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Graduate Student Directory

Title Description
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).

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).

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).

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).

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).

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).

Mikayla Call

Research Interests: Broadly, I am interested in coastal ecosystems and wildlife management. My research is part of the Long-Term Ecological Research program in the Virginia Coast Reserve, which is dedicated to understanding how short- and long-term drivers such as storms and sea-level rise impact ecosystem state changes on the Virginia coastal barrier system. I am studying the factors that drive American Oystercatcher and Piping Plover breeding success on Virginia’s barrier islands and how geomorphic changes on the islands affect their populations (Advisor: Karpanty).

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).

Caitlin Carey

Research Interests: My research focuses on the conservation and management of imperiled freshwater mussels and fishes, with an emphasis on assessing species distributions and population dynamics, monitoring T&E and non-game species, evaluating population restoration techniques and sampling designs, and conservation genetics (Advisors: Hallerman and Ford).

Houston Chandler

Research Interests: I am interested in using science to inform on the ground conservation and management actions for rare reptiles and amphibians, particularly in the southeastern United States. My research focuses on filling in gaps in our natural history knowledge of rare species, long-term monitoring of important populations, and identifying current threats and how populations will respond to them. At Virginia Tech, my research will focus on the effects of climate change on the breeding activity of flatwoods salamanders and the breeding wetlands that they depend on. I will examine how viable the remaining populations are to future changes in climate (Advisor: Haas).

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)

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).

Hailey Conrad

Research interest: I am interested in the intersection between reproductive ecology, evolutionary ecology, fisheries, and conservation. I hope to expand on our understanding of the reproductive physiology and life history characteristics of commercially important fish species in a way that will improve the accuracy of fisheries models by looking at "the female perspective" of fish reproduction (Advisor: Dr. Kindsvater).

Daniel Crawford

Advisor: Cherry

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).

Sharon Dorsey

Research Interests: My research project involves monitoring the piping plover population on Fire Island, NY as it responds to increased habitat from Hurricane Sandy to better understand demographic trends as it approaches carrying capacity and beyond (Advisor: Jim Fraser).

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).

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).

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

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).

Rachel Green

Research Interests: My research focuses on the human dimensions of conservation on private lands. I'll be working with private landowners and citizen scientists in order to better understand the variables that drive private landowners’ perceptions of and engagement in conservation behaviors (Advisor: Dayer).

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).

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).

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).

Brogan Holcombe

Research Interests: I am interested in behavioral ecology and how animals utilize the landscape. My research will analyze the behavior of black bears in Virginia Appalachian Mountains, likely focusing on feeding ecology and species space use. Additionally, I hope to incorporate education through the mentoring of undergraduate students and public outreach (Advisor: Kelly).

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).

Charlie Holguin

Research Interests: Overall, I'm interested in the variation of life-history traits of salamanders along elevational gradients. My current research aims to determine how environmental conditions at early life stages influence the growth of the Northern two-lined salamander (Advisor: Kindsvater).

Emma Hultin

Research Interests: My research is focused on the complex community level interactions of stream fishes. I study the reproductive phenology of bluehead chubs and their nest associates and am interested in the impacts of climate change on the phenology of spawning (Advisor: Frimpong).

Jeremy Jenrette

Research Interests: By combining citizen science, big data, and elasmobranch macroecology, my research attempts to structure large clouds of unstructured data. As part of the web application sharkPulse, my research focusses on developing shark population indices by using machine learning and data science routes. I am looking at social medias such as Instagram and how to extract viable shark sightings from them (Advisor: Ferretti).

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).

Murray Hyde

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

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).

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).

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).

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).

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).

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).

Darby McPhail

Research Interests: Hello, everyone, I am in Dr. Marcella Kelly’s lab. I have worked in Belize, Central America conducting field work since 2016 leading me to research the beautiful pumas in the area. I will focus this research on the population dynamics of pumas by estimating occupancy and puma density using spatially explicit modeling techniques from remote camera data and then linking these parameters to habitat features, prey, and potential competition with jaguars! (Advisor: Kelly)

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).

Vance Nepomuceno

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

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).

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).

Katie Ortiz

Research Interests: My research involves determining if environmental DNA can be used to monitor spawning behavior in freshwater mussels, and the genetic analysis of two similar freshwater mussel species (Advisor: Jones).

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).

Braiden Quinlan

Research Interests: My research focuses on establishing new survey methods to evaluate population dynamics and herd demographics for the restored elk herd in southwest Virginia. My broader research interests include large mammal ecology, habitat use, population dynamics, and predator-prey interactions (Advisors: Ford & Cherry).

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).

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).

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).

Brendan Shea

Research Interests:My research interests generally center around the ecological role of sharks, particularly risk effects and predator-prey dynamics, and investigating the ecosystem consequences of removing large sharks from the ocean. I’m also very interested in large marine protected areas and evaluating their benefit to global shark populations. My research incorporates mechanistic, field-based experiments with big data and environmental synthesis approaches (Advisor: Dr. Ferretti).

Katherine Slack

Research Interests: Research I am broadly interested in how anthropogenic factors influence reptiles and amphibians as well as their physiological response. My current research is investigating the red blood cell stress response in Hellbenders in regards to seasonal variation and parasitic infection. (Advisor: Hopkins)

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).

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).

Hila Taylor

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

Kaitlyn Theberge

Research Interests: I am studying the effects of microplastics, specifically microfibers, on the growth and condition of rainbow trout. My interests also include sustainable fisheries and aquaculture, stakeholder engagement, and environmental education (Advisors: Kindsvater & Ovissipour).

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).

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).

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).

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).