People

David Toews (Principal Investigator; toews [at] psu.edu). CV.

David’s research is focused on evolutionary biology, genomics, and molecular ecology in avian systems. Much of his work relies on combining genomic data with other phenotypic, behavioral, and biogeographic information to make inferences about evolutionary processes. His research also takes advantage of the replicated patterns in species radiations, particularly the continental radiation of New World warblers, and his field research has focused on studying hybrids zones of wood warblers in North America.


Dr. Marcella Baiz (Postdoctoral Researcher; baizm [at] psu.edu). Google Scholar.

Marcella_2021Marcella’s research is focused on the genetics of speciation and hybridization. Her work takes advantage of variation present in natural hybrid zones between species of New World primates and Parulid warblers to understand the evolution and genomic architecture of reproductive isolation and adaptation.


Dr. Andrew Wood (Research Technologist; aww5450 [at] psu.edu).

Andrew’s research focuses on the drivers of diversification, particularly adaptive trait evolution and introgressive hybridization. He applies transcriptomic and genomic tools to test phylogenetic hypotheses and discern patterns of molecular evolution. He is excited to delve into molecular ecology and examine niche-partitioning of New World warblers using sequence-based investigations of diet.


Lan-Nhi Phung (PhD Student; lxp437 [at] psu.edu)lan_nhi_2021

Lan-Nhi is interested in the evolutionary process of biological speciation, specifically the role of vocalization as a reproductive barrier and how genomic studies and the study of geographical variation can aid this understanding. During her undergraduate education at Mercyhurst University (Erie, PA), she studied non-harmful DNA amplification in the genome of Sciara coprophila (fungus fly), and her senior thesis focused on mapping the location of the amplification sequence.


Stephanie Szarmach (PhD student; sszarmach [at] psu.edu)

steph_2021Steph is interested in the genomics of hybridization, migration, and evolutionary responses to environmental change. She previously earned a master’s degree in biology from Northern Michigan University and bachelor’s degrees in biology and environmental studies from Oberlin College. For her master’s thesis, Steph examined genetic diversity, population structure, and demographic history of blue wildebeest in western Zambia. She also worked on a population genetic assessment of Northern Goshawks in Idaho and worked as a bander and counter at several raptor migration sites.


Johanna Beam (PhD student; jkb6436 [at] psu.edu)Johanna_2021

Johanna is interested in the intersection of genomics, bioacoustics, and biogeography, and exploring how these collectively contribute to speciation or hybridization in birds. She is also interested in scientific illustration & scientific communication, and how these combined may help bridge the gap between science and broader society. For their undergrad honors thesis, Johanna explored speciation in Eastern, Western, and Lilian’s Meadowlarks using whole-genome sequencing and acoustic analysis.


Anna Maria Calderon (PhD student, co-advised with Zachary Szpiech; annamcalderon [at] psu.edu)AMCalderon_Headshot

Anny has a bachelor’s in Biology with an Ecology and Evolution emphasis from the University of California, Merced. As an undergrad, she was involved in a variety of conservation related projects.  In the past, she has coded genetically informed species distribution models for New England ant species using machine learning algorithms to simulate future changes in their range based on different climate change scenarios. Today,  Anny is interested in combining genomic tools and population modelling techniques to study migration, population structure, and dynamics to predict how birds will respond to changes in their habitat.


Balaji Kumar (MSc student; bzk18 [at] psu.edu)Headshot2017

Balaji is interested in various aspects of genome evolution, including the movement of mitochondrial DNA genes to the nuclear genome, identifying and understanding structural genomic variation, and investigating the evolution and consequences of gene duplication.


Alyssa Johnson (Undergraduate researcher; 2019-2020)

Alyssa is an undergraduate student earning a bachelor’s degree in wildlife and fisheries sciences at the Pennsylvania State University. Her current research is focused on using genetic methods to determine the type of selection pressure upon VPS31A in gold-winged and blue-winged warblers. Alyssa is presently exploring different aspects of genetic methods that can be applied to conservation of wildlife. She plans on continuing her education through a graduate program related to conservation genetics after finishing her undergraduate degree. Twitter: @ConservationAly

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