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Meet our Graduate Students

The Department of Biology at Tennessee Tech has a diverse graduate program comprised of both M.S. (Biology) and Ph.D. (Environmental Sciences) students. Our students are represented by the Biology Graduate Student Society (BGSS), an active organization within the department that facilitates and encourages both academic and social opportunities for graduate students. 

Ph.D. Students 


Abigail Blake-Bradshaw, Advisor: Dr. Brad Cohen. I am studying wintering Abigail Blake-Bradshawwaterfowl ecology and movements in West Tennessee. Specifically, I am interested in how human disturbance and hunting pressure impact mallard movements and use of sanctuaries.

  • B.S. Wartburg College
  • M.S. University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Peter Blum, Advisor: Dr. Justin Murdock. My dissertation focuses on how streamPeter Blum insects, that develop in sediments contaminated with toxic polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), can transfer PCBs as winged adults to terrestrial consumers, including gray bats (Myotis grisescens), at Arnold Air Force Base in Tullahoma, TN. I am investigating emergent adult insect biomass and PCB export from streams and reservoirs, assessing PCB risk to wildlife, and how stoichiometry influences the transfer of PCBs.

  • B.S. Ecology, Evolution and Environmental Biology, Appalachian State University
  • M.S. Biology, University of North Carolina at Greensboro

Robert Brown, Advisor: Dr. Justin Murdock. My dissertation research focuses onRobert Brown connections between rivers and their floodplains in response to ecosystem restoration strategies. I am interested in nutrient subsidies that cross ecosystem boundaries to influence spatial patterns of complete nitrogen removal (N2 production) and greenhouse gas emissions (N2O production). My work will help evaluate management practices aimed at reducing nutrient pollution and greenhouse gas emissions in the Mississippi River Valley.

  • B.S. Sustainable Development and Environmental Biology, Appalachian State University
  • M.S. Biology, University of North Carolina at Greensboro

Shrijana Duwadi, Advisor: Dr. Justin Murdock. My research focuses on the role of Shrijana Duwadiplant species and mycorrhizae in nutrient retention in restored wetland habitats. I am also interested in how greenhouse gas production changes in response to seasonal soil microbial aspects and organic matter dynamics in a restored wetland. 

  • B.S. Agriculture, Institute of Agriculture and Animal Science, Nepal
  • M.S. Forestry, Auburn University

Cody Davis Godwin, Advisor: Dr. Chris Brown. I am studying Snake Fungal Disease Cody Davis Godwin(SFD) in Tennessee; more specifically, I am looking at the immunological, endocrinological, and population responses of snakes to SFD. I also collaborate and work as a researcher in the outback of Australia studying the spatial and nesting ecology of the perentie (Varanus giganteus).

  • A.S. Zoo Animal Technology, Santa Fe College
  • B.S. Wildlife Ecology and Conservation, University of Florida
  • M.S. Biology, Southeastern Louisiana University

Tanya Khan, Advisor: Dr. Hayden Mattingly. My research focuses on a Tennessee Tanya Khanendemic species, the Brawleys Fork Crayfish (Cambarus williami). Specifically, I am interested in seasonal habitat utilization and influences on community structure of C. williami and its crayfish associates.

  • B.S. Ecology, Evolution, and Organismal Biology, West Liberty University
  • M.S. Biology, West Liberty University

Nicholas Masto, Advisor: Dr. Brad Cohen. I am studying the spatial ecology of Nick Mastomallards wintering in the Mississippi Alluvial Valley using state-of-the-art GPS tracking technology. Our research will inform state and federal agencies of optimal habitat management and sustainable harvest strategies in western Tennessee and in the Upper Mississippi River/Great Lakes region of the Mississippi Flyway.

  • B.S. and M.S. Wildlife Biology and Management, Clemson University

Richard Pirkle, Advisor: Dr. Dan Combs. Canada geese in the Upper CumberlandRichard Pirkle region of Tennessee have been intensively banded over the past two decades. My research involves the analysis of this long-term dataset for patterns related to Canada goose physiology and social biology including topics related to Canada goose dispersal, reproduction, and molt site fidelity. I am also interested in the impact of targeted hunting mortality due to banding.

  • B.S. Applied Biology from the Georgia Institute for Technology 
  • M.S. Biology from the University of Louisville

Christopher Waters, Dr. Shawn Krosnick. My dissertation research is part of theChris Waters recovery efforts for the federally endangered mustard species Physaria globosa (Short’s bladderpod). I am investigating the reproduction dynamics, reproduction ecology, and life history of P. globosa populations in Tennessee, Kentucky, and Indiana. A primary objective of my research is the metabarcoding of pollinator eDNA deposited on flowers to efficiently index and monitor pollinator communities across the range of P. globosa.

  • B.S. Biology, Tennessee Tech University
  • M.S. Integrative Biology, Kennesaw State University

Spencer Womble, Advisor: Dr. Justin Murdock. I am researching how wetlandSpencer Womble hydrology affects nutrient retention in restored floodplain wetlands in west Tennessee and Kentucky. I am also interested in assessing how North American beavers (Castor canadensis) influence ecosystem function within floodplain wetlands.

  • B.S. Environmental Studies, University of Tennessee - Knoxville
  • M.S. Biology, Tennessee Tech University

M.S. Students


Fahad Saud Alharbi, Advisor: Dr. David Beck. I am studying small colony variantsFahad Alharbi (SCVs) of Staphylococcus aureus, focusing on phenotypic switching. My thesis research aims to identify one of the triggers responsible for phenotypic switching in order to reduce the difficulty in isolating clinical isolates from patients who fail antibiotic therapy and, potentially, improve the growth and detection of SCV isolates in clinical laboratories. 

  • B.S. Tennessee Tech University

Brittany Bajo, Advisor: Dr. Amanda Rosenberger. My current research project aims Brittany Bajoto delineate suitable and unsuitable habitat for dense freshwater mussel aggregations, longitudinally, and continuously, based on the unique hydrogeological features of the Duck River watershed.

  • B.S. Aquatic Biology, Grand Valley State University. 

Connor Ballard, Advisor: Dr. Mark Rogers. I am researching how hatchery raised Connor Ballardtrout and wild trout contribute to Tennessee tailwater trout fisheries. Specifically, I am looking at the Norris and Fort Patrick Henry tailwaters in order to evaluate hatchery trout stocking success. 

  • B.S. Biological Sciences, Montana State University


Sarah Brown, Advisor: Dr. Steven Hayslette. My thesis work is on diet selection Sarah Brownand competitive interactions of non-target species at bird feeders. 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. 

  • B.S. Wildlife and Fisheries Science, Tennessee Tech University  

Joshua Cary, Advisor: Dr. Amanda Rosenberger. Josh is researching the habitat Joshua Caryassociations of Blotchside Logperch (Percina burtoni) in Tennessee and using that information to assess the viability of their potential reintroduction into Abrams Creek.

  • B.S. Environmental and Natural Resources, Clemson University

Anchita Casaubon, Advisor: Dr. Carla Hurt. I am studying coloration and Anchita Casaubonmorphology of the hyperdiverse snapping shrimp genus Alpheus. By using a combination of morphometric and molecular tools, I will 1) determine if similarities in distantly related shrimp are a result of convergent evolution driven by similar selection pressures and 2) identify morphological characters of taxonomic importance in species diagnosis.

  • B.S. Biomedical Engineering, University of Miami
  • B.S. Marine Biology, Florida International University

Jennifer Caudle, Advisor: Dr. Kit Wheeler. I am studying biotic integrity and Jennifer Caudletemporal changes in fish communities on Arnold Air Force Base over the past 20 years.  Additionally, I am looking at the potential to use rapidly assessed habitat bioassessments to predict fish Index of Biotic Integrity scores throughout the Upper Duck and Upper Elk Watersheds.  If successful, the implication could be profound for agencies and organizations monitoring streams and restoration efforts by reducing financial and time constraints of fish surveys for biotic integrity. 

  • A.S. Surry Community College, NC
  • B.S. Wildlife and Fisheries Science, Tennessee Tech University
  • B.S. Animal Science, North Carolina State University

Aaron Coons, Advisor: Dr. Amanda Rosenberger. My research is investigating a Aaron Coonspopulation of Longnose Darters (Percina nasuta) in the St. Francis River, Missouri to better understand habitat associations of this endangered species across spatial scales.

  • B.S. Wildlife Conservation Biology, Ohio University
  • A.S. Wildlife Sciences, Hocking College

Jack Fetters, Advisor: Dr. Amanda Rosenberger. I am researching freshwater Jack Fettersmussels on Tennessee's Wolf River to determine their status and abundance.  This data will be given to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to better inform management recommendations. I am also conducting a water quality assessment on the Duck and Cumberland rivers to inform the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency (TWRA) on how to improve their water quality at the Cumberland River Aquatic Center (C-RAC) - a facility where freshwater mussels are raised. 

  • A.S. Hocking College
  • B.S. Eastern Kentucky University

Kendell Janell Hamm, Advisor: Dr. Hayden Mattingly. My thesis work involves Kendell Hammcomposing Species Status Assessments for two crayfish species that are endemic to Tennessee, the Brawleys Fork Crayfish (Cambarus williami) and the Pristine Crayfish (Cambarus pristinus). The SSAs will provide information pertaining to each species’ habitat needs, life history, current conditions, and potential future conditions in an effort to help support future ESA decision making. I will also be conducting a life history study for the Pristine Crayfish as little is known about the species’ reproductive cycle or habitat needs related to different life stages.

  • B.S. Urban Environmental Studies, Birmingham-Southern College 

Emily Hatcher, Advisor: Dr. John Gunderson. I am studying gene expression Emily Hatcherof Legionella-like bacteria isolated from human-constructed water systems. By using RNA-sequencing, I aim to determine effector proteins used for intracellular trafficking and intranuclear growth during different points of infection. 

  • B.S. Biology, Tennessee Technological University

Cory Highway, Advisor: Dr. Brad Cohen. I am studying the ecology of wintering Cory Highwaymallards in western Tennessee. Specifically, I am interested in the resource selection of wintering mallards and the rate of depletion of flooded unharvested corn fields in western Tennessee. 

  • B.S. Natural Resources Management, Grand Valley State University

Parker Hildreth, Advisor: Dr. Carla Hurt. My thesis research aims to identify at riskParker Hildreth hidden diversity within Faxonius durelli (Saddle Crayfish) and Faxonius forceps (Surgeon Crayfish) residing in the Cumberland and Tennessee river drainages. Other projects in progress include, species delimitation of the Faxonius placidus (Bigclaw Crayfish) species complex using genomic/mitochondrial derived data sets and determining if a newly discovered population of the federally endangered Faxonius shoupi (Nashville Crayfish) is a disjunct population or an anthropogenic introduction.

  • A.S. General Studies, Motlow State 
  • B.S. Wildlife and Fisheries Science, Tennessee Technological University

Ryan Hudson, Advisor: Dr. Kit Wheeler. I am studying a migration of five Ryan HudsonCatostomid fish species that occurs in Brasstown Creek, NC. My objectives are to determine the amount of nutrients that these fish transport and evaluate the potential ecosystem response they elicit. 

  • B.S. The Ohio State University 

Valerie Jones, Advisor: Dr. Hayden Mattingly. I am studying the habitat use of the federally endangered bluemask darter on the Collins River, with implications for reintroduction in the Calfkiller River.

  • B.S. Biology, Missouri State University

Rebekah Long, Advisor: Dr. Shawn Krosnick. I am studying the floral anatomy ofRebekah Long Passiflora incarnata (passion flower) and the functional capabilities in differing morphs of the flower’s reproductive structures. I am also studying the primary pollinator of P. incarnata, Xylocopa virginica (carpenter bee) and its foraging behaviors. Specifically, the effects of scent marking on Passiflora by Xylocopa.

  • B.S. Wildlife and Fisheries Science, Tennessee Tech University

Brittany McGuire, Advisor: Dr. Shawn Krosnick. My thesis research will assess how Brittany McGuirebiology students understand experimental design both at the high school level and in introductory university courses. The primary objective of my work is to determine how to better prepare students for futures in scientific fields. My research interests are in science education, communication, and informal education.

  • B.S. Biology, Tennessee Tech University

Morgan Michael, Advisor: Dr. Justin Murdock. I am researching the spatial Morgan Michaelvariability in nutrient uptake among habitat types of the western Tennessee wetland. This restored wetland is one of many that has been implemented and managed during my research, and will hopefully show the efficacy of the management process. 

  • B.S. Biology, Southern Illinois University, Carbondale

Stefan Nelson, Advisor: Dr. Brad Cohen. I am studying habitat selection of wild Stefan Nelsonturkeys, focusing on two study sites in Georgia and two in Louisiana. Specifically, I am investigating which habitat components comprise habitat for turkey broods, as well if selection of vegetation types changes depending on reproductive phenological stage or as broods age. 

  • B.S. Fisheries and Wildlife Management, Northern Michigan University

Emily PowellEmily Powell, Advisor: Dr. Shawn Krosnick. I am researching the life history and roles of floral displays in the federally endangered Physaria globosa (Short's Bladderpod). A greater understanding of lifecycle, pollinator visitation rates, and pollen limitations will aid in recovery efforts throughout its range. 

  • B.A. Field Ecology, Ohio University

Mary Scott, Advisor: Dr. Chris Brown. My thesis work involves creating a taxonomic identification key and completing a behavioral study of an unidentified species of wolf spider discovered in Arizona. 

  • B.S. Chemistry, East Tennessee State University

Adam Walker, Advisors: Dr. Kit Wheeler and Dr. Carla Hurt. I am a part of the Adam Walkercooperative project working on updating the status of the Striated Darter (Etheostoma striatulum) here in Tennessee. My research is investigating the distribution of E. striatulum with eDNA techniques and understanding the genetic health of the species through population genetics methods.

  • B.S. Grand Valley State University

Victor Wesley, Advisor: Dr. Mark Rogers. I research and analyze the age and Victor Wesleygrowth of several important commercial fish species: Silver and Bighead Asian Carp (Hypophthalmichthys molitrix; Hypophthalmichthys nobilis), Smallmouth Buffalo (Ichtiobus bubalus), and Skipjack Herring (Alosa  chrysochloris) in the Tennessee and Cumberland River systems. I also assist in gathering various data on Silver Carp via telemetry and gill netting methods.  

  • B.S. Biology, Louisiana State University 

MacKenzie White, Advisor: Dr. Kit Wheeler. I am working to quantify the nutrientMac White contributions of an adfluvial sucker (Ictiobus bubalus) in eastern Tennessee via three pathways: eggs, excretion, and carcasses.  Additionally, I am working to further understand the role abiotic conditions have on larval sucker survivorship, growth, development, and drift dynamics. 

  • B.S. Environmental Science, Marshall University

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