Cohort 2023-2024

Ms. Zamira Andrews

Zamira Andrews

Determining the Genes Associated with Heart Regeneration in Polypterus senegalus

Polypterus senegalus possesses a remarkable capacity for fin and heart regeneration. Zamira's research aims to identify the specific genes responsible for heart regeneration in this species. The process involves heart extraction from specimens, followed by RNA extraction, sequencing to generate data, and subsequent data analysis using terminal-based tools and programming.

Mentor: Dr. Igor Schneider

Co-mentor: Dr. Mimi Sammarco

Ms. Abigail Coldwell

Abigail Coldwell

Molecular Evolution of Topoisomerases in Extremophilic Microbes

Abby will be studying the evolution of topoisomerases, key enzymes controlling DNA topology, in extremophilic microbes. Using both computational and experimental methods, she plans to investigate molecular changes in topoisomerases that are able to operate in these extreme environments.

Mentor: Dr. Jeremy Brown

Co-mentor: Dr. Allyn Schoeffler

Ms. Sashoya Dougan

Sashoya Dougan

Exploring Limb Loss in Squamates: Genomic Analysis of Enhancer Regions and Limb Formation Genes

Sashoya will focus on the study of limb loss in squamates. She will utilize existing specimen collections along with genomic sequencing and assembly approaches to identify and characterize enhancer regions and genes associated with limb formation in the limbless squamate taxa.

Mentor: Dr. Brant Faircloth

Co-mentor: Dr. Loren Cassin Sackett

Ms. Amanda Harvey

Amanda Harvey

Spatial and Temporal Patterns of Genomic Diversity and Salinity Levels in Common Nighthawks 

Amanda is studying the population decline of Common Nighthawks (Chordeiles minor) on the Gulf Coast. Looking at spatial and temporal change in breeding habitat, trophic level and genetic diversity through a combination of stable isotopes and whole genome sequencing.

Mentor: Dr. Nicholas Mason

Co-mentor: Dr. Catherine Newman


Ms. Shelby Oliveaux

Shelby Oliveaux

Phylogenetic Analysis and Secondary Metabolite Screening of Rubiaceae 

Shelby will be assembling a phylogeny of the Rubiaceae family, a large and diverse family of tropical South American plants, using herbarium specimens. Additionally, she will be testing members of the family for the presence of alkaloids and cyclotides, bioactive secondary metabolites.

Mentor: Dr. Laura Lagomarsino

Co-mentor: Dr. Samantha Gerlach

Ms. Iyana Oliviel

Iyana Oliviel

Investigating Regulatory Elements in Anableps anableps

The goal of Iyana's project is to use transgenesis to investigate what genes regulate the expression of the split cornea and pupils in Anableps anableps the “four eyed fish”. 

Mentor: Dr. Patricia Schneider

Co-mentor: Dr. Nastassia Jones

Mr. Jorge Parada

Jorge Parada

Comparative RNA Sequencing Analysis to Reveal Transcriptome Variations in Schrenkiella parvula Under Multi-Salt Stress

Jorge iscomparing RNA sequencing data of Schrenkiella Parvula under multi-salt stress vs. single salt stress conditions to identify differences in the transcriptome. His goal is to gain further insight into Schrenkiella Parvulas unique resilience in salt rich environments.

Mentor: Dr. Maheshi Dassanakaye

Co-mentor: Dr. Kathleen Ferris

Ms. Samantha Sanders

Samantha Sanders

Quantifying Allochthonous and Autochthonous Sources of Soil Organic Matter in Coastal Louisiana Marshes 

In Louisiana, coastal land loss threatens global carbon sequestration by wetlands. Samantha studies soil organic matter in natural and created marshes, assessing contributions from autochthonous and allochthonous sources using stable isotopic analysis. Additionally, she investigates the impact of Mississippi River freshwater diversion on these marshes' organic matter composition.

Mentor: Dr. Michael Polito

Co-mentor: Dr. Hector Douglas


Ms. Jeanne Smith

Jeanne Smith

Climate Change Impact on Littorina littorea with Presence of Trematodes

Jeanne is researching whether populations of L. littorea from Southern Louisiana are infested with trematodes and how warmer temperatures affect the rate of disease spread. Trematodes are a common parasite found on these snails and can add stress due to the heat, potentially altering the snails' behavior.

Mentor: Dr. Morgan Kelly

Co-mentor: Dr. Francesca Mellieon-Williams

Ms. Emily Steling

Emily Stelling

Differences in Behavior Between Two Congeneric Lizards and Lead’s Effects on Those Behaviors

Emily's research will compare lead concentrations, neophobia, exploration, and aggression between individuals of A. carolinensis and A. sagrei collected from sites varying in soil lead levels. Lead concentrations and corticosterone levels of all lizards will be determined by analysis of blood samples collected at capture (before behavior tests) and after behavior tests, while neophobia, exploration, and aggression will be observed using behavior tests.

Mentor: Dr. Christine Lattin

Co-mentor: Dr. Alex Gurdenson