People

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

2014 (left to right) Kim Ballare, Nate Pope, Alan Ritchie, Rebecca Ruppel, Sarah Cunningham, Hollis Woodard, Laurel Treviño, (bottom left to right) Antonio Castilla, Shalene Jha, Sarah Cusser, Esther Schenau, Megan O’Connell

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Principal Investigator – Associate Professor

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. Shalene’s CV

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

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 omeganoconnellutreach and communication, 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  nivers@utexas.edu

Camila Cortina is interested in how land-use affects pollinator population dynamics through the lenses of population and landscape genetics. She would like to use 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.

   Graduated Students

Dr. Sarah Cusser is interested in how habitat disturbance, whether it be agricultural, industrial, or urban, affects pollinator communities and plant-pollinator interactions. She’s also interested in how efforts to restore degraded or disturbed habitats influence those interactions. She really likes bees, and wishes there were more of them. She’s a Postdoctoral Research Associate at the Kellogg Biological Station, Michigan State Univ. Kalamazoo, MI. sarah.cusser@gmail.com website

Dr. Kim Ballare has interests in ecology and evolution, including conservation genetics, landscape ecology, and urban ecology. Her PhD 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 currently Post-doctoral Scholar at UC Santa Cruz  kim.ballare@gmail.com 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. npope@coa.edu

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

Outreach Program Coordinator 

Laurel Treviño does research and public engagement on native plants and pollinators. She holds a B.S. in Biology, UNAM Mexico and Masters Botany – Wildland Resource Sciences, UC Berkeley

Postdoc – 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. www.srgriffin.com

Research Technician – 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.

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 – 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 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 the Vale Institute of Technology – website

Current 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 (center)

Shannon Dang, an economics & linguistics major, helps curate field collected insects for the prairie restoration project

 

Former Undergraduate Student Projects

  • 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
  • Apoorva Magadi augmented the pollen image library and pollen ID project
  • Alan Ritchie: agriculture & pollinator communities

      

       

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, 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.

       

2013 Clare Glinka, Kelvey Merill, Brittany French, Sarah Cunningham, Rebecca Ruppel, Alan Ritchie
2013 Antonio Castilla with his Panama crew
Working in Brackenridge Field Lab (BFL) Pollinator Garden to save pollinators!
This is what we really looked like … in 2014 and 2017