Graduate Students

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.

Ph.D. Students

Roger Applegate (Certified Wildlife Biologist) is working on a Ph. D. specializing in physiological ecology of northern bobwhite. He is employed as a Wildlife Population Biologist by the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency and also serves as an Adjunct Professor of Biology at Nashville State Community College. He is affiliated with the Center for Wildlife Health Coordinated Research Unit in the Department of Forestry, Wildlife and Fisheries and College of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Tennessee-Knoxville. He holds the rank of Adjunct Assistant Professor of Wildlife at UTK. Roger earned a B.S. from Western Illinois University and an M.S. from the University of Illinois and has worked as a professional wildlife biologist in 4 states. At TWRA he is responsible for coordinating upland game bird management and research, wildlife diseases, and human dimensions surveys.
Advisor:  Dr. Steve Hayslette

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.
B.S. in Sustainable Development and Environmental Biology, Appalachian State University
M.S. in Biology, University of North Carolina at Greensboro
Advisor: Dr. Justin Murdock

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.
B.S. in Wildlife, Ecology, and Conservation, University of Florida
M.S. in Biology, Southeastern Louisiana University
Advisor: Dr. Chris Murray

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.
B.S. in Education, Tennessee Tech University
M.S. In Biology, Tennessee Tech University
Advisor:  Dr. John Gunderson

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.
B.S. in Biology, University of Tennessee at Martin
M.S. in Biology, University of Texas at Tyler
Advisor:  Dr. Amanda Rosenberger

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.
B.S. in Marine Biology, University of West Florida
Advisor:  Dr. Carla Hurt

 

M.S. Students

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. 
B.S. in Wildlife and Fisheries Science, Tennessee Tech University
Advisors:  Dr. Keith Gibbs and Dr. Justin Murdock 

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.
B.S. in Wildlife and Fisheries Science, Tennessee Tech University 
Advisor:  Dr. Steve Hayslette

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.
B.S. Animal Science, North Carolina State University
B.S. Wildlife and Fisheries Science, Tennessee Tech University
Advisor:  Dr. Kit Wheeler

Aaron Coons  I will investigate the life history, population status, and habitat selection of Longnose Darters (Percina nasuta) in the St. Francis River, Missouri.
B.S. in Wildlife Conservation Biology, Ohio University
Advisor: Dr. Amanda Rosenberger

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.
B.S. in Fisheries and Wildlife Management, Lake Superior State University
Advisor: Dr. Justin Murdock

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).
B. S. in Biology, Framingham State University
Advisor: Dr. Carla Hurt

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.
BSc (hons) in Biology, Newcastle University
Advisor: Dr. Chris Murray

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 survey information. 
B.S. in Fisheries and Wildlife, University of Missouri - Columbia
Advisor: Dr. Amanda Rosenberger

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 heterogenous and highly-fragmented landscape.
B.S. in Biology, Duke University
Advisor: Dr. Carla Hurt

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.
B.S. in Biology, Missouri State University
Advisor: Dr. Hayden Mattingly

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.
B.S. in Forestry & Natural Resources, California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo
Advisor: Dr. Brian Carver

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.
B. S. in Biology, Tennessee Tech University
Advisor: Dr. Shawn Krosnick

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.
B.S. in Fisheries and Wildlife Management, Northern Michigan University
Advisor: Dr. Bradley Cohen

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. 
B.S. in Chemistry, East Tennessee State University
Advisor: Dr. Chris Brown

Kaitlyn Vredevoogd  I am studying urban bat hibernation characteristics and locating hibernacula in the Cookeville area. 
B.S. in Biology, Calvin College
Advisor: Dr. Brian Carver

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.
B.S. in Environmental Science, Marshall University
Advisor: Dr. Kit Wheeler

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.
B.S. in Wildlife Ecology, Research and Management and Biology, University of Wisconsin - Stevens Point
Advisor: Dr. Brian Carver

Spencer Womble  I am researching the distribution of the mat-forming algae Didymosphenia geminiata (Didymo) in southern Appalachian Watersheds and its effects on macroinvertebrate diets. 
B.S. in Environmental Studies, University of Tennessee
Advisor: Dr. Justin Murdock

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. 
B.S. in Fisheries, Wildlife, and Conservation Biology, North Carolina State University
Advisor: Dr. Mark Rogers

 

 

 

 

 

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