broader research interests include carnivore ecology, habitat use, and predator-prey relationships, particularly in human-altered areas (Advisors: Karpanty & Fraser).

      • photo of  graduate student Gaelle Blanvillain
      • Gaelle Blanvillain

        Research Interests: I am interested in how environmental changes affect the physiology, behavior and health of reptiles and amphibians, and the consequences at the population-level of such changes over the long-term. Another important aspect of my interest is centered around the adaptive processes and plasticity of organisms in the face of a given perturbation (Advisor: Hopkins).

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      • Rebecca Bourquin

        Research Interests: I am conducting population genetic analysis of Clinch Dace to determine management units for conservation. I am also evaluating the effects of road crossings that may cause fragmentation in streams containing Clinch Dace (Advisors: Hallerman & Orth).

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      • George Brooks

        Research Interests: I am interested in the conservation of reptiles and amphibians. My research focuses on modelling the population dynamics of the endangered flatwoods salamander, Ambystoma bishopi (Advisor: Haas).

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      • Sky Button

        Research Interests: I am primarily interested in the ecology and conservation of reptiles and amphibians. For my M.S., I am studying the reproductive ecology and ecological role of eastern hellbenders (Cryptobranchus alleganiensis alleganiensis) in Dr. William Hopkins' lab.

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      • Brian Case

        Research Interests: I am interested in the influence of anthropogenic activity on the health of wildlife populations, specifically amphibian reproductive biology. I am studying the reproductive physiology and paternity of Eastern hellbender giant salamanders across a habitat quality gradient (Advisor: Hopkins).

      • Image of Garrett Clevinger
      • Garrett Clevinger

        Research Interests: I’m particularly interested in wildlife population ecology and game species management. My research at VT focuses on assessing the validities of current modeling strategies used to estimate population parameters in white-tailed deer herds, particularly within the Appalachian Mountains of western Virginia (Advisor: Cherry)

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      • Carolyn Comber

        Research Interests: My research focuses on the human dimensions of shorebird conservation and uses social science research to reduce human disturbances to shorebirds. My research also focuses on understanding how shorebirds can be protected while reducing the social conflict associated with management practices (Advisor: Dayer).

      • Picture of Felipe De Moraes Carvalho
      • Felipe De Moraes Carvalho

        Research Interests: My research focuses on the fisheries impacts, gear selectivity and the community-wide trophic ecology of the marine resources inhabiting the Samana Bay (Dominican Republic) and its surroundings (Advisor: Castello).

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      • Sabrina Deeley

        Research Interests: I am interested in urban ecology, landscape ecology, and the assessment of research and management techniques. I am currently researching the bat communities of the Mid-Atlantic region, primarily focusing on habitat use and the impacts of White-Nose Syndrome on bats in the National Capital Region (Advisor: Ford).

      • Picture of Hutner Ellsworth
      • Hunter Ellsworth

        Research Interests: I am broadly interested in predator-prey ecology and how large predators can shape food webs. I work in a seasonally flooded and burned ecosystem in south Florida, researching how the endangered Florida panther influences sympatric predators and shapes white-tailed deer behavior (Advisor: Cherry).

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      • Samuel Freeze

        Research Interests: I am fascinated with the natural history, ecology, and behavior of bats. My research interests focus on understanding these mysterious and cryptic creatures, always with a link back to conservation and effective wildlife management (Advisor: Ford).

      • Image of Alissa Ganser
      • Alissa Ganser

        Research Interests: My current dissertation project is assessing the distribution, abundance, and genetic diversity of three species of freshwater mussels. These species are the Tennessee heelsplitter (Lasmigona holstonia), the Cumberland moccasinshell (Medionidus conradicus),and the Fluted kidneyshell (Ptychobranchus subtentus). The Fluted kidneyshell is currently listed as endangered under the U.S. Endangered Species Act (ESA), and the other two species are both candidates for listing. The goal of my research is to provide information on the need for listing the Tennessee heelsplitter and the Cumberland moccasinshell as endangered under the ESA, and to determine if our current management efforts for the Fluted kidneyshell are appropriate (Advisors: Hallerman & Jones).

      • FWC Graduate Student, Phillys Gichuru
      • Phillys Njambi Gichuru

        Research Interests:Occupancy, density, and co-occurence of a number of predators and prey in Bale National Park in Ethiopia (Advisor: Kelly).

      • Katie Gorman (FWC graduate Student)
      • Katie Gorman

        I am interested in endangered species management and conservation. For my research I will be documenting presence, status and viability of roost networks of reproductive northern long-eared bats (Myotis septentrionalis) at two northeastern National Park Service sites (Advisor: Ford).

      • Picture of Bennett Grooms
      • Bennett Grooms

        Research Interests: I research the human dimensions of wildlife recreationists, such as birders, wildlife viewers, hunters, and anglers. Specifically, my research aims to understand what motivates wildlife recreationists to participate in conservation, and how they view and interact with the state wildlife agencies, such as the VDGIF. (Advisor: Dayer).

      • photo of graduate student Marissa Hahn Guill
      • Marrisa Hahn Guill

        My broad interests involve land management and associated wildlife-habitat interactions regarding small mammals. Specifically, my current research will involve evaluating the efficacy of nest-boxes and remote cameras to monitor southeastern fox squirrel populations at MTC Fort Pickett and Big Woods Wildlife Management Area and Piney Grove Preservation in the Piedmont and Coastal Plain of Virginia (Advisor: Ford).

      • Picture of Sheila Harris
      • Sheila Harris

        Research Interests: I am interested in how genetics, specifically microsatellite and mitochondrial DNA markers, can be used to better manage sportfish populations. I have worked with a variety of genetic programs and game species. My research at Virginia Tech focuses on genetic marker-assisted management of Walleye and Striped Bass populations in Virginia (Advisor: Hallerman).

      • Image of Erin Heller
      • Erin Heller

        Research Interests: My research focuses on a threatened migratory shorebird species called Red Knots (Calidris canutus rufa). The subspecies we are investigating are fascinating in that they have tremendously long migrations -- from Tierra del Fuego, Argentina, to the Arctic Circle! We are investigating reasons behind the rufa subspecies' drastic population decline in order to better manage the species and hopefully halt further population decline (Advisors: Karpanty & Fraser).

      • Photo of graduate student Linsdsay Hermanns
      • Lindsay Hermanns

        Research Interests: My interests revolve around wildlife conservation and management, specifically with in coastal ecosystems. My research explores the demography, breeding dispersal, and site fidelity of shorebirds, specifically Dunlin (Calidris alpina arcticola) within the Alaskan Arctic and Austral-Asian Flyway. I am also interested in using citizen science and outreach to connect people with their local ecosystems on a scientific level (Advisors: Karpanty, Catlin, Fraser).

      • Image of Corbin Hilling holding a fish
      • Corbin Hilling

        Research Interests: My research interests include fisheries population dynamics, fisheries management, invasive species management and decision analysis. My dissertation work is focused on providing decision support tools for the management of invasive blue catfish in Virginia's tributaries of the Chesapeake Bay. I am developing a stock assessment model to support management strategy evaluations examining the potential outcomes of various management schemes. The results of this work will help decision makers balance the ecological, economic and sociocultural desires of diverse stakeholder groups interested in the recreational and commercial opportunities these tidal river systems provide (Advisors: Jiao & Orth).

      • image of Michael Holden
      • Michael Holden

        Research Interests: Overall, I am interested in landscape scale drivers of decline in rare and diminishing species. My current research aims to assess the status of the bog turtle in Virginia, and create a management plan to aid in their conservation (Advisors: Haas & Frimpong).

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      • Sydney Hope

        Research Interests: My general research interests include animal behavior, development, and life history strategies and how they are affected by changes in the environment (Advisor: Hopkins).

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      • Miluska Olivera Hyde

        Research Interests: I use molecular markers to identify species belonging to the freshwater mussel genera Fusconaia and Pleurobema. In addition, my project aims to assess population genetics and phylogenetics of the species belonging to these genera in the Green River, Kentucky (Advisors: Hallerman & Jones).

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      • Murray Hyde

        Research Interests: My work involves monitoring restored populations of freshwater mussels in the Clinch and Powell Rivers (Advisor: Jones).

      • Image of Marcelo Jorge
      • Marcelo Jorge

        Research Interests: My research interests are fire ecology, predator-prey interactions, and animal behavior. While at VT I hope to engage in environmental conservation, mentor undergraduate students, and to get the general public interested and informed in the natural world (Advisor: Cherry).

      • Image of Nicholas Kalen
      • Nicholas Kalen

        Research Interests: My primary research interests are wildlife ecology and conservation with focus on mammals. I am currently studying bats in Virginia in response to the impacts of the disease white-nose syndrome and have specific interest in northern long-eared (Myotis septentrionalis) and eastern small-footed bats (Myotis leibii) (Advisor: Ford).

      • Image of graduate student, Jack Leitch III
      • Jack Leitch III

        Research Interests: My research is focused on mathematical and computational One Health modeling related to zoonotic diseases. I am currently studying how models of wildlife social networks can be used to predict and control spread of disease through wildlife populations (Advisor: Alexander).

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      • Seth Lutter

        Research Interests: I am researching the human dimensions of habitat conservation on private lands, specifically early successional habitat for bird species such as the Golden-winged Warbler (Advisor: Dayer).

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      • Zach Martin

        Research Interests: I am studying the links between watersheds - stream habitat quality - fish distributions, especially as they relate to the management and influence of non-point source pollutants (e.g. sediment) on freshwater ecosystems. My investigations bring together field surveys, lab experiments, and modeling to tease apart the complexity of these relationships. Most of my on-going work takes place in the Upper Tennessee River basin. My research interests include landscape ecology, stream habitat management, reproductive ecology of fishes, and watershed modeling (Advisor: Angermeier).

      • Image of Katie McBaine
      • Katie McBaine

        Research Interests: I am studying demographics and genetic differentiation of candy darter populations in Virginia. My research aims to enhance understanding of population and occupancy dynamics to inform management overseeing this Special Concern species (Advisors: Angermeier & Hallerman).

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      • David McNitt

        Research Interests: I am interested in applied research encompassing spatial analysis and population estimation. Currently, I am researching the space use of bobcats in relation to spatiotemporal variation in white-tailed deer predation. Additionally, I am researching the influence of fire and timber harvest on the space use of bobcats. To examine space use I am conducting movement analysis, home range estimation, and resource selection analysis (Advisor: Kelly).

      • Image of Sarah Medley
      • Sarah Medley

        Research Interests: My research interests include water quality monitoring, waterborne disease, watershed management, and understanding the relationship between water quality and human and ecosystem health. I am working on an interdisciplinary research project looking at interactions between water quality and human and environmental health in Northern Botswana. My research aims to enhance understanding of how water quality may be impacting human health outcomes (Advisor: Alexander).

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      • Lara Mengak

        Research Interests: I study human disturbance and shorebird conservation with a focus on drafting potential management solutions to mitigating or reducing disturbance. Broadly, my research interests include human-wildlife interactions and coexistence, conservation behavior decision-making, integrating social and ecological data, and more generally, bird conservation (Advisor: Dayer).

      • Image of William Moore
      • William Moore

        Research Interests: I am broadly interested in reptile and amphibian ecology and conservation as well as the ecology, conservation and management of fire maintained longleaf pine communities of the southeast. My current research primarily focuses on habitat use by Gopher Tortoises on Eglin Air Force Base, Florida (Advisor: Haas).

      • photo of graduate student Joshua Mouser
      • Joshua Mouser

        Research Interest: My research focuses on the ecology and conservation of stream ecosystems. Currently, I am studying the efficacy of agricultural conservation practices for protecting aquatic species via the reduction of sediment and nutrient loads to streams (Advisors: Angermeier & Ciparis).

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      • Vance Nepomuceno

        Research Interests: Continuing the long term study of Jaguars in Belize through the use of camera traps(Advisor: Kelly).

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      • Robert Nipko

        Research Interests: I study jaguars and other Neotropical felids in Central America. My research interests include carnivore ecology, parameter estimation, community ecology, and international conservation. I am also interested in creative pedagogy and helping students get the most out of their learning opportunities, both inside and outside the classroom (Advisor: Kelly).

      • Image of Lipa Nkwalale
      • Lipa G.T. Nkwalale

        Research Interests: My research forms part of the Alexander Wildlab's interdisciplinary work in the Chobe District, Botswana. My project is looking at the occurrence of antibiotic resistance genes (ARGs) in the Chobe River, determining whether a relationship between ARGs in the sediment and water column exists and assessing the influence of environmental factors on them. Furthermore, I'm using ARGs in banded mongoose to bring in a terrestrial aspect to the project (Advisor: Alexander).

      • image of Becca O'Brien
      • Becca O'Brien

        Research Interests: I am broadly interested in the human dimensions of conservation and using animal behavior research to inform conservation. My dissertation focuses on the social and ecological aspects of hellbender conservation (Advisors: Hopkins & Dayer).

      • Image of Christian Osorio
      • Christian Osorio P.

        Research Interests: I study the carnivore communities of the Mediterranean Andes, focused on Wild Felids, in order to understand the mechanisms underlying their coexistence and interactions between them and the role of preys and landscape features on these. My ultimate goal is to provide management insights for their conservation (Advisor: Kelly).

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      • Samantha Robinson

        Research Interests: My research focuses on how habitat changes affect demographic rates of birds, I am studying piping plovers on Fire Island, NY to better understand how Hurricane Sandy and subsequent anthropogenic impacts affected habitat selection, demographic rates and carrying capacity (Advisors: Fraser & Catlin).

      • Image of Chris Satter
      • Chris Satter

        Research Interests: My research interests are primarily focused on estimating population sizes of wild cats. These animals are usually very secretive by nature and often times very difficult to study. This type of research is being done though population modeling incorporating non-invasive camera-trapping techniques with a mark-recapture framework (Advisors: Kelly & Cherry).

      • Image of Brandon Semel
      • Brandon Semel

        Research Interests: I am studying critically endangered golden crowned sifakas in Madagascar to investigate how lemur populations might respond to climate change. This species already occurs across a wide range of habitats from dry, deciduous forest to humid rainforest. I’m using population density information, genetic density and connectivity data, and nutritional intake data across their entire range along with climate models to predict how their abundance and genetic diversity might respond to shifting habitat types (Advisor: Karpanty).

      • Picture of graduate Student Mary Sketch
      • Mary Sketch

        Research Interests: I am studying the human dimensions of habitat conservation of agricultural landowners in the Western United States (Advisor: Dayer).

      • Image of Logan Sleezer
      • Logan Sleezer

        Research Interests: Fish and aquatic macro-invertebrate invasion ecology and conservation in the New River Basin (Advisors: Frimpong & Angermeier).

      • Picture of Michael St. Germain
      • Michael St. Germain

        Research Interests: My dissertation research focus is modeling local and statewide bat population distributions using remote sensing and geostatistical frameworks. I am also a full-time senior research associate at the college’s Conservation Management Institute where my research involves all manner of terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems (Advisor: Ford).

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      • Nicholas Sybertz

        Research Interests: In general, my research interests include disease ecology and genetics, specifically the field of comparative transcriptomics. For my master’s degree, I study Mycobacterium mungi, a novel strain of tuberculosis found only in the banded mongoose (Mungos mungo). My research will consist of testing biomarkers in banded mongoose blood using both blood transcriptome signatures as well as an interferon gamma test for the identification of M. mungi infection. My study area is located in the Chobe District of northern Botswana (Advisor: Alexander).

      • picture of graduate student, Hila Taylor holding a bat
      • Hila Taylor

        Research Interests: I'm interested in population and community ecology, especially urban wildlife like bats and mesopredators (Advisor: Ford).

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      • Emily Thorne

        Research Interests: My broad research interests are spatial ecology and landscape genetics of wildlife populations. My doctoral research is focused on the spatial distribution and genetic differentiation of eastern spotted skunk (Spilogale putorius) populations in the Central Appalachian and Blue Ridge Mountains (Advisor: Ford).

      • Photo of graduate student Michael True
      • Michael True

        Research interest: I'm specifically interested in the migratory behavior of eastern red bats (Lasiurus borealis) and other migratory tree bats as it relates to time, weather, and topography along the mid-Atlantic coast. More broadly, I'm interested in migration and movement ecology, ecological statistics and modeling, and threatened and endangered species conservation and management (Advisor: Ford).

      • Photo of graduate student Paige Van de Vuurst
      • Paige Van de Vuurst

        Research Interests: My current research consists of a few different topics centered around biogeography and disease ecology. I’m fascinated by the affects of different stressors on how organisms respond within their systems and move through space. This includes migration due to climate change, depredation, and mapping the scope and spread of various wildlife diseases (Advisor: Escobar).

      • Image of Kelton Verble
      • Kelton Verble

        Research Interests: I'm using microsatellite genotyping to determine inbreeding and relatedness within and between banded mongoose (Mungos mungo) troops. I will also be estimating troop dispersal and fusion/fission events across a diverse landscape. The resulting outputs will be incorporated into infectious disease transmission models dealing with a novel, emerging tuberculosis pathogen (Mycobacterium mungi) infecting banded mongoose in Botswana (Advisor: Alexander).

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      • Katie Walker

        Research Interests: I am studying nest site selection and post-fledging habitat use and survival of piping plovers on Fire Island, New York following Hurricane Sandy (Advisors: Fraser & Catlin).

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      • Chelsea Weithman

        Research Interests: I study a small endangered shorebird called the Piping Plover that nests on beaches along the Atlantic Coast. I am interested in population dynamics and how they fluctuate through time and in response to behavior, habitat, and how they varying through a species range. I also am interested in how migratory behavior is linked to other stages of the life cycle, and how that may affect population growth and ultimately conservation goals (Advisors: Fraser & Catlin).

      • Winter (FWC graduate student)
      • Steven Winter

        I'm largely interested in learning and applying new methods for understanding disease ecology. For my M.S., I am studying ecological characteristics that contribute to transmission of emerging diseases in mammalian communities (Advisor: Escobar).