Principle Investigator

James D. Austin – Associate Professor

Jim_gatornestMy research interests are varied, but the majority of the projects my lab is currently involved with are either phylogeographic in nature (understanding the biogeographic and environmental forces shaping diversity within species), or focused on endangered species (or often both). For example, we are mid-way through a study on the Florida mouse, aimed at characterizing and understanding processes behind the patterns of range-wide genetic diversity, and will use this information to make science-based recommendations on the current status, and trajectory of this species. In general, my interests span the fields of molecular ecology, early patterns of speciation, and conservation genetics.



Current lab members and associates

Anmari Alverez Aleman – PhD student (co-advised with T. Frazer)anmari_manatee

Anmari hales from Cuba and is conducting her PhD research on manatee ecology and conservation genetics. Her work focuses on Cuban populations and will add an important missing component to the Caribbean manatee phylogeographic picture.




Wes Boone – PhD student (co-advised with Bob McCleery)91628783287237

Wes’ research is focused on investigating the influence of land use changes and habitat loss on two insular rodent populations. Specifically, Wes will investigate the genetic structuring of Sanibel Island rice rats (Oryzomys palustris) compared with mainland populations, and the genetic changes experienced by island rice rats resulting from human-induced population fluctuations. Additionally, Wes is involved with an investigation of the phylogenetic structuring of cotton rats throughout the state of Florida, with particular emphasis on insular populations.


thumb_g0122713_1024Celine Carneiro – Biological Scientist

Celine has been a long-time undergraduate associate of the lab and participant in the first IRES cohort in Swaziland in 2016. She is currently working on a number of projects in the lab as a recent UF/WEC graduate (Dec. 2016).



Sarah Duncan – Postdoctoral Researcher (with Bob McCleery)

Sarah DuncanSarah’s PhD focused on the roles of ecology, geography, history, genetics, life history and behavior in the shaping the range of the wood frog. In 2016, she joined the Department and is coordinating a multi-state (FL, GA, AL) effort to examines the ecology, distribution, and population genomics of the southeastern pocket gopher (Geomys pinetis). The southeastern pocket gopher is restricted to the coastal plains of GA, AL, and FL and appears to be declining across its range. It has been listed as a Species of Greatest Conservation Need (SGCN) in all three states and is threatened in GA. Our project aims to address data gaps in the knowledge of southeastern pocket gophers with the ultimate goal of providing specific management recommendations for restoring and maintaining highly functional habitat conditions, maintaining connectivity among populations, and reintroducing southeastern pocket gopher into appropriate habitat.


Nate Johnson – PhD Candidate

Nate’s dissertation research has focused on disentangling the myriad of taxonomic issues surrounding unionids (freshwater mussels) throughout the SE US. He is currently working for the USGS as he completes his dissertation.

Andrew Marx – MS student

MarxAndrew’s MS research is focused on the phylogeography of the Florida mouse (Podomys floridanus). He is developing genome-scale markers that will provide substantially increased resolution to test hypotheses regarding the history of Florida mouse populations. He is also our resident SQL guru! Before joining our lab, Andrew has spent many a day catching pythons, cotton rats, and beach mice (to name a few species).



Cortney Pylant – MS, Biological Scientist

Cortney is our lab manager and general get-stuff-done professional. She joined the lab in 2014 after completing her MS on bats and the impact wind energy generation. 


Benjamin  VanDine – MS student

Ben is a student in the Masters in Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences Program. He is also a NOAA Corps officer, and works as a small boat captain and research assistant in the Atlantic Oceanographic and Meteorological Laboratory in Miami, FL. He is interested in studying the basis of micro-evolution as a result of environmental change in fish populations. For his project he is studying the genomic stock structure of spotted seatrout in north Florida Bay to understand how estuarine species adapt to hypersaline events.





Lab Alumni (gone, but not forgotten)

Valentina Alverez – BS Honors (2017). Valentina did here project on the mating system of Florida bonneted bats.  She is currently working an internship in

Vivi Rojas Bonzi – M.S. Student (Fulbright Scholar, Paraguay). Vivi studied comparative rodent dispersal patterns in the lowveld savanna in Swaziland.

Jason Butler – M.S. (2009). Aquatic Biologist, Aquatic Resources Management, Lexington, Kentucky. Jason studied phylogeography of box turtles for his MS.

Mary Catherine Brown – Undergraduate Honors Researcher (Florida) – Currently a Med student here at UF. She worked on the genetics of a conservation breeding population of the Perdido Key beach mouse.

Jaclyn Colton – B.S. (2014). Jaclyn worked on Swaziland giraffe population genetics and was a field assistant with our beach mouse CMR work.

Victoria Delaporte – B.S. (2014). Currently a veterinary student at UF. She was a bass genetics researcher and general undergrad star!

Brit Garner – B.S. (2009). Currently a Ph.D. student at the University of Montana. Crazy Brit, as she is affectionately know in these parts, worked on the phylogeography of brown darters.

Cecile Gotteland – Postdoctoral Researcher (2014-16).

John Hargrove – M.S. (2011), PhD (2017) John is now a Postdoctoral researcher with the Tennessee Cooperators Unit at Tennessee Tech.

Ben Hirsch – Postdoctoral Researcher (2014-15). Ben is a behavioral ecologist and Lecturer at James Cook University in Australia.

Jaclyn Irwin – B.S. (2012). Loggerhead Marinelife Center. Jaclyn worked on Perdido Key beach mouse genetics.

Ileana Luque-Montes – M.S. Student (2015). Ileana worked on nuclear Central America ranid biogeography.

Shannon Moore – BS student (2015). Shannon worked on Swaziland giraffe population genetics during her undergrad. Currently an MS student at UF/WEC.

Ellen Robertson (PhD 2017). Ellen is now a Postdoctoral Researcher at UF where she is continuing here work on snail kites.

Emily Saarinen – Postdoctoral Researcher (2010-11). Currently an assistant professor, New College, Sarasota, FL

Matthew Shirley – Ph.D. (2013). Currently Manager of Safari Development, SFM Safari, Gabon. Matt continues to conduct research on African crocodiles…

Josiah Townsend – Ph.D. (2012). Currently an assistant professor, Indiana University of Pennsylvania. Herpetologist extraordinaire.

Vicki Villinova – B.S. (2012). Completed her M.S. at the University of Central Florida, and is now employed by the Harris Co. Institute of Forensic Sciences in Texas. She did her undergraduate research on barcoding zoo crocodiles.

Visiting researchers and scholars

Maria Aldea Guevara – (2011) Visiting Fulbright Scholar (Peru)

Oluwakayode Coker – (2014-15) Visiting Fulbright Scholar (Nigeria)

Tadao Kitagawa – Visiting Professor (2013-14). associate professor, Kinki University, Japan

Ilaria Melcore – Visiting Scholar (2015). Roma fellowship, Italy.