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Research & Teaching Faculty & Staff

Disease Ecology, Ecological Immunology & Physiology, Animal Behavior

No two organisms respond to infection in the same way—a phenomenon with far-reaching implications for infectious disease dynamics, ecology, and evolution. Nevertheless, variation in individual traits, including immune and behavioral responses to infection, has traditionally been studied separately from population-level aspects of epidemiology, such as disease prevalence and pathogen transmission. My research suggests that we cannot fully understand these individual- or population-level processes in isolation. I incorporate techniques from immunology, eco-physiology, and animal behavior to answer two main questions at the interface of physiology and ecology: 1) why, mechanistically and evolutionarily, do individuals vary in their immune and behavioral responses to infection? and 2) how does this variation shape pathogen transmission and evolution?

Graduate Students: Frank TIllman (PhD), Julia Weil (PhD)

Accepting New Graduate Students

Jim Adelman
Assistant Professor
PhD Princeton University

Plant Systematics, Plant Evolution, Polyploidy, Floristics, Sunflower Family, Forensic Botany

Dr. Bayer studies systematics, evolution, and phylogeny of the Asteraceae (sunflower family) with focus on the tribe Gnaphalieae (everlasting daisies) using traditional and molecular methods.   He is also interested in the evolution of polyploid complexes using Antennaria (Gnaphalieae) as a model system, and the use of molecular techniques to study genome evolution in young naturally occurring polyploid groups.  With international collaborators, he also studies phylogeny and systematics of the orange subfamily Aurantioideae (Rutaceae), with special interest in determining the origins of the major Citrus cultivar groups using molecular methods.  These interests in Citrus extend to the utilization of wild relatives of cultivated species in breeding programs for crop improvement. Dr. Bayer serves as curator of the herbarium (MEM).

Not accepting New Graduate Students; Serving on Graduate Committees

Randall Bayer
Professor Emeritus
PhD The Ohio State University

Leigh Boardman
Assistant Professor
PhD Stellenbosch University

Evolutionary & Physiological Ecology of Arthropods

Projects in the Boardman Lab will aim to improve the mechanistic understanding of how arthropods live in environments where they must cope with multiple simultaneous stresses (e.g., changes in temperature, oxygen, and/or water availability). This research can be applied to improve predictions of the effects of climate change and invasive species spread, and improve the efficacy of chemical-free pest management strategies.

Graduate Students: Mitchell Adkins (MS), Wesley Rhinehart (MS)

Accepting New Graduate Students


E. Keith Bowers
Associate Professor

Director, Edward J. Meeman Biological Station
PhD Illinois State University

Evolutionary, Physiological & Behavioral Ecology, Evolution of Life Histories, Ecoimmunology, Climate Change

Dr. Bowers studies the evolutionary, physiological, and behavioral ecology of wild birds. The study of birds presents an excellent opportunity to investigate questions related to vertebrate ecology, physiology, social behavior, and evolution. He uses a variety of techniques to investigate questions related to animal ecology and evolution, including responses to anthropogenic activity and climate change. He has established study populations of birds at the Meeman Biological Station near Memphis to investigate these issues.

Graduate Students: Shelby Green (MS), Madison Mash (PhD) Kelly O'Neil (PhD), Rin Pell (PhD)

Accepting New Graduate Students

Shawn Brown
Assistant Professor
PhD Kansas State University

Microbial Ecology, Mycology, Community Ecology, Snow Microbiology, Endophytes

Dr. Brown investigates cross-domain microbial ecology (fungi, bacteria, archaea, algae) to understand processes and mechanisms of microbial community assembly. Working with many different substrates (e.g. snow, invasive plants, soil, invertebrate guts) in many different systems (e.g. alpine, wildfire revenged, agricultural), my research group asks question about why microbial communities are structured the way they are and investigates how communities respond to perturbations to better understand ecosystems as a whole. I also teach upper division courses in Ecology, Microbial Ecology, and graduate courses in Microbial Ecology and Host-Microbe Interactions.

Graduate Students: Alexis Gallegos (MS), Nahreen Mirza (PhD), Avery Tucker (PhD)

Accepting New Graduate Students

Dr. Clarke is an entomologist and morphologist interested primarily in beetles. His research spans comparative morphology, systematics, evolutionary biology, paleontology and biogeography. Current projects involve using morphological data to resolve the phylogeny of weevils (Curculionidae) and several groups of rove beetles (Staphylinidae). Critical to these projects is a focus on the systematics and evolution of fossil lineages that were highly diverse in the Cretaceous; the morphology of these creatures in a phylogenetic context provides a crucial window into the early evolution of extant forms. He also produces monographs of taxonomically understudied beetles, contributing information on species-level and morphological diversity and distribution that is needed for conservation and biodiversity studies. He has taught a range of lecture and lab courses including Entomology, Organismal Biology, General Biology, Genetics, and Environmental Science. At the UofM Lambuth Campus he teaches Evolution, Cell Biology and Human Anatomy and Physiology, and his teaching interests include Medical Entomology and Parasitology.

Dave J. Clarke
PhD University of Illinois at Chicago

Beetle Systematics, Evolution, Paleontology, Comparative Morphology, Ecology

Bernie J. Daigle Jr.
Associate Professor
PhD Stanford University

Genomic Data Integration, Single-cell Gene Expression, Computational Systems Biology, Software Development, Bioinformatics

The Daigle lab seeks to infer biological meaning from experimental data collected from single cells to whole organisms. To do so, lab members develop statistical and computational tools for integrated analyses of noisy, heterogeneous datasets. Research interests range from modeling the stochastic expression dynamics of individual genes to leveraging multiple “omics” datasets to identify biomarkers for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). This research is currently funded by a grant from the US Army Research Laboratory. Dr. Daigle teaches an introductory course in genomics and bioinformatics and a data science course for biologists.

Graduate Students: Maziar Ganji (PhD), Mazen Istanbouli (PhD)

Accepting New Graduate Students

Rachel E. Diner
Assistant Professor
PhD University of California, San Diego

Marine and Freshwater Microbiology, Microbiome Sciences, Ecotoxicology, Environmental Change


Dr. Diner studies how marine and freshwater microbes are impacted by environmental change and pollution, and how these microbes influence host, ecosystem, and human health. She is especially interested in microbes that live on and within important animal hosts, such as shellfish and fish. She employs complimentary approaches including experimental laboratory systems, fieldwork, molecular microbiology, and genomics-based techniques (especially high-throughput nucleic acid sequencing). The goal of her research group is to make discoveries about microbial processes and interactions that can help support healthy, resilient coastal systems, and to apply these findings towards developing microbial-driven solutions to emerging environmental problems.

Accepting New Graduate Students

Mike Ferkin
Jack H. Morris Professor Emeritus
PhD Boston University

Animal Behavior, Animal Cognition, Behavioral Ecology, Sperm Competition

Research in the Ferkin lab centers on communication, social interactions, and sexual behavior. His approach to research uses as its framework, Tinbergens’s four levels of analysis to answer questions about the physiological mechanisms, the ontogenetic components, function, and phylogenetic influences on behavior, principally among microtine rodents.

Graduate Students: Felice Murden (PHD)

Not Accepting New Graduate Students

Dave Freeman
Associate Professor
PhD University of Connecticut

Biological Rhythms, Eusociality (Mammals), Neuroendocrinology, Reproductive Strategies, Aging, Animal Behavior, Animal Physiology

Dr. Freeman's lab pursues two lines of research. One line spans organismal biology and physiology, with an emphasis on biological rhythms, behavioral neuroendocrinology, and seasonality. Current work investigates the neural mechanisms that regulate seasonal physiological and behavioral cycles in mammals, with concentration on the pineal hormone melatonin and its actions in the brain. His second line of research is focused on the neural and endocrine mechanisms involved in eusociality in mammals. A major project is focused on the eusocial Damaraland mole-rat. His lab is actively working to characterize the neural, endocrine, and behavioral mechanisms of this rare mating system.

Graduate Students: Sara Carter (PhD)

Accepting New Graduate Students

Mike Kennedy
PhD University of Oklahoma

Mammalogy, Mammalian Ecology & Systematics, Wildlife Ecology

Dr. Kennedy teaches courses in Mammalogy, Urban Ecology and Wildlife Management, Conservation Biology, and Field Techniques in Vertebrate Zoology.  He strives to give students a clear view of these disciplines, prepare them for jobs, and excite them about ecology and field biology. He has taught numerous undergraduate students over the years, directed 70 graduate students, authored over 140 publications, and administered ~2 million dollars in grants and contracts.  He is very knowledgeable of North American biodiversity and has helped individuals and agencies preserve the biota of many regions.  His graduate and undergraduate students have gone on to positions across the United States.

Graduate Students: Banjamin Melton (PhD), Colten Snyder (MS), Edward Warr (PhD)

Accepting New Graduate Students

Philip Kohlmeier

Assistant Professor

PhD Johannes Gutenberg University of Mainz 

Dr. Kohlmeier's research is centered around the question of how an animals nervous system perceives and integrates information from its (social) environment and produces adaptive physiological and behavioral output. This question is addressed across different contexts and insect taxa ranging from the regulation of division of labor in social Hymenoptera such as ants and bees to the neurogenetic mechanisms underlying transgenerational effects and temperature adaptation in the fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster.

Graduate Student: Bloo Mitchell (PhD)

Accepting New Graduate Students


Melissa Koontz

Physiology Laboratory Coordinator 

PhD University of Memphis 

Dr. Koontz Laboratory Coordinator for Physiology and a part-time Instructor in the Department of Biological Sciences. Her research is in wetland plant ecology.

Plant Population Genetics & Phylogenetics

Research activities in the Mandel Lab center around understanding how genetic and genomic variation generate the patterns of plant biodiversity present in the world. A driving force of research in the Mandel Lab is to understand how changes to the environment, including land use and climate, affect species abundance and geographic distribution. In particular, the lab focuses on the systematics, evolution, and biogeography of the Daisy Family which is the largest flowering plant family on Earth. Her research has been funded by the US Department of Agriculture, the US National Science Foundation, and the Smithsonian Institute. She teaches courses in Ecological Genetics, Plant Ecology, and General Biology.

Graduate Students: Serena Blais (PhD), Samantha Drewry (MS), Erika Moore (PhD)

Accepting New Graduate Students

Jennifer Mandel
Associate Professor
PhD Vanderbilt University

Insect Systematics, Genomics, Evolution, & Diversity

Duane McKenna
William Hill Professor
Director, Center for Biodiversity Research
PhD Harvard University

Dr. McKenna studies insects, and is a specialist on beetles (order Coleoptera; >400,000 species). Research in his lab seeks to reconstruct insect phylogeny, elucidate the genomic basis and evolution of plant-feeding, and document geographic patterns of (especially tropical) insect biodiversity. Most studies involve international teams of researchers, large genomic datasets, and computationally-intensive bioinformatic analyses and are relevant to agriculture, forestry and the sustainable use of biodiversity. His research is funded by NSF and USDA. He teaches courses in Evolution, Entomology, Evolutionary Genomics and Biodiversity.

Graduate Students: Michael Charles (PhD), Soo-Hyun Jeong (PhD)

Postdocs: Kevin Moran, Na Ra Shin, Terrence Sylvester

PhD Research Associates: Rich Adams, Austin Baker, Cristian Beza-Beza, Dave Clarke, Stephanie Haddad, Xuankun Li, Rongrong Shen

Accepting New Graduate Students

Cassandra Nuñez
Research Assistant Professor
PhD Princeton University

Behavioral Ecology, Reproductive & Stress Physiology, Wildlife Ecology & Management

Dr. Nuñez incorporates the natural history, behavioral ecology, and the physiology of species to address two basic questions: (1) how do our management practices affect animal behavior and physiology? and (2) can natural behavior and physiology be maintained in managed systems?  Research in her lab has shown that, especially in social species, human-induced changes in target individuals can have unanticipated effects to close associates and the local population.  Moreover, these studies have afforded insights into how we can mitigate such effects and manage for healthy, well-functioning animal populations.  Most her work has focused on the behavioral and physiological effects of contraception management on feral horse behavior and physiology, but she is also collaborating on projects investigating the effects of human activity on the stress response in both bighorn sheep and sage grouse.

Graduate Students: Sidney Brenkus (MS); Accepting New Graduate Students

Matthew Parris
Associate Professor
PhD University of Missouri

Amphibian Disease Ecology, Population Ecology, Herpetology, Ecotoxicology

Dr. Parris’s research program focuses on amphibian and reptile population and disease ecology. He uses laboratory, mesocosm, and field experiments to test hypotheses concerning dynamics of herpetological population declines. He teaches courses in Evolution, Herpetology, Population Ecology, and Anatomy and Physiology.


Graduate Students: Brianna Louis (PhD), Breanna McDewitt (MS)

Accepting New Graduate Students

Emily Puckett
Assistant Professor
PhD University of Missouri

Phylogeography, Population Genomics, Bears, Conservation Genetics

The Puckett Lab studies the phylogeography and demography of mammals, particularly members of the bear family (Ursidae). We are interested in understanding patterns of geographic variation in genotypes and phenotypes, then identifying the evolutionary mechanisms which produced those patterns. We have a keen interest in utilizing genomic information to inform the conservation and management of species (e.g. delineating ESUs or MUs; landscape genetics to understand barriers to gene flow). Dr. Puckett teaches General Genetics and a graduate reading group in Speciation.

Graduate Students: Heather Clendenin (PhD), Phil Douchinsky (MS), Matthew Pollard (PhD)

Accepting New Graduate Students

Jaime Sabel
Assistant Professor
PhD University of Nebraska


Classroom Scaffolds, Tools & Environments, Formative Assessment, Self-regulated Learning, Metacognition

Dr. Sabel joined the University of Memphis in 2016. She began her research career as a developmental geneticist examining genes involved in early embryonic development and then transitioned her focus to teaching and research in science education. Her current research focuses on various types of tools and classroom environments that can support students in learning biology and engaging in scientific practices. She is an active member of the National Association for Research in Science Teaching (NARST), National Association of Biology Teachers (NABT), and the Society for the Advancement of Biology Education Research (SABER).

Graduate Students: Summer Jasper (PhD), Elizabeth Schriner (PhD), Kendra Wright (PhD)

Accepting New Graduate Students

Alka Sharma


PhD University of Arkansas

Dr. Sharma has studied temporal and spatial distribution of nutrients in the seeds of the model legume plant, Medicago truncatula. She teaches non-major and majors introductory biology courses along with botany and biochemistry.

PhD Research Associates


McKenna Lab

“Big data” in biology at the intersection of computer science, statistics, & evolutionary genomics


McKenna Lab

Insect Systematics & Evolution; Phylogenomics


McKenna Lab

Beetle Systematics, Ecology & Evolution, Biogeography, Phylogenomics, Evolutionary Genomics


McKenna Lab

Beetle Systematics, Pollination Biology, Urban Entomology

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McKenna Lab

Insect Systematics & Evolution; Genomics; Phylogenomics


Mandel Lab

Macroevolution of the nitrogen fixation symbiosis in flowering plants, systematics and evolution of Asteraceae


Mandel Lab

Antennaria (Asteraceae) Systematics & Evolution; Phylogenetics & Population Genetics of Agriculturally-important Asteraceae

Postdoctoral Researchers


Bowers Lab

& Program Coordinator: Meeman Biological Station

Behavioral Ecology, Avian Coloration, Life History Evolution, Mate Preferences, Parental Investment, Reproductive Strategies

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McKenna Lab

Insect Systematics & Evolution; Genomics; Phylogenomics; Raphidioptera


McKenna Lab

Tortoise beetle (Cassidinae) Chemical Ecology, Beetle-Plant Interactions, Polymorphism, Sequestration, Aposematism, Phenotypic Variation


McKenna Lab

Comparative Genomics, Population Genomics, Phylogenomics

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McKenna Lab

More information coming soon

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