The WEC August 2016 Spotlight
Welcome New PhD students
Natalie Claunch joins the SNRE doctoral program under the advisement of Dr. Christina Romagosa (WEC MS '00; WEC BS '96). A recipient of a 2016 SNRE Graduate School Fellowship award, Natalie earned her MS in Biology from California Polytechnic State University, in San Luis Obispo, CA and her BS in Zoology from North Carolina State University in Raleigh, NC. For her MS, Natalie studied the physiological, behavioral, and spatial effects of chronic stress on rattlesnakes in Central California. She plans to investigate stress-immune interactions in invasive reptiles in South Florida, and hopes to employ physiological techniques to inform invasive species management. In her spare time, Natalie enjoys herping, photography, biological illustration, and socializing with friends over good food and beverage.
Diego García Olaechea joins to the WEC doctoral program under the advisement of Drs. Bette Loiselle and Scott Robinson (Zoology). Diego earned his BS in Biology at the Universidad Nacional de Piura in Piura, Peru and is also the recipient of a Fulbright scholarship and Peruvian CONCYTE Fellowship. He is broadly interested in the ecology and conservation of endemic birds of the Dry Forest in northwestern Peru, one of the largest communities of restricted species range in the world, and plans to investigate the impacts of land use changes and climate change on the abundance, distribution and demographic patterns on this bird community. Diego's past research include intense bird banding with emphasis on describing molt patterns and strategies in order to accurately determine age and sex in tropical birds. He enjoys the outdoors, especially the dry forests of Peru, driving and camping long distances with no schedule, and good conversations with friends with refreshment in hand, and if from local brewers, better.
UF alumnus Richard Herren begins his WEC doctoral program under the advisement of Dr. Ray Carthy. Rick earned his MS in Biology from the University of Central Florida in Orlando, FL and his BS in Psychology from the University of Florida. He has been managing nesting and in-water sea turtle projects in Florida and Georgia since the 1990's. For his doctoral research, Rick will study sea turtle population dynamics and foraging habitats in the Gulf of Mexico from the Nature Coast Biological Station in Cedar Key. He is currently working for the Sea Turtle Conservancy managing conservation grants that improve the quality of nesting habitat and mitigate the effects of the Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill. His background includes sea turtle capture-mark-recapture studies, satellite tracking, oceanic surveys, GIS and monitoring natural and anthropomorphic impacts to nesting and reproductive success. In his leisure time, Rick enjoys surfing, hiking, diving, computer games and playing ultimate Frisbee.
Katie Hooker joins WEC as a doctoral student under the advisement of Dr. Bob McCleery. From Columbus, Ohio, Katie earned her MS in Wildlife and Fisheries Biology from Clemson University in Clemson, SC and her BS in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology from the University of Arizona in Tucson, Arizona. Her MS research focused on understanding the biotic and abiotic responses of a deciduous forest ecosystem to a simulated pathogen attack in the Hudson River Valley, New York. Since completing her MS in 2014, she has worked as a biologist for the USGS Pacific Island Ecosystems Research Center in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, managing projects that investigate the impact of invasive mammal and arthropod predators on native Hawaiian forest bird nest success and survival on Mauna Loa volcano. At UF she plans to identify the environmental factors that most influence cotton rat population dynamics across multiple sites in northern Florida. In her free time, Katie enjoys baking cupcakes and other sweet treats, playing ukulele, tailgating and watching college football, and exploring the natural world with her dog/adventure sidekick, Roscoe.
UF alumnus Brian Jeffery (SNRE MS '09) begins his WEC doctoral program under the advisement of Dr. Rob Fletcher. Brian received his MS in Interdisciplinary Ecology from UF and his BS in Environmental Studies from Florida International University in Miami, FL. His MS research focused on the impacts of off-road vehicles on small mammal in Big Cypress National Preserve. He has worked for UF monitoring the impacts of Everglades restoration on alligators and crocodiles in south Florida and most recently monitoring the endangered snail kite. He plans to continue working with snail kites for his doctoral research. Brian's personal interests include photography, boating, fishing, and camping.
UF alumna Cristina Nunez Godoy (SNRE MS '16) begins her SNRE doctoral program under the advisement of Drs. Elizabeth Pienaar and Lyn Branch. Cristina holds a BS in Business Administration from the National University of Salta, Argentina and had worked in banking for 6 years. With an interest for conservation of the Chaco Forest, she joined the working group of the Southern Cone Conservation Leadership Initiative in 2013 and guided her studies to acquire skills and tools to use economic incentives for conservation. Her dissertation research will focus on a Payment for Ecosystem Services program in Argentina. Her future plans include the leadership of research and investment projects in biodiversity conservation and economic development through a position at a major research-based NGO working to advance sustainable economic development in Argentina and beyond. In her spare time, Cristina enjoys sports, kayaking, travel and live music.
Mahi Puri begins her WEC doctoral program as WEC's 2016 Graduate School Fellowship recipient under the advisement of Dr. Madan Oli. Mahi earned her MS in Environmental Studies from TERI University in New Delhi, India and her BA in Mathematics from St. Stephens' College, Delhi University India. Since 2013, she has worked as a research associate with the Wildlife Conservation Society-India Program, studying large carnivores and their prey in the Western Ghats landscape of India. She recently completed an independent research project to determine the distribution patterns of leopards and sloth bears and their conflict with humans in the unprotected reserve forests of central India, covering almost 10,000 square kilometers. Mahi has also worked in wildlife film-making as a script-writer and producer, rehabilitated temporarily displaced wild animals in north-east India, and carried out a study on high-altitude mammals in the Kashmir valley. She enjoys travel, cooking, throwing pots, and once played chess professionally.
UF alumnus Travis Thomas (WEC MS '13; FY BS '09) returns to WEC as a doctoral student under the co-advisement of Drs. Steve Johnson (WEC PhD '01) and Mike Allen. Travis is currently on staff at UF/IFAS Nature Coast Biological Station where his research is focused on aquatic reptile ecology. His doctoral research will be focused on the population dynamics and ecology of the Diamondback Terrapin. Previously, he served as a biologist in the Reptile and Amphibian Subsection of the Fish and Wildlife Research Institute, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. He has worked on numerous projects concerning reptile and amphibian ecology, spanning many disciplines, including spatial ecology, phylogenetics, population ecology, evolutionary biology, and taxonomy. In his free time, Travis enjoys fishing, boating, sports, and traveling the world.
Alumnus Brad Udell (WEC MS '16; WEC BS '13) enters the WEC doctoral program under the co-advisement of Drs. Christina Romagosa (WEC MS '00; WEC BS '96) and Julien Martin (WEC PhD '07). Brad has worked with the USDA on the ecology and behavior of the Asian Citrus Psyllid (ACP), the vector of citrus greening in Florida. His MS research examined the risk of mortality between watercraft and marine mammals in the context of determining optimal protection zones. Brad's doctoral project will focus on the optimal management of invasive species in the Florida Everglades, with emphasis on optimal control efforts and the adaptive management of melaleuca and tegu. He enjoys being outdoors, exploring new places, learning new things, reading, laughing, sports, exercising, music, and Gator football.
Welcome New MS students
Kelley Anderson joins the WEC MS program under the advisement of Dr. Elizabeth Pienaar. Originally from Yorktown, VA, she earned her BS in Forest Resources Management from Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, VA. Kelley's research interests include human perceptions of nature, environmental policy, environmental education, human dimensions of wildlife conservation, and environmental sustainability. Her passion for people and the environment developed while working for several forestry and wood products companies, where she frequently interacted with landowners, the public, and governmental agencies. At UF, she will conduct research on stakeholders' views of human-wildlife conflict, focusing on coyotes in Florida. Kelley enjoys backpacking, kayaking, rock climbing, outdoor adventure, and spending time with her cats, Ash and Ava, and other fostered pets.
Jesse Borden begins his SNRE MS program under the advisement of Dr. Brett Scheffers. Jesse spent most of his childhood in Kenya and his high school years in Portugal. In 2009 he completed a BS in Biology with an emphasis on Environmental Science at Westmont College in Santa Barbara, CA. Since then he has lived primarily in California, with extended time spent in Tanzania and Belize, where he worked with a field-based environmental program for college students. His experiences and education has given him a fascination with community ecology and a desire to delve into the cross section of ecology, conservation and development. At UF, his research will focus on arboreal reptile and amphibian species in the forests of the Eastern Arc Mountains in Tanzania. Jesse enjoys spending time with his wife Annie and one-year-old Asher, swimming in water holes, biking, birding, hiking, woodworking, baking bread, gardening and exploring new places.
Sarah Cooke begins her SNRE MS program under the advisement of Dr. Frank Mazzotti. Sarah earned her BS in Biology, concentrating on Organismal Biology and Ecology, from Towson University in Towson, MD. She has worked with northern map turtles (Graptemys geographica), conducting nesting and basking surveys of an endangered population on the Susquehanna River in Maryland. Most recently, Sarah was employed as a biological intern with the UF/IFAS Fort Lauderdale Research and Education Center, where she assisted with various projects involving crocodilians and herpetofauna throughout southern Florida. These include conducting road surveys to monitor species abundance and distribution of herps, trapping and tracking non-native Argentine black and white tegus via radio telemetry, and monitoring body condition of crocodilians to aid in assessing Everglades restoration efforts. At UF, she plans to focus her research on spatial ecology and management of non-native herps. Sarah enjoys scuba diving, travelling, music and most outdoor activities.
Bobbi Carpenter joins the WEC MS program under the co-advisement of Drs. Katie Sieving and Theron Terhune of the Tall Timbers Research Station and Land Conservancy. Bobbi received her BS in Wildlife Management and Crop and Weed Sciences from North Dakota State University in Fargo, ND, and has worked for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission's Fish and Wildlife Research Institute on various avian ecological studies. Her MS project will focus on Wild turkey nesting behavior in Florida. Outside of her work, she enjoys hiking, photography, DIY projects and spending time on or near the water.
Sarah Dudek begins her WEC MS program under the advisement of Dr. Rob Fletcher. Sarah earned my BS in Wildlife Ecology at the University of New Hampshire in Durham, NH. After spending several field seasons working with passerines and raptors in New England and New Mexico, she moved to Florida to work for the Florida Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit to monitor the Florida snail kite. She has spent two and a half years monitoring the snail kite population, and looks forward to contributing further research to the conservation of this endangered species. In her spare time, Sarah enjoys being outside, snorkeling, and horseback riding.
UF alumna Diane Episcopio joins the WEC MS program under the advisement of Dr. Elizabeth Pienaar. Diane earned her BS in Biology from the University of Florida, and has recently worked as a field technician in the McCleery lab studying Sherman fox squirrels. She was also a volunteer at the City of Gainesville's Morningside Nature Center, responsible for improving the appearance and function of their education building through environmental interpretive material. Diane's research interests are in the human dimensions of wildlife conservation. Her MS research will survey and analyze the public's knowledge, opinions, and attitudes towards exotic and invasive species in Florida. In her free time Diane enjoys travel, movies, volunteering, getting outdoors and Netflix marathons.
Don Hardeman joins the WEC MS program, under the advisement of Dr. Bob McCleery. Don obtained his BS in Wildlife and Fisheries Sciences from Texas A&M University in College Station, TX. He has spent his career working with small mammals, bats, and carnivores throughout the US. Don is currently employed with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission in their Gainesville FWRI office, as a Black Bear Research Biologist, where he was involved in the 2014-2015 statewide population study. He recently began work on a population demographics study for the Apalachicola subpopulation of bears. His research interests include various aspects of population ecology, disease ecology, and feeding/foraging ecology in mammalian carnivores. Don's graduate research will focus on the internal and external factors influencing black bear behavior in a human dominated landscape. Don's personal interests include music, film, archery, hiking, reading, wildlife photography, travelling, cooking, discussing politics, and good conversation.
Ben Lowe begins his SNRE MS program under the advisement of Dr. Susan Jacobson. Born and raised in Singapore, Ben received a BS in Environmental Biology from Wheaton College in Wheaton, IL in 2007, and has served since in the nonprofit sector, organizing faith communities around climate and environmental action. His research will be focused on the human dimensions of fisheries management on Lake Tanganyika in East Africa - the second deepest lake in the world and home to over 200 endemic fish species. Ben loves all things fish (especially fishing and sushi!) and is excited to be getting away from the long cold winters of his former home in Chicago.
UF alumna Shannon Moore returns to WEC as an MS student under the advisement of Dr. Samantha Wisely. Born and raised in Fort Myers, FL, Shannon earned her BS in Wildlife Ecology and Conservation from the University of Florida in 2015. She then took a year off to work as a field technician in the Wisely lab, assisting with a variety of research projects including trypanosomes in Swaziland avians and hemorrhagic disease in white-tailed deer. Shannon's MS research will focus on the movement, population structure, and disease prevalence of cattle egrets (Bubulcus ibis) in Florida. She enjoys nature photography, horseback riding, music, DIY projects, and video games.
Maria Paula Mugnani joins the WEC MS program under the advisement of Dr. Debbie Miller, West Florida Research and Education Center, and Dr. Kevin Robertson of Tall Timbers Research Station. From Argentina but raised in Vermont, Maria Paula received her BA in Environmental Studies with a focus in Conservation Biology at Mount Holyoke College in South Hadley, MA, where she developed a passion for endangered ecosystems conservation and plant-animal interactions due to her studies in Ecuador and her undergraduate thesis research on the effects of climate change-driven permafrost thaw on microhabitat dynamics in subarctic Sweden. Maria Paula has also been involved in various long-term ecological projects in northwestern US, Hawaii and southeastern US. Her MS research will examine plant groundcover dynamics and distribution in old-growth longleaf pine savannah at Tall Timbers Research Station. Maria Paula's personal interests include gardening, cooking, outdoor activities, photography and public outreach.
Alex Potash joins the WEC MS program under the advisement of Dr. Bob McCleery. Alex earned his BS in Environmental Sciences from the University of Vermont in Burlington, VT. He has worked various technician jobs focusing on conservation and wildlife monitoring including puma research in California's Santa Monica Mountains, leopard/caracal/jackal research for the Cape Leopard Trust, Northern Cape, South Africa, and working with ranchers' livestock guardian dogs to deter wolf and grizzly bear predation on sheep in Montana. His MS research will use fine-scale environmental data to explain aspects of fox squirrel ecology. Alex is particularly interested in predator-prey ecology and wildlife conservation. In his spare time, He enjoys running, skiing, rock climbing, and cooking.
Kathryn Pothier begins her WEC MS program under the advisement of Dr. Samantha Wisely. Katie earned her BS in Biomedical Science from the University of New Hampshire in Durham, NH and has worked as a pathological research assistant in the university's Veterinary Diagnostic Lab. Her research interests are wildlife pathology as well as linkages between infectious diseases and wildlife ecology, and her MS thesis will be centered on diseases in Florida White Tailed Deer. In her down time, Katie enjoys being outdoors, exploring new beaches and trails, and when possible includes her dog, Willow, in her explorations. She is also a yoga instructor.
Marta Prat joins the WEC MS program under the advisement of Dr. Madan Oli as an Obra Social "la Caixa" fellow. From Manlleu, Spain, Marta attended Universitat Autonoma in Barcelona, earning a BS in Biology and a MS in Terrestrial Ecology. Her Master's research focused on the behavioral responses of mammalian species to anthropogenic disturbances in the Pyrenees (in collaboration with the Ecological and Forestry Applications Research Centre). At UF, Marta plans to study ecology and conservation of carnivores in human-dominated landscapes. In her spare time, she enjoys horseback riding, snowboarding, hiking, and most outdoor activities.
Prescillia Putri joins the WEC MS program under the advisement of Dr. Lyn Branch as a Center for International Forestry Indonesia/USAID fellow. Prescillia obtained her BS in Biology from Universitas Indonesia in Depok, where she worked for the university's Research Center for Climate Change and was responsible for editorial duties related to the Indonesian Primates tourist guide book. She has also served as a field technician on Bali's Barat National Park mammal population ecology project, and as an awareness officer in a bat and bird ecosystem service project in the Bukit Barisan Selatan National Park, designing an ecosystem service custom snake and ladder game. Prescillia enjoys primate watching, especially nocturnal primates, and any sort of traveling that includes food and coffee.
Farwah Shariff begins her WEC MS program as a Fulbright student under the advisement of Dr. Brett Scheffers. Raised in Pakistan, Farwah received her Bachelors in Anthropology and Sociology from the Lahore University of Management Sciences in Lahore, Pakistan. She has previously worked with Acumen, a social venture-capitalist not-for-profit, in their Regional Fellowship Programs, and with Unilever, on their communication and corporate sustainability initiatives. For her graduate studies, Farwah plans to set aside her "development" mindset and learn new approaches in ecology and conservation. Her personal interests include the outdoors, the arts, literature and casual running.
Sherherzade Jayadi begins her WEC MS as a Center for International Forestry Indonesia (CIFOR)/USAID fellow under the advisement of Dr. Holly Ober. Sheherazade earned her BS in Biology from the Universitas Indonesia in Depok, and has worked as a conservation education and outreach specialist with the Alliance for Tompotika Conservation, Central Sulawesi since 2015. She actively conducts collaborative research on the ecology and conservation of bats, and is a member of the Southeast Asian Bat Conservation Research Unit. Her interests include pteropodid bats, population ecology, ecosystem services, and conservation education. At UF, Sheherazade will study the ecosystem services associated with the flying fox. She loves spending her time reading tons of books, listening to Korea pop music, and exploring nature.
Nick Vitale begins his MS in WEC under the advisement of Dr. Abby Powell. From Michigan, Nick earned his BS in Fisheries and Wildlife Management from Lake Superior State University in Sault Ste. Marie, MI. He then worked several, seasonal positions throughout the US before arriving in Gainesville in 2011 to join the Frederick lab as a technician and later become its field supervisor of long-term wading bird ecology projects in the Everglades. Previously, Nick was employed as a technician and crew leader conducting fatality monitoring of a wind project for WEST Inc.
Elysia Webb joins the WEC MS program under the advisement of Dr. Holly Ober. From Dayton, Ohio, Elysia completed her BS in Wildlife and Conservation Biology at Ohio University in Athens, OH. She has spent two field seasons working with threatened and endangered bats in Indiana and Georgia, focusing on their changing status post-WNS. At UF, Elysia's graduate research will examine the foraging habitat and diet of the endangered Florida bonneted bat. She enjoys traveling with her spouse, Ian, and reading, and crafting.
Summer Degree Recipients
Congratulations to our numerous WEC and SNRE summer degree recipients!
Dr. Mariana Villegas (WEC PhD '16) successfully defended her dissertation entitled "Ecological Differentiation in the Yungas Manakin (Aves, Pipridae): Insights from Morphology, Vocalizations, Ecological Niche Modeling and Stable Isotopes." Mariana was advised by Dr. John Blake.
Dr. Fabiane Mundim (WEC PhD '16) successfully defended her dissertation entitled "The Effect of Climate Change on above and Belowground Plant-Herbivore Interactions." She was advised by Dr. Emilio Bruna.
Dr. Madelon van de Kerk (WEC PhD '16) successfully defended her dissertation entitled "Understanding Dynamics and Persistence of the Florida Panther Population Using an Individual-Based Modeling Approach." She was advised by Dr. Madan Oli and will begin her post-doctoral position at the University of Washington in Seattle, WA this August.
Dr. Ernane Vieira Neto (WEC PhD '16) successfully defended his dissertation entitled "Linking Demography and Disturbance to Understand Road Effects on the Distribution of Native Species in the Cerrado, an Endangered Neotropical Savanna." He was advised by Dr. Emilio Bruna.
Dr. Ronit Amit (WEC PhD '16) defended her dissertation entitled "Enhancing Coexistence with Jaguars and Pumas in Costa Rica: Stakeholder Analysis and Design of Community-Based Incentives." Ronit is currently an assistant with the Organization for Tropical Studies (OTS), and will soon begin a research and extension project, entitled "Community-based Big Cats Management," for the People and Fauna Program funded by the US Fish and Wildlife Service. She was advised by Dr. Susan Jacobson.
Courtney Bounds (WEC MS '16) successfully completed her MS non-thesis degree program, examining "Prevalence and Recrudescence of Pseudorabies Virus in Feral Swine Populations," and will begin her DVM program at UF's College of Veterinary Medicine this fall. She was advised by Dr. Sam Wisely.
Connor Crank (WEC MS '16) successfully defended her thesis entitled "Potential Resource Competition between Feral Swine (Sus Scrofa) and White-Tailed Deer (Odocoileus virginianus) on Florida Rangelands." She was advised by Dr. Raoul Boughton.
Josh Epstein (WEC MS '16) successfully defended his thesis entitled "Functional Diversity of Southeastern United States Fish Communities" and will continue his graduate studies in a doctoral program with UF's School of Forest Resources and Conservation this fall. He was advised by Dr. Ben Baiser.
Harry Jones (WEC MS '16) successfully defended his thesis entitled "Foraging Ecology and Call Relevance Drive Reliance on Social Information in an Avian Eavesdropping Network" and will begin a doctoral program with UF's Department of Biology this fall. He was advised by Dr. Katie Sieving.
Ethan Noel (WEC MS '16) successfully defended his thesis entitled "Willingness to Secure Anthropogenic Food Sources from Florida Black Bears (Ursus americanus floridanus)" and is planning to enjoy some travels this fall. He was advised by Dr. Elizabeth Pienaar.
Phil Rodgers (WEC MS '16) successfully defended his thesis entitled "People and Panthers in Exurban Southwest Florida: Tolerance for Human-Panther Interactions." Phil has accepted the position of Biologist II with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission at the Chassahowitzka Wildlife Management Area in Brooksville, FL, where he once volunteered as a field technician on their bear research crew. He was advised by Dr. Elizabeth Pienaar.
Brad Udell (WEC MS '16) successfully defended his thesis entitled "Integrating Lethal Collision Risk from Watercraft into Optimal Designs of Protection Zones for Marine Mammals" and continues his graduate studies in a WEC doctoral program this fall. He was co-advised by Drs. Rob Fletcher and Julien Martin (WEC PhD '07).
Awards and Scholarships
Six graduate students have received 2016-17 CALS Graduate Scholarships. Receiving $2,000 each from the Doris Lowe and Earl and Verna Lowe Scholarship Fund are Wes Anderson, WEC PhD student advised by Dr. Raoul Boughton, Sam Baraoidan, WEC MS student advised by Dr. Raoul Boughton, Claudia Ganser, WEC doctoral candidate advised by Dr. Sam Wisely, Flavia Montano, WEC doctoral candidate advised by Dr. Bette Loiselle, and Ellen Robertson, WEC doctoral candidate advised by Dr. Rob Fletcher. Jennifer Moore, WEC doctoral student advised by Dr. Madan Oli, received $1,500 from the William C. and Bertha M. Cornett Fellowship Fund.
CALS Graduate Scholarships are awarded annually and recognize excellence and leadership among the College's graduate students. More information about these scholarships and student awards can be found on the CALS website.
WEC Courtesy Associate Professor, Dr. Ken Dodd, blogged about "Sampling reptiles in the Anthropocene" with Oxford University Press on http://blog.oup.com/2016/06/sampling-reptiles-biology-anthropocene/ earlier this year.