Current Students

Current Graduate Students

Jason Strickland, Ph.D. Student

425 Biology Building

Email: jason.strickland@knights.ucf.edu

My research interest lies at the intersection of phylogeography and trait evolution. I am interested in understanding how shared ancestry effects trait evolution within a species and among closely related species. The common theme in the research projects I am working on is the use of phylogenetics to understand evolutionary processes. My dissertation research uses Mojave Rattlesnakes, Crotalus scutulatus, as the model to understand the evolution of Type A and Type B venom. Through the use of comparative transcriptomics and proteomics I seek to understand potential selection pressures that are maintaining both venom types within the species in discrete geographic locations. I have conducted field work in the Chihuahuan, Sonoran, and Mojave Deserts of the U.S. and Mexico collecting rattlesnakes for my dissertation. Additionally, I am mentoring Hollis and Alejandra on a project comparing the phylogeography of Long-nosed Snakes (Rhinocheilus lecontei) and Glossy Snakes (Arizona elegans) in the American Southwest. We are comparing the evolutionary histories of these two species with respect to common biogeographic events in the region, particularly the influence of the American Cordillera on speciation.

 

 

Jason Strickland

 

 

 

IMG_1701

Andrew Mason, Ph.D. Student

425 Biology Building

Email: masonaj@knights.ucf.edu

 My research interests are centered on integrating the fields of phylogenetics, biogeography and ecology to answer questions about the roles of adaptation and evolution in speciation processes, especially among reptiles.  Currently, I am particularly interested in investigating how evolutionary and environmental pressures have affected venom adaptation in the sub-family Crotalinae.  Venoms vary markedly in their composition and function both within and among viper clades but many of the forces governing and directing venom evolution are poorly understood.  Of central interest to this topic are 1) the extents to which phylogenetic relationships and environmental factors drive venom adaptation through protein modification and expression, 2) the trade-offs associated with variation in venom complexity and function and 3) if there are recurring or fixed pathways of evolution among venoms with convergent function?  Information from this research will be used to further our understanding of how the evolution, environment and natural history of an organism interact to produce variable phenotypes in a mutable system (viperid venoms) under high selective pressure.

Jason Hickson, M.S. Student

425 Biology Building

Email: hickson@knights.ucf.edu

 

Jason Hickson

1498771_10152116278419413_552917397_o

Matthew Lawrance, M.S. Student

425 Biology Building

Email: lawrancm@knights.ucf.edu

 My research interests are focused on how human activities and behaviors have shaped the evolution of the pathogens that infect us. In order to do this, I use molecular markers to explore the relationships of pathogens that associate strongly with specific human environments or activities. The study species involved in my thesis research is Staphylococcus aureus, a gram-positive, coagulase positive bacterial pathogen that is responsible for a half-million hospitalizations yearly in the United States.  Staphylococcus aureus has a very strong association with modern hospitals – where it is the most common cause of infections. Hospital infections and community infections of S. aureus have been shown to have very different infection symptoms from one another. However, samples from medical clinics – environments that do not fit the definition of hospitals or community – have not been examined. Therefore, I am investigating the population structure and relationship of clinic samples as compared to hospital and community samples. My thesis is focused on filling in this information so we might better understand how this – and other – pathogens vary across the human-dominated ‘landscape’.

 

Rhett Rautsaw, M.S. Student

425 Biology Building

Email: rautsaw.3@knights.ucf.edu

My research involves the use of corridors connecting inland habitat to coastal habitat likely to be impacted by projected sea level rise in Florida. I use gopher tortoises (Gopherus polyphemus) as my study species at Kennedy Space Center. Gopher tortoises occur in large numbers in Kennedy Space Center, so by tracking their movements via radio telemetry along corridors, beach, and inland habitat it will be possible to tell if managed retreat is a suitable management plan for both gopher tortoises and other terrestrial species including the over 300 commensal species reliant on gopher tortoise burrows. I also aim to determine if artificial barriers such as railroad tracks and roads will be problematic in gopher tortoise and other terrestrial species retreat inland in response to sea level rise. Radio tracking tortoises on either side of the barrier paired with observational studies of tortoises innate 'homing' behavior in response to a barrier will help elucidate the problems that could be faced in the future.

 

 

DSCN0116

IMG_1385

Katie Mercier, M.S. Student

425 Biology Building

Email: katie.mercier@knights.ucf.edu

I am interested in the mechanisms underlying dispersal and distributions of species, especially investigating the role that climate plays. By combining approaches from phylogenetics, population genetics, and biogeography I hope to better understand these mechanisms. My current project models the historical dispersal of an organism and aims to predict how it will respond to climate change. Plestiodon egregius, the mole skink, is a semi-fossorial lizard endemic to the southeastern US and has low dispersal rates, which makes is a perfect model organism for my study. This work will also inform the proposal to list subspecies of P. egregius as federally threatened.


 

Current Undergraduate Students

Lindsay

Lindsay Arick

Hollis

Hollis Dahn
Website

Jimmy Cheak

James Cheak

Alejandra Osorio

Alejandra Osorio

11429879_848693125183863_7698741614381077277_n

Christopher Yanick

DSCN0157

Steffany Medina


 

Former Students

Allyson Fenwick, Ph.D
Assistant Professor

University of Central Oklahoma
Email
   
Haakon Kalkvick Juan Daza Todd Castoe, Ph.D
Assistant Professor
University of Texas at Arlington
Website
Email
Greg Territo, M.S.
Website
Email
Genevieve Metzger Kelly Kennedy
David Calloway Seethamahalakshmi Chebolu Kelly Diamond
Emily Pitcairn Jenna Evans
Former undergraduate RAMP Student
Has gotten a real job teaching Biology
Jacob (Jack) Degner, M.S.
Has moved to the University of Chicago to work on his Ph.D.
Josh Reece
Assistant Professor
Valdosta State University
Website
E-mail
Matt Herron
Assistant Professor

University of Montana
Website
Email
Rachel Fisher (Hirschman), Ph.D.
Science Education Researcher at University of Wisconsin's Center for Education Research
Email