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.
Dr. Katrina Phillips
Katrina is a marine ecologist with particular interest in sea turtle populations and movements. Her fascination with marine life began while exploring saltmarshes in her home state of South Carolina. She completed a PhD at the University of Central Florida where she combined satellite telemetry and genetics to study the early part of the sea turtle life cycle often called the ‘lost years’. Previously, Katrina was a Sea Grant Knauss Fellow and Communications Specialist for NOAA Research and a shipboard scientist with SEA Semester. She holds a M.S. in Marine Affairs and Policy from the University of Miami Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science and a B.S. in Marine Science from the University of South Carolina. Katrina joined the MEC lab as an NSF postdoctoral fellow in early 2023 to investigate sea turtle migratory genomics in the North Atlantic.
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 elasmobranchs 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.
Mikayla’s journey toward researching ecology began in the Pacific Northwest, where she spent several years backpacking through vastly different ecosystems from her home in Cape Cod. After completing her associate degree at Cape Cod Community College, Mikayla joined the MEC Lab as an undergraduate researcher in Fall of 2022. A highly motivated undergraduate researcher, Mikayla previously worked as a research intern with Dr. Carolyn Tepolt at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute. There, Mikayla developed a cutting-edge, low-cost genetic toolkit to analyze population structure and adaptation in the invasive green crab species, Carcinus maenas. Mikayla’s research interests are diverse, ranging from invasive species interactions and parasitism to the complex mechanisms by which animals are shaped by their environments and how they adapt to their ecosystems. When not in the lab, Mikayla can be found exploring the mountains with her cattle dog companion, Remus.
Olivia grew up outside of Boston and has always had a passion for the ocean and marine science. She especially loves learning about sharks and rays as well as marine mammals. She is currently pursuing a B.S. in Biology and an additional major in German & Scandinavian Studies at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. In addition to marine science, Olivia enjoys biochemistry and molecular biology. She loves doing molecular work and has been expanding upon her lab skills by assisting lab member John Swenson, an OEB PhD candidate, by doing DNA extractions of whitespotted eagle rays. Outside of MEC lab, Olivia loves rock climbing, gymnastics, being outside, and trying new things.
Dr. Amy Teffer
Amy Teffer was a post-doctoral Smith Fellow with the MEC Lab. She is currently a postdoctoral researcher with the Northeast Climate Adaptation Science Center at UMass Amherst working on diadromous fish restoration on coastal Tribal lands as well as climate-adapted fish stocking practices. Her research also comprises cumulative stressors, disease ecology, and the conservation and management of wild fishes in aquatic and marine systems.
Dr. Joshua Lonthair
Joshua Lonthair was a post-doctoral fellow with the MEC Lab. He is currently a Lecturer in the Biology Department at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, where he is excited to expand on his passion for Physiology and Undergraduate Education, through the use of innovative pedagogy and mentorship to support URM, First-Generation, and LGBTQ+ students.
Dr. Tanya Lama
Tanya has collaborated with the MEC Lab on several projects. She is presently completing the second year of her National Science Foundation Postdoctoral Research Fellowship in Biology with sponsoring scientists Liliana Dávalos (SUNY Stony Brook), Emma Teeling (University College Dublín) and Elinor Karlsson (Broad). Tanya will continue working on life history trait evolution and aging as an Assistant Professor of Genomics at Smith College (Northampton, MA) in 2023.
Shreya was the original lab technician for the MEC Lab! She is currently a member of the Population Biology Graduate Group at UC Davis.
Vipheaviny was an undergraduate researcher in the MEC Lab. She is working as a research technician at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute!
Jessalyn was an undergraduate researcher in the MEC Lab. She is currently working as a research associate at Fluent Biosciences and will be matriculating to medical school in August 2023!
Lauren was an undergraduate researcher with the MEC Lab, specializing in bioinformatics. She is presently a research associate at Parse Biosciences in Seattle.
Join us! If you are interested in joining our research group, please see the opportunities page.