Dr. Blair Bentley
Blair is an ecophysiologist, geneticist, and marine biologist with a particular interest in sea turtles, fish and sharks. He grew up in Perth, Western Australia where living in close proximity to some of the world’s most pristine ecosystems inspired him to pursue a career studying wildlife. Blair’s research focus revolves around the impact of climate change and species conservation. He completed a Bachelor’s degree with first-class honours at the University of Western Australia (UWA) in 2012, with his honour’s thesis exploring the population genetic connectivity of a reef-associated fish species. Following this, he spent a year in South Africa as a Field Specialist monitoring the populations of many marine species, before returning to Perth to complete a vacation studentship on the molecular response of sea turtle embryos to thermal stress at the CSIRO. Blair completed his PhD in 2018 at UWA supervised by Dr Nicola Mitchell, where he explored the impacts of climate change on sea turtle development, focussing on modelling sex ratio shifts and mortality under rising temperatures as a part of WAMSI Kimberley node projects. He then completed an Endeavour Postdoctoral Research Fellowship with Dr Jeanette Wyneken at Florida Atlantic University (FAU) investigating the survival costs of turtle shell morphological anomalies. Blair commenced his Postdoctoral Fellowship at UMass, Amherst with Dr Lisa Komoroske in mid-2020, working remotely from Perth due to the pandemic. His project will explore relatedness and kinship in a Brazilian green turtle population through whole-genome sequencing, with a focus on understanding resilience to climate change through mating systems. Until he can get to Brazil, he is also working on the conservation genomics of the leatherback sea turtle.
OEB PhD candidate
Jamie is originally from the California Bay Area, and moved to southern California to earn a bachelor’s degree in Biotechnology at Cal Poly Pomona. Prior to graduating, Jamie worked in several molecular and behavioral neuroscience research laboratories. Following graduation, she applied her molecular biology knowledge to her passion – wildlife conservation. Jamie worked as a Research Associate at San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research in the Disease Investigations Laboratory, where she studied disease transmission in desert tortoises, and performed molecular diagnostics for wild and captive animals. Jamie grew up camping and hiking all over California, and continued to backpack throughout the U.S. and southeast Asia after graduating from college. These experiences motivated her to continue working to conserve wildlife and the landscapes she loves, and pursue a master’s degree in conservation.
ECo PhD candidate
Nadia grew up in Indiana and recently completed her M.S. in Conservation Genetics at Purdue University. Her thesis incorporated utilizing genetics/genomics to investigate genomic disparities of golden eagle populations in southern California. She is advised by Drs. Lisa Komoroske and Andy Danylchuck where she will be utilizing genomic techniques to assess the population structure and the health of the golden dorado which resides in South America. She is interested in working with locals to understand the biology of this captivating fish species as she will also seek to ask evolutionary questions to gain a deeper understanding of its capabilities. Overall, she’s interested in the application of genetics to wildlife populations and management but also, asking evolutionary questions to understand how different species may handle various ecological pressures they may face in the future. On her time off, she loves to enjoy live music, binge TV shows, and challenge herself at the gym.
OEB PhD candidate
John is interested in everything. He is especially intrigued by the potential for molecular technology to advance conservation efforts of elasmobranchs (sharks and rays). His Masters research with Dr. Karen Crow at San Francisco State University shed light on the genetic underpinnings of cephalic lobe development in cownose rays using RNA-sequencing and comparative transcriptomics. His current research in the MEC lab endeavors to inform fisheries management of cownose rays using a framework that fuses cutting-edge genomic techniques with population dynamics modeling. Broadly, John aims to demonstrate how combining these approaches can enable and improve management of vulnerable elasmobranch species. Besides his research (which he loves), John enjoys practicing yoga, smiling, and playing in nature.
OEB PhD student
Estefany joined Dr. Lisa Komoroske’s lab in Spring 2021 after receiving her bachelor’s degree in animal ecology from Iowa State University. As an undergraduate, her research focused on nest depth thermal variation experienced by developing embryos in Painted Turtles, Chrysemys picta. Her curiosity for the world led her to explore research and field experiences worldwide, including Alaska, Chile, North Carolina, Oregon, and now Brazil. In the MEC lab, Estefany is interested in local adaptation and plasticity in response to a changing climate, particularly in species that exhibit Temperature-Dependent Sex Determination (TSD). She is now completing her first field season on the island of Fernando de Noronha, Brazil, as a team member of a large collaborative project understanding resilience to climate change through mating systems for a Brazilian green turtle population. Besides being a Ph.D. student, Estefany is an Army Reserve Officer, reader, and looking forward to their next experience or adventure.
ECo Masters student
Liz is originally from western North Carolina. She grew up hiking and camping throughout the Blue Ridge Mountains where she took an early interest in wildlife. She moved to Massachusetts to earn a bachelor’s degree in Biology at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. Before graduating from college Liz was an Americorps volunteer and worked as a field crew member for Texas Conservation Corps. Through these experiences she realized her passion for wildlife and conservation, but she is particularly interested in animal behavior. Liz enjoys anything outdoors, hanging out with her dog Bella, and making pottery.
Lily grew up in New Jersey. She is an undergraduate student at UMass Amherst pursuing a bachelor’s degree in Natural Resources Conservation with a focus in fish ecology and conservation. She is especially interested in population genetics, and is able to learn more about it through work with other lab members, including Nadia Fernandez, an ECo PhD candidate studying the population structure and health of golden dorado. She recently qualified for the CAFE scholarship, and will start work on her project this summer. When she’s not in the lab, Lily loves hiking, making music, and cooking.
Dr. Amy Teffer
Amy is a fisheries biologist, disease ecologist, conservationist, and mom. She grew up in western Mass but has spent time in Chicago, IL and British Columbia. Her research is conservation-driven and generally uses genetic tools to examine disease dynamics in wild fish populations. She received her PhD in Biology from the University of Victoria in BC studying the effects of climate change (warming) and fisheries capture-and-release on Pacific salmon immune responses, physiology, and pathogen dynamics during spawning migration. Her MSc research at UMass, Amherst examined the trophic ecology and eco-toxicology of large pelagic fishes in the Northwest Atlantic Ocean. As a post-doctoral fellow (in collaboration with Dr. Kristi Miller at DFO, Dr. Scott Hinch at UBC, and the Pacific Salmon Foundation), she has investigated how pathogens and oceanographic factors impact sockeye salmon productivity by reducing marine survival-this work integrates molecular tools with modeling approaches to investigate population-level responses over a 10-year period. As part of the 2019 class of David H. Smith Conservation Research Fellows, starting in July 2019 she will be working with Dr. Lisa Komoroske and Dr. Ben Letcher (USGS Conte Anadromous Fish Laboratory) to characterize the disease ecology of improving watershed connectivity. This project will use genetic sequencing and population modeling to identify how improvements to watershed connectivity (e.g., dam removal) impact pathogen transmission and disease processes of wild fish in a warming climate
Dr. Joshua Lonthair
Joshua studies fish physiology, development and biochemical processes. He is a travel enthusiast and has lived all over the world, including Cuba, Japan, Florida, Mississippi, and most recently Texas. His research is rooted in attempting to understand the impacts on marine species that result from global climate change, and the mechanisms that are altered using genetic, biochemical, and whole animal tools. His PhD research at the University of Texas at Austin – Marine Science Institute focused on investigating the acid-base physiology of an estuarine teleost, red drum (Sciaenops ocellatus), with broader interests in understanding how individuals to populations exhibit differences in plasticity and resilience to external changes in environment. Specifically, why do some “win” while others “lose” in response to environmental change. In August 2019, Joshua will start as a postdoctoral research fellow in the lab investigating the impacts of temperature on physiological scaling, in collaboration with Drs. Nicholas Wegner (NOAA SWFSC) and Nann Fangue (UC Davis). He will be using a long-term grow out technique to test a “hot-topic” hypothesis in the field: the gill-oxygen limitation theory (GOLT). His research will integrate morphometrics, whole animal respirometry, gill surface area, and biochemical assays to understand how gill surface area or other mechanisms can limit maximum body size in an economically important fishery species, the Pacific sardine (Sardinops sagax caerulea). This project is supported by California Sea Grant and the Ocean Protection Council.
Dr. Tanya Lama
Tanya is recently completed her PhD in the ECO department and Massachusetts Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit, supervised by Drs. Stephen DeStefano and John Organ, and is now an NSF postdoctoral fellow at Stony Brook University. Her dissertation research involved genomic assessment of wildlife populations, particularly Canada lynx (Lynx canadensis), and the intersection of science and policy with regard to listing and managing species at risk. She enjoys hiking, reading, and making pottery in her free time.
Shreya grew up on the San Francisco Peninsula, where her interest in wildlife and marine biology was sparked at a young age by frequent camping and hiking trips, beach days, and visits to the Monterey Bay Aquarium. Her interest was solidified during her field quarter abroad in Costa Rica and she graduated with a BS in Environmental Systems: Ecology, Behavior, and Evolution from UC San Diego in 2016. She completed a MS in marine biology at Scripps Institution of Oceanography where she collaborated with the Marine Turtle Genetics Program at NOAA Southwest Fisheries to study the implications of multiple paternity on morphological variation in leatherback sea turtle hatchlings at Sandy Point National Wildlife Refuge in St. Croix, USVI. Shreya was the lead MEC lab research technician and lab manager 2017-2019, and will soon begin an exciting new position at Stanford University with Dr. Molly Schumer!
Vipheaviny grew up in Nashua, New Hampshire, where she spent her time either in the swimming pool or at school, diving head first into the sciences. She continues to explore the massive field of biology as an undergraduate student and is in pursuit of a minor in biochemistry and molecular biology. She is also in the Commonwealth Honors College and is currently on the path towards medical school. In addition, Vipheaviny looks forward to learning and utilizing the molecular laboratory techniques that have the capacity to connect so many scientific worlds. She has been instrumental in advancing the cownose ray population connectivity project through her expert DNA extractions, and her senior Honors project is focused on quantifying diversity in the major histocompatibility complex (MHC) genes in Kemp’s and loggerhead sea turtles. When she isn’t engrossed in her studies, she fulfills her love for swimming at the beach and enjoys spending time with her friends and family.
Jessalyn grew up in California, Tokyo, and Massachusetts where she was able to travel to multiple countries around the world sparking her passion in different cultures and the environment. She is currently pursuing a dual degree in biology and public health while also on the pre-med track. She is also in the Commonwealth Honors College and an EMT on campus. Jessalyn is looking forward to learning a variety of molecular laboratory techniques that will help further her knowledge in the field of biology and hopefully making contributions of her own to the field. She has worked on a number of DNA extractions and is currently building new skills that will be applied to her senior honors project which will be developed throughout her time in the lab.
Lauren grew up in Massachusetts and started her undergraduate studies in computer science but found its application in biology more fascinating. She is an adventure enthusiast and enjoys whitewater kayaking, scuba diving, and caving (the photo shows her first time being stuck in a cave). She is also in the Commonwealth Honors College and is currently on the path towards graduate school. Overall, she’s interested in the application of genetics to wildlife populations and the impact of the microbiome in health and disease. Her senior Honors project is computationally based and focuses on the immunome of marine turtles and quantifying microbial contamination. When she isn’t focused on school, Lauren is either watching ‘What Would You Do’ clips from Youtube, photographing nature and wildlife, or practicing kayak rolls.
Join us! If you are interested in joining our research group, please see the opportunities page.