2020 (top left to right) Dr. Tobin Hammer, Megan O’Conell, Dr. Sean Griffin, Sam Wilhelm, Dr. Caroline Strang, Dr. Harry Siviter; (bottom left-right) Dr. Shalene Jha, Dr. Felicity Muth, Laurel Treviño, Dr. Hollis Woodard, Camila Cortina, Elizabeth Lopez, Nick Ivers

2017 (left to right) Dr. Shalene Jha, Dr. Elinor Lichtenberg, Laurel Treviño, Nick Ivers, Kim Ballare, Sarah Cusser, Nate Pope, Megan O’Connell (photographer)

2014  Kim Ballare, Nate Pope, Alan Ritchie, Rebecca Ruppel, Sarah Cunningham, Dr. Hollis Woodard, Laurel Treviño, Dr. Antonio Castilla, Dr. Shalene Jha, Sarah Cusser, Esther Schenau, Megan O’Connell

Principal Investigator – Associate Professor – Shalene’s CV

Dr. Shalene Jha is a conservation biologist specialized in the fields of landscape genetics, population ecology, and foraging ecology.  Her work examines how landscape composition influences gene flow processes, foraging patterns, and population viability for plants and animals. She has experience in population genetics, movement modeling, GIS, and ecosystem service science, and she conducts her research internationally, across temperate and tropical ecosystems.

Graduate Students

Megan O’Connell is interested in the effects of climate and land-use change on plant-pollinator dynamics and the genetic diversity of plant populations in tropical forests. She is active in science communication and outreach, and works on media projects that focus on scientific awareness at home and abroad. website

Nick Ivers is interested in conservation genetics and disease ecology. He is working to understand how land use affects population genetic structure and local variation in parasite abundance among native bees.

Camila Cortina is interested in how land-use affects pollinator population dynamics through the lenses of population and landscape genetics. She uses the knowledge she gains through her research to help inform others on how to make the environment a better place for all walks of life.


Dr. Sean Griffin is interested in ecological restoration, fire ecology, insect movement, and pollinator conservation across fragmented landscapes. In the Jha lab, he is examining how prescribed burning and other forms of restoration management affect plant and pollinator communities in prairie ecosystems. 

Dr. Gabriella Pardee works on a federally-funded Multidisciplinary University Research Initiative that leverages pollen DNA metabarcoding to quantify plant-pollinator interactions, pollinator foraging breadth, & pollen/pollinator origin in the context of global land use change. She quantifies impacts of urbanization on pollinator diet breadth by comparing historic & new Austin area insect collections

Dr. Hannah Gray is interested in how insect-plant interactions & biogeography influence ecosystem services & disservices in agriculture. She examines relationships between insect herbivores and pollinators in a shared host and utilizes molecular techniques to build field-verified food-webs that can identify key biological control and pollination agents within cucurbit agro-ecosystems.

Undergraduate Students 

Sam Wilhelm is a geography student interested in plant and pollinator conservation. He’s studying angiosperm response to controlled burns in the prairie restoration project.

Sydney Rivera is a UT Rio Grande Valley student participating in the ESI Summer Research Program. She is interested in animal/plant conservation and anthropogenic influences on habitat quality in South Texas and she is active in environmental awareness efforts.

Research Technicians

Elizabeth Lopez graduated from UT with a biology major. As a research technician, she works identifying and curating specimens that she collects for the prairie restoration project, and studies pollinator networks as an independent project.

Benjamin Durrington is experienced in restoration, microscopy and metabarcoding. He’s interested in plant ecology and evolution, especially plant mutualisms. He works with pollen samples to understand plant communities around Austin and vegetation monitoring.

Outreach Program Coordinator

Laurel Treviño is a biologist, botanist, and wildland resource scientist whose public engagement focuses on native bee and native plant ecology and conservation. She develops educational content for “About Native Bees, Landowners|Naturalists, ID Guides,” teaches the “Native Bees of Texas” course, and collaborates with partners on pollinator monitoring and habitat conservation. Laurel’s CV

Former Lab Members … Graduated Students

Dr. Sarah Cusser is interested in how agricultural, industrial, or urban habitat disturbance, affects plant-pollinator communities and interactions. She’s interested in how restoration of disturbed habitats influence those interactions. She really likes bees and wishes there were more of them. She was a Postdoctoral Research Associate at the Kellogg Biological Station, Michigan State Univ. Kalamazoo, MI. and now works at the Santa Barbara Botanical Gardens in California. website

Dr. Kim Ballare has interests in ecology and evolution, including conservation genetics, landscape ecology, and urban ecology. Her PhD research focused on plant-pollinator interactions; how urban landscapes shape native bee communities and how they affect genetic population structure and local adaptation. She’s a Post-doctoral Scholar at UC Santa Cruz. website

Dr. Nathaniel Pope did research on the influence of parasites on the dispersal ability, foraging behavior and reproductive success of bees.  More broadly, he is interested in how the tools of population genetics and landscape ecology can be used to infer patterns of movement and behavior in agro-ecological systems. He has an inordinate fondness for statistical modeling, bee phylogeny, and taxonomy.

Dr. Emlyn Jane Resetarits is interested in how species interactions affect communities and ecosystems. She works on understanding how interspecific interactions (among protists & parasites; daphnia & snails) alter sociality and how scale influences species interactions and ecosystem functions

Former Postdocs 

Dr. Elinor Lichtenberg is interested in pollinator conservation and how interactions among animals alter plant-animal interactions. Her research in the Jha lab focuses on pollinator community ecology under experimental restoration of prairie habitat. Elinor’s research employs field, lab and quantitative approaches. As of 2020, she’s an Assistant Professor at the University of North Texas. website 

Dr. Antonio Castilla works on ecology and evolution of plant-animal interactions, landscape genetics, plant mating systems & spatial ecology. As a postdoc in the Jha Lab, he studied bee pollinators of a tropical tree, Miconia sp., in Panama and native plant pollinators in Central Texas. He guided many students, including Keyana, photographed here website 

Dr. Hollis Woodard, NIFA postdoc studies nutritional ecology and conservation of native bees, focusing on effects of nutrient limitation on behavior & development in bumble bee life cycles. She’s assistant professor at The University of California, Riverside. website 

Visiting Scholar Dr. Rodolfo Jaffe-Ribbi investigates the relationship between land use and bee population dynamics; population genomics of bees; the interphase between pre-copulatory and post-copulatory sexual selection in social insects; and beekeeping as a sustainable development tool. He’s a research scientist at the University of Sao Paolo and Vale Institute of Technology. website

Former Lab Managers: Rebecca Ruppel got her M.S. at Syracuse University studying patterns of inheritance in polyploid plants; she worked in Judie Bronstein’s lab at University of Arizona. Clare Glinka helped get our field & lab projects going! Her M.S. in Plant Biology from the University of Texas, Austin, focused on plant-microbe interactions.


Former Undergraduate Students:

  • Sarah Cunningham: plant & butterfly collection/ID
  • Karima Khimani: environmental effects on gene flow
  • Esther Schenau: bee genetics
  • Emily Wagner: genetics of communication
  • Mustafa Saifuddin: bee foraging thesis
  • Ashley Doucet: expert bee-hunter
  • Shannon Dang curated insects for the prairie restoration project
  • Apoorva Magadi augmented the pollen image library & pollen ID project
  • Alan Ritchie: agriculture pollinator communities & pollen ID project



External Collaborators & Fellow Bee Biologists

Bee Guru Jack Neff is a key collaborator and our lab’s lifeline to understanding the bees of the southern US.  He provides invaluable insight on the natural history, ecological interactions, and evolutionary processes of native bees in Texas.  We’re lucky Dr. John Neff established and runs the Central Texas Melittological Institute in Austin.

Clare Glinka, Kelvey Merill, Brittany French, Sarah Cunningham, Rebecca Ruppel, Alan Ritchie  2013 field crew

Dr. Antonio Castilla with his Panama field crew in 2013

Working in UT’s Brackenridge Field Lab (BFL) pollinator garden to save pollinators!

This is what we really looked like …

Page content by Laurel Treviño with information provided by Jha lab members, photos by Jha lab members and friends