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?

PhD Research Associates: Dr. Amberleigh Henschen (Postdoc)

Accepting New Graduate Students: Yes

Jim Adelman

Assistant Professor
Ph.D. 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).

Accepting New Graduate Students: No; Actively serving on graduate committees.

Randall Bayer
Professor Emeritus
Ph.D. The Ohio State University

Leigh Boardman
Assistant Professor (starting Aug., 2021)
Ph.D. 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.

Accepting New Graduate Students: Yes


E. Keith Bowers
Assistant Professor

Director, Meeman Field Station
Ph.D. 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: Kelly Miller (PhD), Kelly O'Neil (PhD), Ashley Atkins Coleman (MS)

Accepting New Graduate Students: Yes

Shawn Brown
Assistant Professor
Ph.D. 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: Maryan Shahrtash (PhD), Avery Tucker (PhD)

Accepting New Graduate Students: Yes

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 vital 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 at multiple institutions including Entomology, Organismal Biology, General Biology, Genetics, and Environmental Science. At the Lambuth Campus he teaches Evolution, Cell Biology and Human Anatomy and Physiology, and his teaching interests include Medical Entomology and Parasitology. He also maintains the Biological Sciences Department website.

Dave J. Clarke
Ph.D. University of Illinois at Chicago

Beetle Systematics, Evolution, Paleontology, Comparative Morphology, Ecology

Bernie J. Daigle Jr.
Assistant Professor
Ph.D. 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: Mazen Istanbouli (PhD), Liangqun Lu (PhD), Caroline Melton (PhD), Vibha Tripathi (BINF MS)

Accepting New Graduate Students: Yes

Mike Ferkin
Jack H. Morris Professor
Ph.D. 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: Kelsey Clark (PHD), Sarah Garris (PHD), Felice Murden (PHD), Karl Rohrer (PHD), Ryan Scauzillo (PHD)

Accepting New Graduate Students: No

Dave Freeman
Associate Professor
Ph.D. 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), John Kelley (PhD), Elyan Shor (PHD), Nicholas Misenti (MS)

Accepting New Graduate Students: Yes

Dr. Haddad studies the ecology, systematics, and evolution of longhorn beetles (family Cerambycidae). She is currently investigating the morphology, diversity, and evolution of the chemosensory sensilla of cerambyciform beetles and their close relatives within the superfamily Chrysomeloidea, in the interest of learning more about how these beetles have evolved to efficiently sense their environments. In addition to her work with beetles, she has surveyed insect biodiversity in national and urban forests and is interested in conducting species inventories to determine the presence and abundance of different insect groups. She is especially interested in native insect pollinators and in understanding the factors that promote their biodiversity, especially in urban environments. Dr. Haddad has experience teaching general biology lecture and lab, entomology lecture and lab, and senior seminar. She is also a big proponent of science outreach and mentorship, and is passionate about exploring effective strategies for recruiting, retaining, and advancing minorities and underrepresented groups in science.  

Accepting New Graduate Students: Yes

Beetle Systematics, Pollination Biology, Urban Entomology

Stephanie Haddad
Research Assistant Professor
Ph.D. University of Memphis

Mike Kennedy
Ph.D. 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: Rebecca Butler (MS), Jessica Davin (MS), Marian Moore (MS), Felice Murden (MS), Brittany Pope (PhD), Sarah Swing (MS)

Accepting New Graduate Students: Yes

Melissa Koontz

Physiology Laboratory Coordinator 

Ph.D. 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: Steven M Ballou Jr (PhD), Erika Rae Moore (PhD), Paige Murin (MS), Adam Joseph Ramsey (PhD; graduated 2019)

PhD Research Associates: Dr. Robert Edwards (Postdoc), Dr. Ramhari Thapa (Postdoc)

Accepting New Graduate Students: Yes

Jennifer Mandel
Associate Professor
Ph.D. Vanderbilt University

Insect Systematics, Genomics, Evolution, & Diversity

Duane McKenna

William Hill Professor

Director, Center for Biodiversity Research

Director, Agriculture & Food Technologies Research Cluster, FedEx Institute of Technology

Ph.D. Harvard University

Dr. McKenna studies insects, and is a specialist on beetles (order Coleoptera; >400,000 known species). Current research in his lab seeks to clarify insect phylogenetic relationships, elucidate the genomic basis and evolution of plant-feeding in beetles, and document geographic patterns of (especially tropical) insect biodiversity. Most studies involve international teams of researchers, large genomic and other datasets, and computationally-intensive bioinformatic analyses. His research is funded by the US National Science Foundation and the US Department of Agriculture. He teaches courses in Evolution, Entomology, and Biodiversity.

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

Postdocs & PhD Research Associates: Dr. Austin Baker (NSF Postdoc; starting September, 2021), Dr. Cristian Beza-Beza (Research Associate), Dr. Hwalran Choi (Research Associate), Dr. Dave Clarke (Research Associate), Dr. Stephanie Haddad (Research Assistant Professor), Dr. Xuankun Li (Postdoc), Dr. Seunggwan Shin (Research Associate), Dr. Lynette Strickland (NSF Postdoc).

Accepting New Graduate Students: Yes

Open Postdoctoral Positions: Coming soon; positions opening in late 2021, early 2022.

Cassandra Nuñez
Research Assistant Professor
Ph.D. 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.

Accepting New Graduate Students: Yes

Matthew Parris
Associate Professor
Ph.D. 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: Bailey Patillo (PhD; Graduated 2019)

Accepting New Graduate Students: Yes

Emily Puckett
Assistant Professor
Ph.D. 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: Yes

Jaime Sabel
Assistant Professor
Ph.D. 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: Kate Parsley (PhD), Kendra Wright (PhD)

Accepting New Graduate Students: Yes

Lyndsay Saunders 

Molecular Sciences Laboratory Coordinator 

Ph.D. University of Memphis 

Dr. Saunders studies wetland ecology and plant physiology. Her dissertation work assessed physiological and morphological effects of environmentally relevant concentrations of glyphosate on wetland plants in an effort to understand the ecosystem services provided by wetland plants commonly found in agricultural ditches. Dr. Saunders is the laboratory coordinator for Microbiology and Anatomy & Physiology labs, and she instructs Microbiology, Wetland Ecology, and Forest Ecology. 

Alka Sharma


Ph.D. 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.

Postdocs & PhD Research Associates


Research Associate: McKenna Lab

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


NSF Postdoc:

McKenna Lab

Insect Systematics & Evolution; Phylogenomics

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Adelman Lab

Disease Ecology, Ecological Immunology & Physiology, Animal Behavior

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McKenna Lab

Asteraceae Systematics & Evolution; Biogeography, Macroecology, & Environmental Drivers of Plant Diversity & Distributions

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Research Associate:

McKenna Lab

Neotropical Beetle Systematics, Ecology, & Evolution, Evolutionary Genomics


Research Associate:

McKenna Lab

Insect Molecular Phylogenetics & Evolution; Beetle Systematics; Sciaridae (Diptera) Systematics


NSF Postdoc:

McKenna Lab

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



Mandel Lab

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