Current Graduate Students
Dylan DeRouen - M.S. in Biology expected May 2020
Thesis project: Assessing vascular plant species richness and composition across anthropogenic systems and level IV ecoregions in Crittenden and Mississippi Counties of Arkansas
As a SUPERB Scholarship Program Biodiversity Scholar, Dylan is testing whether geomorphological ecoregions or anthropogenic biome designations can better predict observed plant species richness and community composition in the Mississippi Alluvial Plain (i.e., Delta) region of Arkansas. A native of southern Louisiana, Dylan brings a Cajun spice to the lab.
Jennifer N. Reed - M.S. in Biology expected May 2019
Thesis project: Exposing collection bias in plant diversity surveys in eastern Arkansas utilizing Poinsett County species richness
Jennifer graduated with her B.S. in Biology Emphasis in Botany in December 2015, and she jumped right in to her master's degree. Her interests in biodiversity and conservation are being fulfilled through her research in the highly modified landscape of the Mississippi Alluvial Plain and Crowley's Ridge regions in Arkansas.
Ashley Schulz - Ph.D. in Environmental Science expected May 2019
Dissertation project: An assessment of non-native insect species' mechanisms of invasion, impact, management, and policy
Ashley completed her M.S. in Forest Resources from the University of Georgia under the advisement of Dr. Kamal Gandhi. Now she is studying how researchers from the fields of Biological Control and Invasive Species Biology can learn from each other to enhance insights into both fields of study. She is also analyzing existing biological control datasets to better understand invasive species success.
Diana Soteropoulos - Ph.D. in Environmental Science expected May 2021
Dissertation project: Floristics in Arkansas: surveying and quantifying management impact of rare ecosystems, launching floristic quality assessment, and predicting rare plant distribution
As as SUPERB Scholarship Program Biodiversity Scholar, Diana is interested in describing patterns of plant species richness and underlying reasons for community composition in the extremely rare saline barrens of the Mississippi Alluvial Plain in Arkansas. She also serves as the Herbarium Collections Manager at STAR, and she is working statewide to assist all 8 herbaria with specimen imaging and database management.
Current Undergraduate Student
Jennifer Bryant - B.S. Wildlife, Fisheries, and Conservation - Wildlife emphasis expected May 2020
Research project: Bigleaf magnolia west of the Mississippi River: Searching for historical populations and recommendations for conservation
As as SUPERB Scholarship Program Biodiversity Scholar, Jennifer joined the Marsico lab in Fall 2017. She worked in the STAR Herbarium to organize out-of-state specimens into individual species folders.
Previous Graduate Students
Hazel Berríos - M.S. in Biology, May 2019
Thesis project: Species richness patterns and plant size of vascular epiphytes along an elevation gradient in the tropical montane forest of Volcán Maderas, Nicaragua
Hazel is now a Ph.D. student at the University of Alaska-Fairbanks under the advisement of Dr. Steffi Ickert-Bond.
David Burge - M.S. in Environmental Science, August 2014
Thesis title: Relations of water quality, land-use buffers, and diatom communities of connected depressions within the Cache River Watershed, Arkansas, USA
David completed his thesis on a highly collaborative project that has included an Ecotoxicologist, an Environmental Chemist, a USGS Aquatic Biologist, and the diatom folks at the Iowa Lakeside Laboratory. He used GIS tools to investigate water-quality predictors based on land-use buffers and diatom community metrics to relate the impacts of water quality on community structure in a particular habitat of bottomland hardwood swamps in eastern Arkansas. Through his research, David discovered a new diatom species, previously unknown to science, which he described along with collaborator Mark Edlund of the Science Museum of Minnesota. David is now a Ph.D. student at the University of Minnesota.
Anastasia Cooper - M.A. in Biology, May 2014 (completed under the supervision of Dr. Tanja McKay)
Research emphasis: Host plant defense signaling in response to a coevolved herbivore combats introduced herbivore attack
Anastasia produced one lead-author publication and a co-authored publication focused on understanding the invasive insect pest Cactoblastis cactorum in comparison to a similar native stem borer Melitara prodenialis. Together we discovered that host plants defend vigorously against the native herbivore, but lack defense responses against the newly associated species. We also discovered that these defense limitations can be overcome somewhat when defending plants grow in the presence of non-defending hosts. Anastasia is currently pursuing a Ph.D. in Entomology with Dr. Kun Yan Zhu at Kansas State University where she is studying RNAi as a method for controlling pest insects.
Meghan Foard - M.S. in Environmental Science, August 2014
Thesis title: Causes and consequences of Chinese privet (Ligustrum sinense Lour.) invasion in hydrologically-altered forested wetlands
Meghan completed her thesis focused on the role of hydrologic alteration and Chinese privet (Ligustrum sinense) invasion on bottomland hardwood forest tree growth and community composition. She designed and implemented field and greenhouse experiments to investigate mechanisms by which L. sinense became a dominant understory shrub. She has also used observations and dendrochronology as tools to investigate the impacts of channelization and L. sinense invasion. During the pursuit of her master's degree, Meghan was awarded an NSF GK12 fellowship, which gave her the opportunity to work in a rural middle school to help improve science education. She also established the Art in Science Club, linking art and science in outreach for school-age children. Meghan is currently pursuing a Ph.D. at the University of Idaho.
Kari Harris - M.A. in Biology, August 2014
Major Project: Digitizing specimens in a small herbarium: A viable workflow for collections working with limited resources
Minor Project: STAR Herbarium Policy
Kari is an honor's undergraduate of the lab who returned to work on her Master of Arts degree. During her graduate degree, Kari became a national leader in student involvement in preserving and curating natural history collections. She presented at several regional, national, and international meetings and topic-specific workshops. She was a founding member of the Arkansas State University Natural History Collections Curation Club (NHC3) and served one year as the organization's president. She provided guidance to starting similar groups at other campuses. Kari contributes to a natural history collections blog (http://crackingthecollections.wordpress.com/), and she is a founding member and chair of the Emerging Professionals Group (https://www.facebook.com/groups/610972022293694/), a standing committee in the Society for the Preservation of Natural History Collections. For her main project in the lab, Kari imaged and databased all 16,791 accessioned Arkansas flowering plant specimens in the Arkansas State University Herbarium (STAR). Kari is now an instructor in the Department of Biological Sciences at Arkansas State University, and she organizes all of the student clubs based in the College of Sciences and Mathematics.
John Kilmer - M.S. in Biology, August 2016
Thesis title: Characterization of chemical profiles produced by Opuntia humifusa in response to herbivory and exogenous methyl jasmonate in comparison to hairy root cultures
John has interests in the compounds that are produced from defending plants. His work established the baseline for the chemical nature of the observable induced mucilage production from host plants defending against cactus-boring moths. John is now a lecturer of biology and environmental health at Missouri Southern State University in Joplin, Missouri.