I am an evolutionary ecologist interested in the mechanisms and consequences of interactions involving plants and other organisms. My research is generally grounded in field-based studies, but I take an integrative approach that includes phytochemical analysis, laboratory bioassays, and a diversity of quantitative methods.
I began as an assistant professor at Virginia Tech in January 2017. Previously I was a postdoctoral researcher with Katja Poveda at Cornell University and a Ph.D. student with Deane Bowers at the University of Colorado.
I am a population and community ecologist broadly interested in understanding the biotic and abiotic factors driving variation in mutualisms and multi-trophic interactions. For my PhD, I studied the effects of climate change and biodiversity loss on mutualisms. My postdoctoral research is focused on the chemical ecology of seed dispersal and fruit defense. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org | Website | Google Scholar
Loren Rivera Vega Post-doctoral Researcher
I am broadly interested in how plants respond to biotic and abiotic stress. I use both molecular and chemical techniques to study these interactions. I have previously studied the interaction between insect saliva and plant defenses, as well as the role of fungal endophytes and plant responses to herbivores and drought. At the Whitehead Lab I will be researching the wonders of the apple microbiome. Contact: email@example.com| Website | Google Scholar
Lauren Maynard Ph.D. Student
I am broadly interested in the intricate puzzle of the natural world. I enjoy untangling the relationships among species and trophic levels. For my master’s research, I am working at La Selva Biological Station in Costa Rica studying the role of secondary metabolites in seed dispersal. My project will focus on a plant genus (Piper) and two groups of animals that consume its fruits: bats and birds. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
Mariana Gelambi Ph.D. Student
I am interested in how ecological interactions – reciprocal and specific – have shaped the evolution of the clades involved. My research has been focused on particular aspects of the ecology and physiology of phyllostomid bats in Venezuela.
For my dissertation, I will explore the effects of secondary compounds contained in fruits with respect to the physiology and behavior of bats, using a well-known model of interactions: Carollia and Piper. I would like to elucidate the fate of these fruit compounds in the bats, and ascertain if these animals can use these toxins for their own benefits. Contact: email@example.com
Melissa Burt Ph.D. Student
I am interested in the effects of anthropogenic global change (e.g. habitat fragmentation, climate change, etc.) on ecological communities and plant-animal interactions. Before starting my PhD, I spent 5 years conducting research on the effects of habitat connectivity on longleaf pine savanna plant and ant communities. My current work investigates seed dispersal by ants in the same system. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org | @MelissaABurt | Google Scholar
Billy and Joey Junior Researchers
We are a big brother & little brother team investigating the generalist foraging strategies of lepidopterans and their effects on weight gain prior to pupation.
Your Name Here?
If you are a motivated undergraduate, prospective graduate student, or post-doc and think you would be a good fit for the lab, please see the lab opportunities section for more details on any current recruiting efforts and tips for prospective students.
Current Undergraduate Researchers
Distinguished Lab Alumni
Tori Meakem M.S. Student 2018-2020
Grace Florjancic Lab Manager 2019-2020
Jerry Schneider Post-doc 2017-19
Gustavo Teixeira Visiting Professor 2018-19
Annie Zell Lab Technician 2017-18
Alex Corrigan Undergrad Researcher 2017-19
Madison Altice JCHS Undergrad Spring 2018
Freddie Xu MAOP Undergrad Summer 2018
Seanne Clemente La Selva REU Summer 2017
Keao Rivera-Long La Selva REU Summer 2017
Amazing Undergraduate Research Assistants (2017-present) Cyrus Crevits (Spring 2020) Traves Welch (Summer 2018-Spring 2020) Jacob Turner (Summer 2019-Spring 2020) Zach Fisher (Summer 2019-Fall 2019) Patrick Shea (Fall 2018-Spring 2019) Sadie Kelly (Spring 2019-Summer 2019) Alyn Wakefield (Summer 2018-Spring 2019) Katherine Berg (Fall 2018-Spring 2019) Natalie Rodeman (Fall 2018-Spring 2019) Matthew Pluschau (Spring 2019) Cole Saborio (Fall 2018) Thomas Lowerre (Fall 2018) Predj Simha (Fall 2018) Tobi Osholaja (Summer 2018) Michael Oduro (Summer 2018) Dylan Rose (Summer 2018) Nicholas Rhinesmith (Summer 2018) Yancey Harrison (Spring 2018) Audrey Boling (Spring 2018)