2020 (top left-right) Dr. Tobin Hammer, Megan O’Connell, 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-right) Dr. Shalene Jha, Dr. Elinor Lichtenberg, Laurel Treviño, Nick Ivers, Kim Ballare, Sarah Cusser, Nate Pope, Megan O’Connell (also 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 – Full 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.

Outreach Program Coordinator

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

Graduate Students

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.

Livia Raulinaitis studies plant-insect interactions in the context of ecological restoration and climate change. She is specifically interested in plant ecotypic variation and its impact on pollinator network assembly. She is a Certified Ecological Restoration Practitioner in training (CERP-IT).

Liliana Benitez is interested in plant-insect interactions and conservation biology. She has worked on rare plant conservation with research and land management organizations in Florida, Idaho, and New Mexico. Currently, she’s researching how plant and pollinator traits impact pollination networks and ecosystem functions. Lili is also passionate about scientific outreach and increasing accessibility to outdoor green spaces.

Post-doctoral Researchers

Dr. Harry Siviter is investigating the impact of anthropogenic stressors on bee health, after having researched the impact of agrochemicals on bees for his PhD at Royal Holloway, University of London. He’s fascinated by animal behavior and cognition and has an ever-increasing passion for conservation ecology.

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

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 uses molecular techniques to build field-verified food-webs that can identify key biological control and pollination agents within cucurbit agro-ecosystems.

Dr. Deidre Zoll  is a Community & Regional Planner (UT Austin). She investigates the connections between city-led climate adaptation planning and environmental racism in the US. She uses plan evaluation, spatial statistics, surveys, and case studies to identify how structural racism influences the exposure to climate risks and the proximity to adaptation interventions, and how planners and community activists navigate these dynamics. See Deirdre’s webpage.

Laboratory Research Assistant – Alejandro Santillana studies the impact of climate change and land conversion on plant-pollinator networks. He surveys, identifies and curates pollinator insects at University of Oregon Ponisio Lab and does outreach for UT’s Insects Unlocked – see his website.

Lead Technician-Project ManagerMichael Caballero  manages the Southern Plains Restoration Pollinator Project that examines the effects of prescribed burns and native plant seeding on plant and pollinator communities in the Cross Timbers ecoregion. He’s an entomologist focused on insect and restoration ecology, insect-plant interactions, insect taxonomy, and systematics. He volunteers at the UT Insect collection, does independent research, and curates his growing insect collection.

Former Graduate Students

Camila Cortina, M.Sc., is interested in how land-use affects pollinator population dynamics through the lenses of population and landscape genetics. She uses the knowledge gained through research to help inform people in all walks of life how to make the environment a better place for all.

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

Dr. Sarah Cusser is interested in how agricultural, industrial, urban habitat disturbance, affects plant-pollinator communities, and how restoration of disturbed habitats influence those interactions. After a Postdoctoral Research Associate at the Kellogg Biological Station, Michigan State, she joined 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 research focuses 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 The University of California at Santa Cruz. website

Dr. Nathaniel Pope researched the influence of parasites on the dispersal ability, foraging behavior, and reproductive success of bees. He’s 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’s fond of 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 Post-docs 

Dr. Sean Griffin is interested in ecological restoration, fire ecology, insect movement, and pollinator conservation across fragmented landscapes. In the Jha lab, he examined how prescribed burns and other practices affect plant-pollinator communities in prairie ecosystems. He currently works at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center. 

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

Dr. Antonio Castilla works on ecology and evolution of plant-animal interactions, landscape genetics, plant mating systems & spatial ecology. As a postdoc, he studied bee pollinators of Miconia spp. tropical trees in Panama, and native plant pollinators in Central Texas. He guided several students, including Keyanna, photographed here.  website 

Dr. Hollis Woodard, as a NIFA postdoc, she studied nutritional ecology and conservation of native bees, focusing on the effects of nutrient limitation on behavior & development in bumble bee life cycles. She is an assistant professor in the Entomology Department at The University of California at Riverside. website 

Former 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 Research Technicians

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

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

Former Lab Managers

Rebecca Ruppel got her M.S. at Syracuse University studying patterns of inheritance in polyploid plants and worked with Judie Bronstein at the University of Arizona.            Clare Glinka got our field & lab projects going! Her M.S. in Plant Biology from the University of Texas, Austin, focused on plant-microbe interactions. Both Becky and Clare currently work in computational sciences in Austin, Texas.


Former Undergraduate Students’ Research and Work

  1. Sam Wilhelm: worked in geography, pollinator prairie restoration project
  2. Sydney Rivera: was conservation UT Rio Grande Valley-ESI Summer Researcher
  3. Sarah Cunningham: did plant & butterfly collection & identification
  4. Karima Khimani: studied environmental effects on gene flow
  5. Esther Schenau: worked on bee genetics
  6. Emily Wagner: worked on genetics of communication
  7. Mustafa Saifuddin: did a thesis on bee foraging
  8. Ashley Doucet: was the field crew’s expert bee catcher
  9. Shannon Dang: curated insects for the prairie restoration project
  10. Alan Ritchie: began the pollen ID project, studied agriculture pollinator communities
  11. Apoorva Magadi: augmented the pollen image library in the pollen ID project
  12. Fabiola Rodriguez: advanced the Miconia spp. tropical pollination project
  13. Kelvey Merill and Brittany French were part of the first field crew




External Collaborator-Bee Guru: Jack, a key collaborator and lifeline to understanding the bees of the southern U.S., provides us with invaluable insights on the natural history, ecological interactions, and evolutionary processes of native bees in Texas. Dr. John L. Neff founded and heads the Central Texas Melittological Institute in Austin.

Clare Glinka, Kelvey Merill, Brittany French, Sarah Cunningham, Rebecca Ruppel, Alan Ritchie 2013
Dr. Antonio Castilla with his Panama field crew in 2013
 Lab members also have fun and work on the Brackenridge Field Lab (BFL) butterfly garden.
Photos & information provided by members of UT’s Jha Lab, and summarized & formatted by Laurel Treviño M.