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Monthly Group Meetings

Open to all CBio-Associated faculty, staff, students, campus affiliates of CBio, and local and regional partners

Image by Jeb Buchman

April 22, 2022

Dr. Jennifer Mandel; Dept. of Biological Sciences; Asteraceae, phylogenetics, evolution

12pm; 131 Ellington; pizza & coffee provided

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July 29, 2022

Dr. Leigh Boardman; Dept. of Biological Sciences; evolutionary & physiological ecology of arthropods

Guest: TBD

12pm; 131 Ellington; pizza & coffee provided

Image by Birger Strahl

Oct. 28, 2022

Dr. Michael Collins; Dept. of Biology; Rhodes College; Avian ecology, community ecology, and disease ecology with a particular focus on avian malaria


1pm; 131 Ellington; pizza & coffee provided

Image by Olena Sergienko

Jan. 27, 2023

Dr. Youngsang Kwon; Dept. of Earth Sci.; biogeography, forest dynamics, species distribution modeling, terrestrial carbon cycling, RS/GIS, climate change


Memphis Zoo Research Staff; Introductions, Research Summary

12pm; 131 Ellington; pizza & coffee provided

Image by Sebastian Pena Lambarri

April 21, 2023

Dr. Na Ra Shin; Dept. of Biological Sciences (Postdoc; McKenna Lab); Horizontally acquired genes encoded in the genomes of longhorn beetles (Cerambycidae) that facilitate the metabolism of woody plant tissues.

12pm; 131 Ellington; pizza & coffee provided


July 28, 2023

Dr. Terrence Sylvester; Dept. of Biological Sciences (Postdoc; McKenna Lab); Beetle population and comparative genomics, evolution, sex chromosomes.

12pm; 131 Ellington; pizza & coffee provided

October 27, 2023

Dr. Claudio Maier; Dept. of Civil Engineering; Cottonwood (Populus deltoides) establishment on gravel-bed rivers and hyporheic flow exchange at the river bar scale.

12pm; 131 Ellington; pizza & coffee provided

Village Scene

January 26, 2024

No meeting due to weather conditions / campus closure



12pm; 131 Ellington; pizza & coffee provided

Image by Vincent van Zalinge

April 19, 2024

Dr. Alka Sharma; Dept. of Biological Sciences; Work with the TN Open Educational Resources textbook and challenge exam for the high school dual credit course “Introduction to Plant Science”.

12pm; 131 Ellington; pizza & coffee provided

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May 27, 2022

Dr. James Moore; Dept. of Biology; Christian Brothers Univ.; riverine & wetland ecology, population & community ecology, biostatistics


Dr. Alison Happel-Parkins; Dept. of Counseling, Educational Psychology & Research; environmental justice

12pm; 131 Ellington; pizza & coffee provided

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Aug. 26, 2022

Dr. Ryan Parish; Dept. of Earth Sciences; archaeology, initial colonization of the Americas, cultural resource management

Dr. Ted Maclin; Dept. of Anthropology; ethnography; food & agriculture; globalization; energy & climate change; science & policy

12pm; 105 Ellington; pizza & coffee provided

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Nov. 18, 2022

Dr. Shawn Brown; Biological Sciences; cross-domain microbial ecology, mechanisms of community assembly

12pm; 105 Ellington; pizza & coffee provided

Feb. 24, 2023

Dr. Emily Puckett; Dept. of Biological Sciences; genetic architecture, introgression/ admixture, bears


Soohyun Jeong; Dept. of Biological Sciences (Graduate student: McKenna Lab); Evolution & adaptive radiation of endemic longhorn beetles in Madagascar

12pm; 131 Ellington; pizza & coffee provided

Bird Portrait

May 26, 2023

Catherine Justis; Director of Education, Wolf River Conservancy; Opportunities for research, teaching & outreach involving the Wolf River & its watershed; notable habitats & conservation activities in the region.

Hayden Johnson; PhD student; Biomed. Eng.; Fungi. Using NMR to measure metabolites in biological samples & deep learning techniques to improve data processing in NMR metabolomics.

12pm; 131 Ellington; pizza & coffee provided

A lotus in a pond

August 25, 2023

Dr. Jennifer Mandel; Dept. of Biological Sciences; Plant population genetics, comparative genomics, systematics & evolution

12pm; 131 Ellington; pizza & coffee provided


November 17, 2023

Dr. Kelly Miller; Dept. of Biological Sciences (Postdoc, Bowers Lab); avian behavioral ecology; life-history evolution; coloration; host-parasite ecology.


Graduate Student Cameos; Kelly O'Neil, Rin Pell (Bowers Lab)

12pm; 131 Ellington; pizza & coffee provided


February 23, 2024

Dr. Cassandra Nunez; Dept. of Biological Sciences; Shackleford Banks horses; management strategies, behavior, and physiology.


12pm; 131 Ellington; pizza & coffee provided

Image by Stephanie LeBlanc

June 7, 2024 (was May 31)

Dr. Sinlan (Sheila) Poo; Curator of Research at the Memphis Zoo & Adjunct Assistant Professor at Arkansas State Univ.; Ex situ conservation & reintroduction of the critically-endangered dusky gopher frog, increasing the accessibility & impact of biological collections at zoos, & the Global Women in Herpetology Project.

Graduate Student Cameo; Rebecca Davis (UofM; Memphis Zoo)

12pm; 131 Ellington; pizza & coffee provided

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June 2022

No meeting (month off)



Image by Jan Meeus

Sept. 30, 2022

Dr. Evan Kingsley; Harvard Medical School; Embryonic development of the avian voice box (syrinx), as a model for understanding how animal ontogeny evolves to produce morphological diversity

Kimberly Baldwin; Dept. of Biological Sciences, Boardman Lab; "Who's Who in the Zoo Poo"

12pm; 105 Ellington; pizza & coffee provided

Image by Taylor Brandon

Dec. 16, 2022

Dr. Keri Brondo; Dept. of Anthropology; Environmental Anthropology, Indigeneity, Territorial Rights, Conservation, Voluntourism & Sustainability, Central America, US

Erika Moore; Dept. of Biological Sciences (Graduate student: Mandel Lab)

12pm; 131 Ellington; pizza & coffee provided

March 31, 2023

Dr. Philip Kohlmeier; Dept. of Biological Sciences; Building your own customized, ultra low-cost research equipment using low-cost single-board computers


Michael Charles; Dept. of Biological Sciences (Graduate student: McKenna Lab); In search of Curculio caryatrypes on American chestnut.

12pm; 131 Ellington; pizza & coffee provided

Fishing Net

June, 2023

No meeting (month off)

12pm; 131 Ellington; pizza & coffee provided

Big Cat

September 29, 2023

Dr. Jaime Sabel; Dept. of Biological Sciences; Thinking about how students think about biology.


Nancy Gronostaj; Tennessee Environmental Education Association; Memphis Environmental Educators

12pm; 131 Ellington; pizza & coffee provided

December 15, 2023

Dr. Joe Figel; Memphis Zoo; Sumatran tigers and their prey; application of conservation tech for population assessments and to manage human-tiger conflict.

12pm; 105 Ellington; pizza & coffee provided

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March 15, 2024

Dr. Geoff Hill; Auburn University; coloration, sexual selection, and mitonuclear interaction in the house finch


12pm; 131 Ellington; pizza & coffee provided


June, 2024

No meeting (month off)

12pm; 131 Ellington; pizza & coffee provided

Awards & Other News

January, 2022: The Memphis Zoo is seeking volunteers (must be a college student) in the general areas of research, animal care, horticulture & education.

For more information:


December, 2021: Memphis Zoo pursues conservation-related research at UofM Meeman Biological Station

Dr. Sheila Poo's from the Memphis Zoo's Amphibian Research Lab is studying how captive-bred Fowler's Toads grow and survive compared to natural-bred individuals after they're released into the wild. More information about their work, including a link to a relevant recent paper, can be found here.

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October, 2021: Drs. Boardman, Li, & McKenna presented at the annual meeting of the Entomological Society of America

Dr. Boardman's talk was titled: Mitochondrial genome diversity within Apis mellifera subspecies. Dr. Li's talk was titled: Biogeographical history of the most species rich genus of hawkmoths (Sphingidae: Macroglossinae: Xylophanes). Dr. McKenna gave a talk titled: The phylogeny of Phytophaga (Chrysomeloidea and Curculionoidea)—leaf beetles, longhorn beetles, and weevils.

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September, 2021: Dr. Austin Baker joins the McKenna Lab

Dr. Austin Baker arrived at the McKenna Lab early this month. He earned his PhD from the University of California, Riverside, studying the systematics of Oraseminae (Hymenoptera: Eucharitidae). His work in the McKenna Lab as a postdoc will involve integrating phylogenomics, biophysics, and functional genomics to unravel the evolution of hearing and singing in katydids, crickets, and allies as part of a 5-year NSF-funded project in collaboration with Dr. Hojun Song (PI: Texas A&M University), Dr. Seunggwan Shin (Seoul National University) and others.


August, 2021: Dr. Xuankun Li joins the McKenna Lab


Dr. Xuankun Li arrived at the McKenna Lab early this month. He was previously a postdoc at the Florida Museum of Natural History (University of Florida), and earned his PhD from the Australian National University studying bee flies (Diptera: Bombyliidae). His work as a postdoc will primarily involve insect comparative genomics, systematics and evolution.

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August, 2021: Congratulations Assistant Professor Adams!

McKenna Lab Research Associate, Dr. Richard Adams has joined the faculty of Georgia College (Milledgeville, GA) as an Assistant Professor of Bioinformatics. Dr. Adams will continue to work with the McKenna Lab on several projects of shared interest as a Research Associate.

August, 2021: CBio faculty & graduate student join editorial board

Graduate student Erika Moore and Jennifer Mandel now serve on the Editorial Board of CAPITULUM, The International Compositae Alliance’s (TICA) newsletter. They each have articles in the latest volume which can be viewed here.

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July, 2021: CBio faculty publishes paper with implications for least chipmunk conservation

Dr. Emily Puckett recently published a paper in the journal Ecology & Evolution about her work on least chipmunk  phylogeography. The paper analyzes genetic diversity within the species, and uses these data, along with results from range-wide phylogeographic analyses, to delimit evolutionarily significant units for conservation planning. You can find the paper here.

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June, 2021: CBio Guest Researcher

Dr. Dan Park, an Assistant Professor in the Department of Biological Sciences at Purdue University, spoke with CBio on June 25 about his research on plant ecology and evolution in the context of global change.


We also heard from Dr. Jennifer Clarke at the Memphis Zoo, and her 2 student-interns, one of whom is supported by CBio as part of the UofM Center for Biodiversity Research-Memphis Zoo Undergraduate Summer Research Fellowship Program.

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CBio News

June, 2021: New NSF Funding

Professor Duane McKenna (PI) and Research Assistant Professor Dr. Stephanie Haddad (Co-PI) have been awarded a $1.3 million, 5-year NSF grant jointly awarded by the NSF-DEB Systematics Program and the NSF-IOS Integrative Ecological Physiology Program. The grant is titled: Investigating chemosensory evolution in longhorned beetles using a comparative phylogenomic framework that integrates genomic, morphological, and biochemical data. Assistant Professor Dr. Jaime Sabel is collaborating on survey design, implementation, and analysis for broader impacts activities associated with the grant.

Image by Henry Lai

June, 2021:

The Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) was established in 2012 by nearly 100 governments worldwide to critically review available knowledge on biodiversity and ecosystem services. IPBES undertakes expert assessments, supports policy,  helps build relevant capacity, and catalyzes the generation of new knowledge about biodiversity and nature’s contributions to people.​ The 8th session of the IPBES Plenary took place virtually from 14-24 June 2021. CBio was admitted as a new observer organization at IPBES 8, and Dr. Duane McKenna, CBio Director, attended as an observer.

Wooden House in the Forest

June, 2021:

The Mandel lab published a paper in the journal Applications in Plant Science in collaboration with the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew (Richmond, Surrey, United Kingdom). They used comparative methods to verify the presence of shared loci between phylogenomic probe sets designed  for use in the family Compositae and for use across all kinds of Angiosperms. Dr. Carol Siniscalchi is lead author on the paper, which can be seen here.

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June, 2021:

Former Mandel Lab postdoc, Dr. Bort Edwards, and current Mandel Lab PhD student, Erika Moore, presented at The International Compositae Alliance TICATAlks monthly virtual seminar series. Find the recording here.

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June, 2021:

Prof. Duane McKenna, along with Dr. Seunggwan Shin (McKenna Lab postdoc, now Asst. Prof. @ Seoul National Univ.), and Dr. Richard Adams, a postdoc and Biological Data Scientist at FL Atlantic Univ., and Research Assoc. of the McKenna Lab, published a paper titled Fifty million years of beetle evolution along the Antarctic Polar Front in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences U.S.A., along with colleagues from France and Australia. They demonstrate that some elements of Antarctic biodiversity are surprisingly rich and ancient. Their work has relevance to climate change and diversification paradigms involving the Antarctic biota, and is also relevant to the evolution of insect-plant interactions. A YouTube video summary of the research featuring lead author Dr. Helena Baird can be seen here:

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May, 2021: CBio Guest Researcher

Professor Charles Marshall from the Univ. of California-Berkeley Departments of Paleontology, and Earth & Planetary Sciences, Director of the Univ. of CA Museum of Paleontology, Chair of the Berkeley Natural History Museums, and Co-Director of the Berkeley Initiative in Global Change Biology spoke with CBio about his research on biodiversity change on geologic timescales, using molecular data and the fossil record to understand processes underlying changes in diversity, calibration of molecular clocks, and using genomic data to better understand the Cambrian explosion.

Image by Jon Butterworth

March, 2021:

Em Micer, a senior biology and chemistry double major in the Sabel lab, won first place in the 33rd Annual University of Memphis Student Research Forum in the undergraduate Education category. Their research was titled, “Exploring Undergraduate Chemistry and Biology Students’ Understanding of Enzymes.”

February, 2021:

Since 2019, Dr. Mandel and a group of colleagues worldwide have been meeting virtually to discuss papers and ideas for research, and to otherwise share their knowledge about plants in the species-rich family Compositae (asters, daisies, sunflowers, and relatives). This group, The International Compositae Alliance, has recently organized a monthly virtual symposium on Compositae, with talks given by community members. The growing community, which includes researchers, educators, collections directors and managers, and students, has also started an online newsletter designed to promote their research, share knowledge and advice, and facilitate engagement with stakeholders worldwide. See for more detail.

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January, 2021: CBio Guest Researcher

Dr. Rich Adams, a Biological Data Scientist and Postdoctoral Fellow at Florida Atlantic University, and a Research Associate of the McKenna Lab, spoke with CBio about his research at the intersection between computer science and quantitative evolutionary genomics, including developing new algorithms, analytical tools, theory, and software for studying mathematical evolution, computational phylogenetics, and statistical genomics.

Image by Marius Masalar

January, 2021: Virtual Data Science Conference

The Data Science Cluster at the University of Memphis, which has connections to CBio by way of our new initiative/collaborative in Biodiversity Data Science, is hosting a virtual data science conference (Memphis DATA) on March 25-26, 2021. Submission deadline for talks or posters is February 15, 2021. See for more info!

Programming Console

December, 2020: CBio Award Opportunity

CBio Biodiversity Scholars Award Program for incoming PhD students

See here for more information.

November, 2020: Meeting on Regional Capacity Building.

CBio hosted a 30-minute virtual meeting on Friday, Nov. 13 to discuss opportunities, interests, and needs for collaborative research, outreach, and education (including internships & workforce development) in biodiversity science and education with representatives from Memphis-area organizations.


Future Meetings will be held once monthly from 12-1pm on Friday’s. These will tentatively cover the following topics (one per meeting): Research, Engagement with Higher Education, Outreach & Other Broader Impacts, Workforce Development, Other Topics (TBD).

Interested in attending a future meeting? Contact us at the email address below.

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October, 2020: CBio Graduate Student Redefines her Field of Study!

Kate Parsley (Sabel Lab) published a paper in the open-access journal Plants, People, Planet titled: Plant awareness disparity: A case for renaming plant blindness. Her paper is available at the following link:


Kate’s research about plant blindness has implications for environmental literacy, conservation education, and community outreach efforts related to botany education. Congratulations Kate!

September, 2020: Paper Announcement

Drs. Shawn Brown, Matt Parris, and Denita Weeks (recent graduate from the Parris lab) recently published a paper in the journal Animal Microbiome titled: Recovery and resiliency of skin microbial communities on the southern leopard frog (Lithobates sphenocephalus) following two biotic disturbances.

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September, 2020: CBio Guest Researchers

Dr. Alex Wild, Curator of Entomology for the University of Texas Biodiversity Collections spoke with CBio on September 24 about his research in ant systematics and beetle and wasp evolution, as well as his work as a professional nature photographer (specializing in ants and other insects). His blog (, online since 2007, is an exploration of ants and other insects that are the subjects of his research and photography. Photo galleries showing some of his work can be seen here:


We also heard from Dr. Lynette Strickland, a postdoc at Texas A&M Corpus Christi. Dr. Strickland talked about her research on the genetics, ecology, and evolution of polymorphic Neotropical tortoise beetles. She will be moving to the University of Memphis to join the McKenna Lab as an NSF postdoc in early 2021.

August, 2020: Congratulations Assistant Professor Shin!

Dr. Seunggwan Shin has aaccepted a faculty position at the Seoul National University. Dr. Shin will continue to work with the McKenna Lab on several projects of shared interest as a Research Associate.


August, 2020: CBio Guest Researcher

Dr. Joan Strassman, Charles Rebstock Professor of Biology in the Department of Biology at
Washington University in St. Louis, spoke with CBio on August 28 about her research on social evolution. We also heard from Dr. Ramhari Thapa, a postdoc in the lab of Dr. Jennifer Mandel (UofM, Biological Sciences). Dr. Thapa reported on his trip to attend the Plant and Animal Genome Conference in San Diego, CA (Jan. 11-15, 2020), supported in part by a CBio Seed Grant.

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August, 2020: Teaching Award for CBio Faculty

Dr. Keith Bowers was awarded the University of Memphis College of Arts & Sciences 2020 Dean's Award for Teaching Excellence. Keith is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Biological Sciences and Director of the Meeman Biological Station. Dr. Bowers teaches courses in biostatistics, ornithology, vertebrate physiology, and general biology, and his research group studies the evolution of adaptive behavior in wild birds.

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August, 2020: New NSF Funding

Dr. Shawn Brown (CBio; Biological Sciences) and Dr. Maryam Salehi (Civil Engineering) were awarded a grant from the U.S. National Science Foundation Division of Chemical, Bioengineering, Environmental & Transport Systems in the amount of $329,655 to study the impact of biofilms on lead sorption and release by plastic water pipes in drinking water distribution systems. For more information:

August, 2020: Paper Announcement

Dr. Duane McKenna published a paper in the journal Current Biology on the evolution of metabolic interactions between plant-feeding (phytophagous) leaf beetles and their obligate bacterial symbionts.

July, 2020: CBio Guest Researcher

Dr. Chelsea Specht, Barbara McClintock Professor of Plant Biology in the School of Integrative Plant Science at Cornell University, will speak with CBio  on July 24 about her research on the evolution and diversification of plant form and function. She will also discuss her role as the inaugural Associate

Dean for Diversity and Inclusion for the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at Cornell.

Information about some of the programs/resources mentioned by Dr. Specht for mentoring graduate students can be found here:


July, 2020: Dr. Adelman Joins Editorial Board

Dr. Jim Adelman joined the Editorial Board of the Auk, the official publication of the American Ornithological Society. It was established in 1884 and is published quarterly. The Auk publishes research from around the world that tests fundamental, scientific hypotheses through ornithological studies.

Flamingo Close Up

July, 2020: Conference Attendance

The McKenna Lab attended the 2020 Arthropod Genomics Symposium via Slack/Zoom beginning July 21.

July, 2020: Paper Announcement

Dr. Jennifer Mandel ( and several colleagues published a paper in the journal Taxon on classification of the Compositae. The paper is a tribute to the late Dr. Vicki Funk.

Dr. Mandel also published a paper in the journal Molecular Phylognetics & Evolution on "Abandoning persistent misconceptions that obfuscate organelle evolution".


June, 2020: Dr. Mandel Joins Editorial Board

Dr. Jennifer Mandel joined the Editorial Board of the Journal of Systematics and Evolution.

Colorful Flowers

June, 2020: New CBio Initiative

CBio announces a new initiative: Broadening participation in biodiversity science and education through advancing diversity, equity, and inclusion.

June, 2020: CBio Guest Researcher

Dr. Nigel Pitman from the Field Museum of Natural History (Keller Science Action Center) spoke with CBio via Zoom on June 26 about his research on South American rain forest floras and animal faunas in the face of rapid human-induced habitat loss and degradation. We also heard from Maryam Shahrtash, a graduate student in the lab of Dr. Shawn Brown (UofM Dept. of Biological Sciences). Maryam reported on outcomes from her 2019 CBio Graduate Student Seed Grant.

Tropical Leaves

June, 2020: Paper Announcement

The Brown Lab ( published a paper in the Journal of Hazardous Materials on the interactions of biofilms and water chemistry that shows that biofilms increase lead deposition onto plastic pipe material.!

Closeup of a Petri Dish

May, 2020: CBio Guest Researcher

Dr. Steve Palumbi from Stanford University (Marine Sciences, Hopkins Marine Station) spoke with CBio via Zoom on May 29 about his research on marine biodiversity, conservation, and evolution in the face of rapid human-induced global change. We also heard from Kathryn Parsley, a graduate student in the lab of Dr. Jaime Sabel (UofM Dept. of Biological Sciences). Kathryn reported on outcomes from her 2019 CBio Graduate Student Seed Grant.

May, 2020: Paper Announcement

PhD student Maryam Shahrtash of the Brown Lab ( published a paper investigating drivers of fungal endophyte assembly in the invasive plant kudzu.

The Brown lab also published a paper on how nutrients and organic matter shape alpine lake biofilm communities in the journal Aquatic Microbial Ecology.


April, 2020: CBio Guest Researcher

Dr. Thomas Near from Yale University (Department of Ecology & Evolutionary Biology) spoke with CBio via Zoom on April 24 about his research on mechanisms that generate and maintain fish biodiversity.

Fish on Ice

March, 2020: CBio Guest Researcher

Dr. Paul Garber from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign (Department of Anthropology) spoke with CBio on March 27 about the primate extinction crisis, and transitioning from advocacy to activism in addressing the biodiversity crisis.

We held the March CBio Group meeting remotely via zoom. CBio Group meetings will be held remotely until further notice.

March, 2020: CBio Guest Researcher

Dr. John Tooker from Penn State University spoke on Wednesday, March 4, in the FedEx Institute. His talk was titled: Toxic Slugs Chart a Path Back to Integrated Pest Management.

Conservation-based agriculture is being heavily adopted in the certain regions of the U.S. to help reduce erosion and provide other benefits. No-till farming and diverse rotations that include cover crops are the primary ingredients in current interests in conservation agriculture. Unfortunately, many farmers are inadvertently handicapping their production systems by overusing pesticides, particularly insecticides. Dr. Tooker’s team has revealed that Integrated Pest Management is a key component to maximizing the production of these conservation-based systems.

Dr. John Tooker is an Professor and Extension Specialist in the Department of Entomology at Pennsylvania State University. His research group studies relationships among plants, invertebrate herbivores, and natural enemies to understand factors that regulate populations of herbivorous insects and slugs. The long- term goal of his research is to exploit ecological interactions for sustainable insect pest management.

March, 2020: New PhD Graduate

Congratulations to graduate student Malle Carrasco-Harris (Cole Lab), who successfully defended her PhD thesis titled: The spatial ecology and genetics of copperhead snakes (Agkistrodon contortrix) in an urban forest. Two papers reporting on this work are in press (see below).

Carrasco-Harris M.F., D. Bowman, S. Reichling, and J.A. Cole. 2020. Spatial ecology of copperhead snakes (Agkistrodon contortrix) in response to urban park trails. Journal of Urban Ecology.

Carrasco-Harris M.F., J. R. Mandel, C. M. Siniscalchi, S. Reichling, and J.A. Cole. 2020. Population genetics of Copperhead Snakes (Agkistrodon contortrix) within an urban forest. Herpetological Review 51(1).

March, 2020: Parsley Awarded Fellowship

Graduate student Kate Parsley (Sabel Lab) was

chosen by the American Society of Plant Biologists (ASPB) as a 2020 Plantae Fellow.


Fellows are chosen to nurture and expand the community of plant scientists on, a plant science networking site sponsored and created by the ASPB. Kate will primarily be involved in collecting, creating, and contributing science communication, education, and outreach resources as well as facilitating discussions and interactions surrounding these topics. For more information:

March, 2020: CBio Student Featured in Podcast

Graduate student Kate Parsley (Sabel Lab) was recently interviewed for the Talaterra podcast, a program run by Tania Marien about freelance educators working in natural resource fields and environmental education (see:


Kate’s research about plant blindness was featured due to its potential implications for environmental literacy, conservation education, and community outreach efforts related to botany education. Her interview can be found here:

February, 2020:

Information about the Memphis Area Climate Action Plan is available online.

January, 2020: Paper Announcement

McKenna Lab publishes a major paper on arthropod genomes in Genome Biology.

The evolutionary innovations of arthropods – the most diverse group of animals on Earth – are as numerous as they are fascinating, from fangs, silk and stingers to exquisitely colored wings and ingenious feats of engineering. Some arthropods contribute vital ecosystem services, including pollination and decomposition, while others are pests of agriculture or spread diseases. An international team of scientists, including researchers from the McKenna Lab, report the results from a project designed to kickstart the sequencing of genomes from thousands of arthropod species (the Insect 5,000 Genomes Project; i5k). The gene families found to be most dynamically changing in arthropod genomes encode proteins linked to digestion, chemical defence and the building and remodelling of chitin - the major constituent of the arthropod exoskeleton. Newly evolved gene families underlie functions known to be important in different arthropod groups, including visual learning and behavior, pheromone and odorant detection, neuronal activity and wing development.

UM press release:

Published paper:

Select news stories:

December, 2019: Brown Lab in the News

Brown Lab Research Featured in the New Scientist

Dr. Shawn Brown, Assistant Professor of Biological Sciences, was recently interviewed by the New Scientist, who wrote a story about his research on the microbes that live in snow. The New Scientist is a weekly print and digital magazine that reaches over 4 million readers. You can read the story at the following link:

November, 2019: Paper Announcement

McKenna Lab publishes major paper on beetle genomics and evolution in PNAS

Dr. Duane McKenna, William Hill Professor of Biological Sciences, published an article in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA, titled: “The Evolution and Genomic Basis of Beetle Diversity”. The paper details how ancient horizontal transfers of microbial genes to beetle genomes set the stage for beetle diversification. The study was funded in part by NSF, and involves researchers from Australia, Austria, China, Germany, Russia, and the US, working at the leading edge of large-scale genomic data generation, analysis, and integration. UM co-authors included postdocs Seunggwan Shin & Dave Clarke, graduate student Cristian Beza, and undergraduate Peyton Murin.

UM press release:

Published paper:

Select news stories: (begins at 31:15)

October, 2019: New Phd Graduate

Cristian Beza successfully completed his PhD dissertation defense. Dissertation title: Island Biogeography in the continental New World Tropics: Reconstructing the phylogeny & evolution of the Mesoamerican Bess Beetle tribe Proculini (Coleoptera: Passalidae). CBio Director Duane McKenna was Cristian's major advisor. His other committee members (all CBio Associates) were Randy Bayer, Keith Bowers, Jennifer Mandel, and Matt Parris.

October, 2019: New PhD Graduate

Adam Ramsey successfully completed his PhD dissertation defense. Dissertation title: Considering cytonuclear interactions in the face of heteroplasmy: evidence from Daucus carota (Apiaceae), A gynodieoceous plant species. CBio Assistant Director Jennifer Mandel was Adam's major advisor. His other committee members were Randy Bayer (CBio), Judy Cole, Duane McKenna (CBio), and Anna-Bess Sorin.

Fall, 2019: Publication Announcement

Alex Mueller, a recent MS graduate of the Bowers Lab, published a paper in Canadian Journal of Zoology describing how supplemental nestboxes can greatly augment breeding densities of Prothonotary Warblers. A habitat specialist, the abundance of this species has declined significantly in recent decades because of habitat loss.


Published paper:

October, 2019: Publication Announcement

Dr. Carolina Siniscalchi, Research Associate in the Mandel Lab, published a paper in Frontiers in Plant Science, “Phylogenomics Yields New Insight Into Relationships Within Vernonieae (Asteraceae)”


Photo: Chresta speciosa (Asteraceae) and Colibri serrirostris (Trochilidae), photo credit Carolina Siniscalchi.


Published paper:

October, 2019: Conference Attendance

Dr. Emily Puckett, Asst. Professor of Biological Sciences, attended the 2nd International Sun Bear Symposium in Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia with support from a CBio Seed Grant.

Sun bears are vulnerable to extinction due to habitat loss, high hunting pressures, and capture for pets.  You can read more about Dr. Puckett’s trip here.


Photo credit: Emily Puckett.

September, 2019: Conference Attendance

Dr. Duane McKenna, Professor of Biological Sciences and CBio Director, attended the 9th Insect Phylogeny Meeting in Dresden, Germany.


Photo: Duane McKenna & collaborator Na Ra Shin (Max Planck Inst. for Chemical Ecology; Jena, Germany).

September, 2019: Research Travel

Drs. Carolina Siniscalchi and Ram Thapa (Mandel Lab) traveled to Washington, DC and the National Museum of Natural History to collaborate with researchers and make collections in the U.S. National Herbarium, funded by a CBio Seed Grant.

September, 2019: New CBio Faculty

Dr. Stephanie Haddad, Research Assistant Professor, has joined the Department of Biological Sciences. Dr. Haddad will contribute to research development for the McKenna Lab and CBio.

September, 2019: New Postdoc

Dr. Robert (Bort) Edwards joins the Mandel Lab

Dr. Edwards will contribute to ongoing work on the phylogeny and evolution of Asteraceae in the lab of Dr. Jennifer Mandel, Associate Professor of Biological Sciences, and CBio Assistant Director. Dr. Edwards will split his time between Memphis and the Smithsonian Institution, which is the home institution for Dr. Mandel's other major collaborator on this project.

July, 2019: Conference Attendance

NSF-REU undergraduate student Jorge Gomez presents at his first Botany Conference in Tucson, AZ.


Title: "The Evolutionary Relationships in Pertyeae (Asteraceae) inferred from Hyb-Seq Data"

June, 2019: Paper Announcement

Mandel Lab publishes major paper on the daisy family (Asteraceae) in PNAS

Dr. Jennifer Mandel, assistant professor of Biological Sciences, and CBio Assistant Director, authored an article published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences U.S.A. titled: “A fully resolved backbone phylogeny reveals numerous dispersals and explosive diversifications throughout the history of Asteraceae”. In the study, funded by the National Science Foundation, Mandel and her colleagues used genomic data to reconstruct the family tree of daisies and their relatives (Asteraceae; >25,000 species). Their work showed the family first originated near the end of the Cretaceous period ~80 million years ago. However, the family did not begin to diversify until the Earth began to cool and habitats changed dramatically about 40 million years ago. This study was a collaboration involving researchers from the University of Memphis, the Smithsonian Institution and Oklahoma State University. CBio co-authors included C. Siniscalchi and R. Thapa.

UM press release:

Published paper:

April, 2019: Conference Attendance

CBio faculty & students attend ASB Meeting

The Annual Meeting of the Association of Southeastern Biologists was held at the Memphis Cook Convention Center from April 3-6, 2019. The meeting was attended by 6 CBio faculty members as well as graduate students and postdocs. Collectively, 8 presentations/posters were presented.

March, 2019: Paper Announcement

Puckett Lab publishes major paper on brown rat demography in Genome Research

Travel to almost any city in the world and you may find a rat.  But how did they move from their natal range on the Mongolian steep to a truly global distribution?  Dr. Emily Puckett, Assistant Professor of Biological Sciences, and colleague sequenced the genomes of 14 brown rats from around the globe.  They found two routes of range expansion; the first began ~16,000 years ago as rats moved eastward into modern day Russia.  These rats were moved later in time to the Pacific coast of North America.  The second range expansion occurred much later, ~860 years ago, as rats were moved to Southeast Asia.  The movement into SE Asia connected this important human commensal species with modes of transport to take them to Europe, and from Europe all over the globe. 

Published paper:

Painting: Marthalicia Matarrita.

February, 2019: Dr. Puckett Joins Editorial Board

Dr. Emily Puckett joined the Editorial Board of the journal Ecology and Evolution as an Associate Editor.

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