Current Students

David Boerma

Advisor: Sharon Swartz
Start: Fall 2013

Bats are agile, robust fliers, occupying ecological niches in which they swiftly pursue small insects, dart through dense foliage, migrate hundreds of miles, and navigate billowing clouds of conspecifics. Moreover, bats accomplish this using massive, complex wings; each with over 20 degrees of freedom. My current research interests are rooted in understanding the structure and function of bat wings within the context of maneuverability, stability, and neuromechanical control of flight.

Nikole Bonacorsi

Advisor: Andrew Leslie
Start: Fall 2015

I am interested in the evolution of heterospory, the production of two types of spores of separate sexes, which is an important innovation in the history of land plant evolution. In particular, I am studying the functional biology of the sporangium – how resources are partitioned within the sporangium (i.e. spore size and packing), and how that in turn affects reproductive allocation more widely.

Bianca Brown

Advisor: Tyler Kartzinel
Start: Fall 2015

I study Microbiome-Host-Environment (GxGxE) interactions using the barnacle species S. balanoides and various Drosophila species.


John Burley

Advisor: Jim Kellner
Start: Spring 2018 

 

John Capano

Advisor: Beth Brainerd

Start: Fall 2015

I am broadly interested in comparative physiology, functionalmorphology and biomechanics within an evolutionary context. I am more specifically interested in the effects of intercostal musculature and rib kinematics on lung ventilation. I aim to focus on the biomechanics of breathing in snakes, and the co-evolution of their musculature and mechanics for feeding, breathing, and locomotion.

KC Cushman

Advisor: Jim Kellner
Start: Fall 2014

I study how the production, allocation, and structure of tropical forests is influenced by
seasonal variation and long-term climate change. I am interested in differences among
tree species, and in how these processes determine cycles of water, carbon, and nutrients over large spatial scales.

 

Alex Damian-Serrano

Advisor: Casey Dunn
Start: Fall 2015

I am interested in studying the evolution of predatory specialization in siphonophores. To do this, I plan on compiling traits of their ecology and functional morphology, especially regarding the tentacles, from the literature and experimental data. I expect to yield results from the relationships
between these traits and their distribution across the phylogeny.

 

Patrick Freeman

Advisor: Tyler Kartzinel
Start: Fall 2017 

My research interests lie at the intersection of wildlife ecology, anthropogenically- driven environmental change, and conservation, particularly in African contexts. I'll be using tools like population genetics, remote sensing, and DNA metabarcoding and pairing them with behavioral ecology to illuminate how wildlife populations, and particularly megaherbivores, are interacting with human processes like land-use change and rural development, particularly in East African savannas. I also maintain a commitment to moving science beyond the academy through creative science communication and dialogue with decision-makers, communities, and individuals. 


Lillian Hancock

Advisor: Erika Edwards
Start: Fall 2012

I am interested in the origin, evolution, and assembly of complex character traits in plants. My research investigates the evolution of Crassulacean Acid Metabolism (CAM), a complex character trait that improves the efficiency of C3 photosynthesis – the pathway used by most photosynthetic organisms - under hot, dry conditions.

 

Emily Heyne

Advisor: Dov Sax
Start: Fall 2012

Many species have been observed moving up in elevation as well as latitude in response to warmer climates. I am interested in altitudinal range shifts occurring under current and future climate change. Steep mountains provide a spatially rapid gradient of environmental conditions and community assemblages, which could potentially mean much shorter (and easier) shifts in order for species to reach an ideal climate. However, climate change in many locations is more complex than a simple rise in temperature, and both biotic and abiotic mismatches may impact species’ fitness in a new location. I hope to explore the fitness consequences of range shifts from various angles, including population genetics, local adaptation, and physiological ecology.

Yordano Jimenez

Advisor: Beth Brainerd
Start: Fall 2015

I study the functional morphology of feeding in fishes. I am especially interested in how bony fishes capture, bite, and process their food.

 

Kaczmarek, Elska

Advisor: Beth Brainerd
Start: Fall 2017 

 

Robert Lamb

Advisor: Jon Witman
Start: Fall 2013

Through their ability to consume the very organisms that comprise the foundation of their ecosystems (such as algae, corals, and barnacles), consumers such as urchins and fishes play key roles in shaping marine communities. I am interested in the role that environmental stress gradients play in governing the relative dominance of different consumer guilds, and the plastic nature of food web interactions across multiple spatial scales. On the local scale, I am studying how wave turbulence interacts with consumer mobility to determine which herbivores are capable of foraging at a given location. On the global scale, I am studying patterns of herbivorous fish diversity and fish/urchin herbivore dominance in response to temperature, latitude, and evolutionary history.

Yinghong Lan

Advisor: Dan Weinreich
Start: Fall 2012

 

 

 

J.J. Lomax

Advisor: Beth Brainerd
Start: Fall 2016
B.S. Integrative Biology University of South Florida (2016)

Broadly, my interests include studying the biomechanics behind suction feeding in fishes and understanding the functional morphology of dentition in these organisms.  My research currently focuses on examining the power contribution, of fish cranial muscles, to overall expansion power during suction feeding. Overtime, I plan to focus on just what effects dentition has on suction feeding, pre and post prey capture.   

Armita Manafzadeh

Advisor: Stephen Gatesy
B.A. Integrative Biology, UC Berkeley (2016)

I'm interested in pursuing evolutionary questions by integrating evidence from functional morphology, development, and paleontology. By studying locomotion and ontogeny in living animals, I hope to gain a new perspective on the morphological trends we see in the fossil record, particularly among archosaurs (birds, crocodylians, and their ancestors).

Lindsay McCulloch

Advisor: Stephen Porder
Start: Fall 2016

I am interested in tropical ecosystem ecology with a specific interest in how nutrients move throughout a system. Broadly, I study the interface between plants and soils and the varying potential influences they can have on each other. Before coming to Brown, I completed my undergraduate work at Colgate University where I double majored in Environmental Biology and Geography.

Catriona Munro

Advisor: Casey Dunn
Start: Fall 2013

I am interested in the genetic changes that are associated with evolutionary shifts in
functional specialization. In particular, I am interested in differential gene expression and the evolution of functional specialization in siphonophores (a colonial hydrozoan), and in the molecular mechanisms that underlie their colony-level development.

Priyanka Nakka

Advisor: Sohini Ramachandran
Start: Fall 2013

I am broadly interested in understanding the genetic basis of predisposition to complex diseases, particularly cancer. I am currently working on characterizing the evolutionary history of SNP loci associated with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia and on identifying genes underlying complex diseases using common genomic variants.

Kimberly Neil-Cohen

Advisor: David Rand
Start: Fall 2013

I'm broadly interested in disease ecology, conservation medicine, and wildlife biology. For my dissertation research I am investigating parasite/pathogen dynamics of New England's threatened and invasive rabbits, the New England cottontail and the Eastern cottontail.

Joaquin Nunez

Advisor: David Rand
Start: Fall 2015

My main research goal is to understand how natural populations evolve and adapt in highly heterogeneous environments. I use tools from genomics and next-generation sequencing to address these questions on the system S. balanoides (The northern accord barnacle). S. balanoides is a robust system to address these questions: it has a well-studied ecology and a life cycle characterized by a swimming larval stage with high dispersal followed by the commitment to a sessile habitat in the intertidal. The resulting contrast of high gene flow and strong selection at the microhabitat level favors adaptation to environmental heterogeneity. Ultimately, my project seeks to expand our understanding of the genome-by-environment interactions involved in adaptations to highly heterogeneous environments.

Jillian Oliver

Advisor: Tom Roberts
Start: Fall 2016

I am primarily interested in the implications of morphology in locomotion, and in looking at questions of form from an evolutionary perspective. I am currently developing a detailed 3D muscle model to be used as a tool in experimentation, as well as to investigate patterns of fiber architecture. Such models help us answer questions on shape change and force production during muscle contraction.

Brooke Osborne

Advisor: Stephen Porder
Start: Fall 2013

Broadly, I am interested in terrestrial ecosystem ecology and biogeochemistry. I like thinking about microbial linkages between global change and ecosystem-scale processes and am especially interested in questions that will advance our understanding of nutrient cycling dynamics and address knowledge gaps for management/mitigation purposes in the face of global change.Currently I am focused on better understanding the influence of geomorphology, climate, and biological diversity on nitrogen cycling and limitation in lowland tropical forests and the underlying mechanisms of control. Additionally I am a student of Brown University and the MBL’s “Reverse Ecology” IGERT program. My cohort and I are working to integrate net generation sequencing into improving our understanding of nitrogen cycling in salt marsh systems.In addition to my research I enjoy designing and participating in creative communication and outreach efforts to connect the public and decision makers to science.

Donny Perret

Advisor: Dov Sax

I'm broadly interested in how species distributions respond to changes in the environment at different scales, with a specific interest in studying the effects of climate change on the edges of a species range. I have spent several years working with controversial species in the northern Rocky Mountains, and hope to help bridge the gap between on-the-ground conservation action and large-scale biotic forecasting. Before Brown, I studied relictual mountain beaver distributions while earning a B.S. at Stanford University.

Stephen Rong

Advisor: Sohini Ramachandran
Start: Fall 2014

My broad research interests are in statistical, computational, and theoretical population genetics, and the evolution of adaptations. I am interested in developing novel methods to detect subtle signatures of selection in population genomic data while controlling for confounding effects of demographic history. I aim to apply these methods to study local adaptation in a diverse set of human populations and other organisms with well-sampled population genomic data.

Sahar Shahamatdar 

Advisor: Sohini Ramachandran     
Start: Spring 2017 

I am currently working on characterizing signature mutations in cancer genomes, and identifying ancestry-informative markers from population-genomic datasets.

Andrea Rummel

Advisor: Sharon Swartz
Start: Fall 2015

Bats find themselves in a unique thermal environment during flight. Since they are primarily active at night, their wings are subjected to substantial radiative and conductive heat loss, even in warm ambient conditions, but their wing muscles are so poorly insulated as to be clearly visible through the skin. I’m interested in how bats maintain flight performance in the cold from a biomechanical and physiological perspective, and more broadly how muscles of the wing are used during flight.

Carlos Silva

Advisor: Jim Kellner
Start: Fall 2013

 

 

David Sleboda

Advisor: Tom Roberts
Start: Fall 2013

I study how skeletal muscle works, and am broadly interested in how biological structures function mechanically. My dissertation is focused on the constant-volume nature of muscle cells, and explores how the presence of intracellular fluid within muscle serves as both a benefit and detriment to the proper functioning of the tissue. The work relies heavily on isolated muscle experiments, and also on simple physical models of muscle which are inspired by micrographs of cellular level morphology. 

Sam Smith

Advisor: Sohini Ramachandran
Start: Spring 2017

I am interested in developing methods for multi-ethnic genome-wide association studies, in particular the way that the same disease can be linked to unique genetic variants in different ethnic groups.

Adam Spierer

Advisor: David Rand
Start: Fall 2013

 

Kristin Stover

Advisor: Beth Brainerd
Start: Fall 2012

I am interested in the effects of domestication on locomotion and its implications for morphological changes, gait dynamics and muscle performance. Artificial selection has lead to faster growth in order to decrease time to market and large increases in muscle mass in some domestic species. I am using the turkey to examine the effects of this dramatic increase in mass by comparing wild and commercial strains.

Morgan Turner

Advisor: Stephen Gatesy
Start: Fall 2015

B.A. Biological Anthropology and Paleobiology (2013) University of Washington
Natural Science Illustration Certificate (2013) University of Washington PCE

My research lies at the intersection of paleontology, experimental biology, and visual design. Focusing on functional trends in the evolution of posture and locomotion of archosaurs, I study how the foot interacts with the ground it walks on. By collecting anatomical, track, and kinematic data from the feet of living relatives of archosaurs (birds and crocodilians), I am exploring new ways to quantify and visualize foot motion, and measure it in skeletal and track fossils.

Hannah Weller

Advisor: Beth Brainerd
Start: Spring 2017 

With more than 30,000 species, bony fishes display a huge variety of adaptations for feeding, swimming, and communicating. I'm interested in how aspects of fish functional morphology allow fishes to survive in a diversity of habitats, and how those features have been shaped by evolutionary pressures to produce the fantastic diversity we see now. My research involves combining studies of live animal behavior with computational image processing and analysis to gain a detailed understanding of the how the specialized morphologies of fishes allow them to interact with (and eat parts of) their environments.