The Department of Biology at Tennessee Tech has an active graduate program with students enrolled in the M.S. (Biology) program or the Ph.D. (Environmental Sciences) program. Read more about our current graduate students below.
Robert Brown My dissertation research will focus on nutrient retention and methane production in
restored floodplain wetlands. I am interested in understanding how interactions between
methane and nutrient dynamics can influence aquatic food webs.
Cody Davis Godwin My dissertation is on snake fungal disease (SFD), a fungal pathogen effecting wild
snakes across the Eastern United States. My research focuses on snake’s immunological
response to the disease and how SFD effects snake demographics, communities, and trophic
interactions with prey communities. During the winter months, when Tennessee snakes
are hibernating, I studying the spatial ecology and nesting ecology of Australia’s
largest lizard, the perentie (Varanus giganteus) in central Australia.
Aubree J. Hill Her current research relates to deadly fungal infections (chytridiomycoses) imperiling
hundreds of amphibian species. She hopes to pinpoint probiotic bacteria residing within
the cutaneous microbiome using culture-based techniques and high-throughput DNA sequencing.
Kayla Key State-wide mussel surveys have documented declines in mussel diversity in the Ozark
region, including the Meramec River basin, a hotspot of mussel diversity in Missouri
and the Midwestern United States. Pinpointing causes of these declines and where
threats cause the most risk to populations is an ongoing challenge for management.
We aim to develop a spatial assessment of the status and risks to species-rich concentrations
of mussel assemblages in the Meramec River Drainage.
Robert Paine I am a molecular ecologist, utilizing environmental DNA (eDNA) to determine the
presence and delineate the distribution of fishes in the Duck and Clinch rivers in
Tennessee. Specifically, I focus on endangered organisms, like the Pygmy Madtom (Noturus stanauli), as well as invasive species, like the Silver Carp (Hypophthalmichthys molitrix). Additionally, I utilize high-throughput sequencing to assess how land-use patterns
influence fish communities.
Aden J. Blackburn I am working on an ecotoxicology project around brook trout restoration in a small
headwater stream. my project is looking at the effects of a piscicide called Antimycin
and its effect on non-target organisms such as macroinvertebrates and periphyton.
Sarah Brown My thesis work is on diet selection and competitive interactions of non-target species
at bird feeders. This is a trail camera study taking place is several locations in
middle and east Tennessee. Since little scientific information is available regarding
non-target behavior at feeders we are studying this phenomenon. The objectives of
the study are to document seed use and selection of these species at bird feeding
stations. My secondary objective is to document the occurrence and outcomes of agonistic
interactions between birds and non-targets visiting these stations.
Jennifer Caudle I will study temporal changes in freshwater fish communities, where community structure
will be characterized in a subset of streams that were sampled 20 years ago using
the Index of Biotic Integrity to quantify changes over the last two decades. Springs
will be evaluated for mosquito fish distribution and habitat suitability for potential
Barrens Topminnow introductions.
Aaron Coons I will investigate the life history, population status, and habitat selection of
Longnose Darters (Percina nasuta) in the St. Francis River, Missouri.
Samuel Day My thesis focuses on the nuisance algae, Didymosphenia geminata, and how it responds on the cellular level to changes in water quality. To do this
I am using Fourier-transform infrared (FTIR) microspectroscopy to measure changes
in macromolecular content of D. geminata cells that have been incubated across a gradient
of water quality treatments.
Ryan Hanscom I am examining the ecological, genetic, and geographical factors to species diversification
in snapping shrimps. We are reconstructing phylogenies of multiple species groups
within the genus Alpheus. We will use these phylogenies to determine if symbiotic
relationships promote speciation in sympatry, and if sympatric sister species are
more variable in genome size than allopatric species pairs (suggesting genetic reinforcement).
Max Henderson I aim to assess the effects of endocrine disrupting contaminants on the effective
population size among crocodilian populations. The effective population size of crocodilian
populations exposed to anti-androgenic xenobiotics (p,p’-DDE) will be compared to
populations that lack exposure. I hypothesize that effective population size will
be significantly reduced in populations subject to p,p’-DDE exposure relative to populations
that lack such exposure. Further, data from the ongoing study by Murray et al (2015)
of American crocodiles (Crocodylus acutus) will be used to compare variation in effective
population size among age cohorts of a population subject to chronic endocrine disrupting
contaminants exposure. The proposed study aims to provide data on the demographic
effects of endocrine disrupting contaminants in long-lived vertebrates, reliable census
for Alligator mississippiensis in the Mobile-Tensaw delta, and demonstrate the utility
of a DNA-based approach in aquatic vertebrate ecotoxicology.
Jordan Holtswarth I am transferring an existing habitat suitability model for freshwater mussels between
rivers in the Ozark ecoregion, Missouri. Habitat suitability modeling that includes
hydrogeomorphic variables such as, stream power, channel controls, and refugia, have
been successful in predicting mussel establishment and persistence. This model uses
easily accessible spatial data for the purpose of transferring it to areas with little
Wade Hubbs My research aims to show how genomics can play an integral part in efficiently resolving
conservation issues surrounding a cryptic non-model species, Ambystoma barbouri (the Streamside Salamander) in central Tennessee. Using a combination of genotyping-by-sequencing
(GBS) and GIS landscape genetic tools, we hope to provide a clear-cut example of applied
conservation genomics by enhancing the understanding of A. barbouri genetic diversity
in Tennessee and clarifying conservation units and priorities for future management
decisions. Additionally, the identification of regionally-specific barriers and facilitators
of gene flow will promote better conservation practices focused on factors such as
land use changes and their effects on this state endangered amphibian in a heterogeneous
and highly-fragmented landscape.
Valerie Jones I am studying the habitat use of the federally endangered bluemask darter on the
Collins River, with implications for reintroduction in the Calfkiller River.
Garrett Jordan I will be exploring the spatial ecology of bats for his thesis. I will also be assisting
in the acoustic survey of bat populations on Air Force bases.
Silas C. Maynord I am studying molecular and evolutionary biology, using differential gene expression
as a tool for assessing homology between unique extrafloral nectaries in the genus
Passiflora, including the Tennessee State Wildflower Passiflora incarnata (Passionflower)
and its relatives.
Stefan Nelson I am studying factors influencing survival in female wild turkeys in the Southeast
US, and brood habitat selection in female wild turkeys in Georgia.
Mary Scott My thesis work is going to be creating a taxonomic identification key and undergoing
a behavioral study of an unidentified species of wolf spider discovered in Arizona.
Kaitlyn Vredevoogd I am studying urban bat hibernation characteristics and locating hibernacula in
the Cookeville area.
Mack White I am currently working with migratory catostomid fishes in Citico Creek, located
in East Tennessee. I am working to quantify the nutrient subsidies these fish deliver
to their spawning grounds via carcass, egg, and excretion inputs. Additionally, I
am conducting lab studies to further understand the influence of fasting and acute
stressors, such as capture and handling, on nitrogenous waste excretion in fishes.
Jason Wogsland My project is looking at the influences of elevation on the relative abundance and
activity patterns of Southern Flying Squirrels in Eastern TN.
Spencer Womble I am researching the distribution of the mat-forming algae Didymosphenia geminiata (Didymo) in southern Appalachian Watersheds and its effects on macroinvertebrate
William Wood My research focuses on monitoring and modeling the impact of Bighead and Silver
Carp commonly referred to as Asian Carp on the sportfish and native fish communities
of the Tennessee and Cumberland River basins.