Biology

Graduate Students

The biology department at Tennessee Tech has an active graduate program with students enrolled in the M.S. (biology) program or the Ph.D. (environmental biology) program. Read more about some of our current graduate students below.


Roger Applegate (Certified Wildlife Biologist) is working on a Ph. D. specializing in physiological ecology of northern bobwhite under the direction of Dr. Steven Hayslette. 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.

Bob Baggett is a Ph.D student in the Environmental Sciences program.He is working under the direction of Dr. Chris Brown and is examining the movement patterns of two species of wolf spiders found in the Chiricahua Mountains of southeastern Arizona. Bob earned his B.S. in Biology from Tennessee Technological University in May 2000, his Ph.D. in Behavior Analysis in August 2005, and his M.S. in Biology in May 2015.

Tom Boersig grew up in St. Louis, Missouri, and earned undergraduate degrees in Fisheries and Wildlife Management and Forestry from the University of Missouri in 2007. He spent the next several years as an ecological mercenary studying trout, walleye, sauger, sturgeon, suckers, catfish, black bass, hellbenders, and a host of non-game fish and invertebrate species in aquatic habitats from the Beartooth Plateau of Wyoming to the large rivers of the Midwest to the Rockcastle River system of south-central Kentucky. In 2013, he joined the Tennessee Tech Biology Department as a Master’s student, investigating the life history of Cambarus obeyensis, a state-endangered crayfish endemic to the Cumberland Plateau.

Amy Doll began her M.S in January 2015 at Tennessee Tech University, under the tutelage of Dr. Joshuah Perkin. She earned her B.S at Valley City State University in Valley City, North Dakota where she dual majored in Biology and Fisheries and Wildlife Science with a concentration in fisheries. Amy is studying the reproductive ecology of Banded Sculpin (Cottus carolinae) and the effects of streams size gradient on the reproductive ecology in the Roaring River Basin.

Andrea Engle is from Erwin, Tn. She received a B.S. Degree in Wildlife and Fisheries Science from Tennessee Tech University. She is currently pursuing a M.S. Degree in Biology. She is under advisement of Dr. Justin Murdock and is assessing the colonization and growth potential of the nuisance alga, Didymosphenia geminate in the upper Tennessee River watershed.

Heather Ferrell is a Graduate Research Assistant (M.S.) conjointly working in the Biology Department and the Tennessee Cooperative Fishery Research Unit under the supervision of Drs. Carla Hurt and Phil Bettoli at Tennessee Tech University. Her project involves analyzing highly variable molecular markers called microsatillites in order to assess the efficacy of Tennessee Wildlife Resource Agency's Sauger-stocking program in Old Hickory Lake, Tennessee. She has earned her B.S. in Biology with a concentration in Zoology at Tennessee Tech University in May 2010.

Kimberly Cosgriff Hart officially began graduate school at Tennessee Tech in the Spring of 2014. She is currently working on the prevention of nursing home infections with Dr. David L. Beck. She is an older student originally graduating from Mary Washington College (Fredericksburg, VA) in Biology. She later briefly attended Virginia Tech in Human Nutrition and Foods. She currently lives in Cookeville with her husband and their 3 children where she enjoys drawing and jogging as time allows.

Cole Harty is a M.S. student and research technician for the Tennessee Cooperative Fish Research Unit. He earned his B.S. in Animal Ecology (Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences) from Iowa State University in 2013. Cole is currently working with Dr. Phil Bettoli to investigate Channel Catfish (Ictalurus punctatus) and Blue Catfish (Ictalurus furcatus) population dynamics in the Tennessee River and to develop standard sampling protocols for catfish in Tennessee.

Aubree Hill is a Ph.D. student who also works for the Biology Department as a laboratory coordinator. She earned her M.S. in Biology at TTU under Dr. Chris Brown in December 2011. Her past research has focused on predator avoidance behaviors of zigzag salamanders (Plethodon dorsalis), as well as the daytime roosting ecology of Northern long-eared bats (Myotis septontrionalis). While enrolled in the Environmental Sciences Ph.D. program, Aubree and her advisor Dr. Donald Walker will be researching fungal pathogens (Batrachochytrium spp.) that are currently causing global amphibian declines. They hope to develop antifungal treatments using microbiota that occur naturally on the skin of these animals.

Lucas Hix is a M.S. student who started at Tennessee Technological University in August 2013. He earned his B.S. in Wildlife and Fisheries Science-Fisheries from Tennessee Technological University in 2013. Lucas is currently working with Dr. Murdock to investigate the factors that regulate occurrence, bloom formation, and cell densities of the invasive alga, Didymosphenia geminata, in the Upper Tennessee River Basin.

Thomas Johnson (“TJ”) is a master’s student working under the direction of Dr. Brad Cook. Originally from North Carolina, he received his B.S. in Environmental Biology from Appalachian State University. Following graduation he worked as a fisheries technician in Great Smoky Mountains National Park where he developed an interest in salmonid management. His research is assessing whether captive propagation is a viable tool for restoring southern Appalachian Brook Trout (Salvelinus fontinalis) in Tennessee.

Suzanne Johnston is a M.S. student who started at Tennessee Technological University in August 2014. Originally from southern Indiana, Suzanne earned degrees from Hocking Technical College (A.S) and University of Idaho (two B.S.) as well as held technician positions in Montana, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, and Ohio. Suzanne is currently working with Dr. Robert Kissell, Jr. to model the occupancy of the long-tailed weasel (Mustela frenata) in the state of Arkansas.

Tori Kaufman is a M.S. student in the Biology Department. She is a graduate of University of Missouri-Columbia in 2014 with a B.S. in Fisheries & Wildlife Sciences, minoring in Biology and Anthropology. Past wildlife research jobs included evolutionary disease ecology, migration of neo-tropical migrants, survivability of neo-tropical migrants, and glycogen liver content in migrating pink salmon (Oncorhynchus gorbuscha). Currently, she studies the population dynamics of Canada Geese in the Upper Cumberland region under Dr. Dan Combs. In her spare time, Tori enjoys hiking with her dog, exercise, and reading.

Sharon Kington is a master’s degree student from Sequatchie Valley with a B.S. in Wildlife Management from Tennessee Tech. Sharon currently works for TDEC’s Division of Water Resources and takes advantage of their free class per semester for employees. Sharon is working with flora under the direction of Dr. Shawn Krosnick in Tennessee Ecoregion 68 to identify and characterize reference wetlands.

Natalie Knorp is a PhD student in the Environmental Sciences program. She received her B.S. from Michigan State University and her M.S. from Florida Atlantic University, where she investigated processes regulating dragonfly community structure. She is working with Dr. Justin Murdock to assess the effects of the nuisance alga Didymosphenia geminata on benthic communities.

Robert Paine is a Ph.D student who started his studies in January 2015. He received his B.S. in Marine Biology from the University of West Florida in Pensacola, FL. His focus has now been redirected to Conservation Genetics of imperiled taxa. He is currently working under Dr. Carla Hurt, designing an environmental DNA (eDNA) protocol for the endangered Pygmy Madtom (Noturus stanauli) and the Nashville Crayfish (Orconectes shoupi). His project will ultimately assist management agencies and other biologists with ascertaining the true distribution of these imperiled species.

Jay Payne is an M.S. student that began August of 2015. He received a B.S. in Fisheries and Aquaculture from University of Georgia in 2010. He worked as a Fisheries Technician with the Georgia Department of Natural Resources where his focus included algae bloom and water quality management of recreational fishing ponds and warmwater fish hatchery ponds. Jay is working with Dr. Justin Murdock to evaluate algal structure and function in agriculturally-influenced oxbow lakes of the Mississippi Delta.

Ernesto Sanz is a Ph. D. student who began his studies at Tennessee Technological University in January of 2015. Ernesto is native of Spain and earned degrees in biology from Universidad Autonoma de Madrid (B. S.) and University of Reading (M.S.). Ernesto is working under the supervision of Dr. Shawn Krosnick and is researching the pollination and evolution on the genus Passiflora. Particularly in the section Disemma, native to Australia and South-West Pacific Islands, from Papua New Guinea to Samoa.

Angela Schmid is a Masters student studying under the advisement of Dr. Brad Cook. She is researching colonization rates of aquatic macroinvertebrates. Angela received her B.S. in Biology from Tennessee Technological University in 2013. She is from Cookeville, TN.

Jessi Vannatta is a Ph.D. student in the Environmental Sciences program with a concentration in biology. She is working under the supervision of Dr. Brian Carver and plans to look at genetic differentiation in Tennessee bat species. A definitive project is still in the works, but she hopes to study genetic differences in bats who use different roosting and hibernation sites across Tennessee. Jessi has lived her whole life in Tennessee and earned her B.S. in Organismal Biology and Ecology in 2012 and her M.S. in Biology in 2015 both from Middle Tennessee State University. Her past research involved Eastern Box Turtles (Terrapene carolina carolina) and focused on demographic and physiologic characteristics, as well as disease status.

Corinne "Juju" Wellemeyer is a Master's student under the instruction of Dr. Josh Perkin. Juju is studying stream fish community structure in relation to watershed conditions. She completed her B.S. at Wichita State University in Kansas where she studied Great Plains stream fish communities and habitat associations of the Arkansas Darter (Etheostoma cragini).

Grady Wells is a PhD student in the School of Environmental Studies (Biology concentration). He is a graduate of Tennessee Tech ’05 (B.S.) and Murray State ’08 (M.S.) with degrees in wildlife & fisheries science and biology. He is working with Dr. Hayden Mattingly to determine the current distribution, abundance, and habitat affinities of the endangered pygmy madtom. He lives in Sewanee with his wife, Sara, and spends his free time cycling and running.