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 plant structure and function. For my graduate work, I plan to study the evolution and mechanics of active spore release in the genus Selaginella.

 

Bianca Brown

Advisor: David Rand
Start: Fall 2015

I am interested in how species respond to environmental stress.  Some of my research goals are to figure out what genes are responsible for certain plastic traits, and how are some species better able to adapt in high stress environment than others. How species respond to temperature is of particular interest to me. My current projects are investigating the role of host-microbiome interaction in the homeostasis of the host during thermal stress and exploring the effects of temperature on mito-nuclear interactions.

John Capano

Advisor: Beth Brainerd
Start: Fall 2015

I am broadly interested in comparative physiology, functional morphology 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

My research involves the structure and function of tropical forests, and the response of tropical trees to short-term climate variation and long-term climate change. I am interested in studying forests at the level of entire landscapes, combining ground measurements and remote sensing tools to measure relevant processes over large 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.

Terry Dial

Advisor: Beth Brainerd
Start: Fall 2011
B.S. Loyola Marymount University (2007)
M.S. University of Utah (2010)

I am interested in the developmental trade-offs associated with animal form and function. Young vertebrates enter the world at many different levels of morphological maturity (e.g., humans vs. horses) and display an array of developmental strategies taking them into adulthood. I would like to understand how developmental strategy influences locomotor performance of both juvenile and adult forms. In the past I've primarily worked on developing birds (mallard ducks and chukar partridge), but am now branching out to the ectothermic world, which arguably exhibits the most interesting morphological and life-history variation.

Chris Graves

B.S. Biological Sciences, University of Vermont

I study adaptations to unpredictable environments that are continually changing, thereby causing the fitness of a trait to vary through time. I address this problem with a combination of analytical and computational modeling as well as experimental evolution in fast evolving microbial organisms. Current projects of mine include applying the theory of selection in varying environments to problems in infectious disease evolution and experimentally evolving laboratory populations of yeast in an unpredictable environment.

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 Hollenbeck

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.

 

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.   

Catherine Luria

B.S. Iowa State University, 2005
M.S. Virginia Commonwealth University, 2010

I am interested in the forces that shape natural microbial communities and how these in turn impact ecosystem function. My current research focuses on the marine microbial communities of the Western Antarctic Peninsula, a region that undergoes extreme light-driven seasonal transitions. I plan to examine how these transitions, especially spring sea-ice melt and phytoplankton blooms, drive changes in bacterial diversity and activity.

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.

Morgan Moeglein

Advisor: Erika Edwards
Start: Fall 2014

I am interested in the relationship between ecologically relevant traits and their underlying genetic basis. For my graduate work, I am studying the environmental and genetic factors governing leaf shape variation in the genus Viburnum.

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

Advisor: Kate Smith
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.

Jeremy Rehm

Advisor: Sharon Swartz
Start: Fall 2014

My research interests fundamentally focus on maneuverability in bat flight. Questions of interest relate to how bats modulate flight behavior and maneuverability across different ecological contexts, and what anatomical features of the wing enable them to accomplish such modulations. These questions further raise interesting topics relating to animal performance with respect to its environment, ecology, and anatomy, and may have implications for how selective pressures enable organisms to perform “smartly” rather than “maximally."

Stephen Rong

Advisor: Sohini Ramachandran
Start: Fall 2014

I work on mathematical, statistical, and computational theory and models of evolutionary processes and population genetics. Currently, I am interested in developing methods to separate the effects of selection from demographic history on patterns of genetic variation. For example, both selective forces and demographic events shaped patterns of genetic variation in human populations as humans expanded out of Africa. I hope to apply my methods to humans and the organisms most affected by human activities and historical human movement.

Andrea Rummel

Advisor: Sharon Swartz
Start: Fall 2015

I am broadly interested in bat ecomorphology and functional morphology. I would like to understand the constraints that flight and flight-based ecologies impose on wing structure, function, and the behavior of bats.

 

Carlos Silva

Advisor: Jim Kellner
Start: Fall 2013

 

 

David Sleboda

Advisor: Tom Roberts
Start: Fall 2013

I’m broadly interested in the relationship between form and function in biology.  Currently, I’m studying the arrangement of the intramuscular connective tissues present within skeletal muscles, and the effect of constraining skeletal muscle shape changes during contraction. My graduate work focuses heavily on simple physical and computer models of muscles. From these we draw hypotheses that can be tested on real, isolated bullfrog muscle preparations.

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

My research lies at the intersection of paleontology, experimental biology, and visual design. I am largely interested in understanding functional trends in the evolution of posture and locomotion of archosaurs. By working with fossil specimens and living relatives, in conjunction with XROMM, CT scanning, and Maya computer animation, I will work towards exploring new
ways to quantify and visualize motion and evolutionary trends—bringing this lineage back to life. More research and art at my personal website: www.thebrokentusk.com