Our Team

Elise Zipkin

Associate Professor

Department of Integrative Biology

Program Director

Ecology, Evolution, and Behavior (EEB)

Michigan State University

Current Lab Members

Acacia Ackles

Acacia Ackles

PhD Candidate (co-advised by Emily Dolson)


Acacia’s research interests are at the intersection of computer science, evolutionary biology, and applied mathematics. Acacia is working on developing mathematical models of epistatic interactions in genomes that can be broadly applied across genetic structures. They received an NSF Graduate Research Fellowship and are co-advised by Dr. Emily Dolson in Computer Science and Engineering. Acacia is also passionate about interdisciplinary pedagogy and active learning approaches to undergraduate education. They completed a BS in mathematics and biology at George Washington University prior to coming to MSU.

Samuel Ayebare

Samuel Ayebare

PhD Student


Sam’s research focuses on understanding the factors that influence species abundance, distributions, and persistence. Sam is developing statistical models to estimate species abundance patterns relative to climate and industrial activities while accounting for interacting dynamics of co-occurring species. Prior to MSU, Sam worked for the Wildlife Conservation Society’s (WCS) Uganda program for nearly a decade, estimating baseline levels of biodiversity including the impacts of anthropogenic factors on wildlife. Sam received his MS from the University of Rhode Island. He is a recipient of the WCS Beinecke African Scholarship and the WWF Train Fellowship for Aspiring Faculty.

Courtney Davis

Courtney Davis

Postdoctoral Researcher


Courtney is a quantitative ecologist whose research focuses on the use of large datasets to study population- and community-level processes. At MSU, Courtney is developing methods to integrate museum records with contemporary data sources to estimate long-term butterfly population trends. Courtney completed her MS and PhD at Pennsylvania State University, where she studied the community dynamics of amphibians and mammalian carnivores in the context of environmental change. Courtney was awarded a NSF Postdoctoral Research Fellowship in Biology.

Kayla Davis

Kayla Davis

PhD Candidate


Kayla’s research focuses on understanding the demographic and environmental factors that shape avian populations and communities. While at MSU, Kayla is collaborating with partners at USFWS and USGS to assess seabird distributions as part of the Gulf of Mexico Marine Assessment Program for Protected Species (GoMMAPPS). She is developing study design approaches for at-sea aerial surveys and models to estimate the factors influencing seabird spatial patterns. Kayla received her MS in Fish and Wildlife Conservation from Virginia Tech where she studied seabird behavior and demography.

Jeff Doser

Jeff Doser

Postdoctoral Researcher


Jeff is interested in the development and application of hierarchical models for ecological monitoring and decision making. He is developing statistical approaches to leverage a variety of data types for management and conservation of bird communities, including acoustic data, count data, and detection-nondetection data. Jeff is currently working on the development of integrated community models to evaluate the large-scale drivers of bird species-specific and community level dynamics. He completed his PhD in Forestry and an MS in Applied Statistics at MSU and a BS in mathematics and biology at SUNY Geneseo.

Wendy Leuenberger

Wendy Leuenberger

PhD Student


Wendy is broadly interested in using quantitative methods to understand and predict species dynamics and determine appropriate conservation actions. Wendy is developing data integration methods to evaluate the causes and consequence of environmental change on wildlife populations and communities. Wendy received her MS from SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry, where she studied avian responses to experimental ice storms and developed a lesson plan for high school students. She then worked as a biometrician at the University of Kentucky for three years. Wendy is an NRT-IMPACTS Fellow (NSF Research Traineeship – Integrated training Model in Plant And Compu-Tational Sciences).

Sarah Saunders

Sarah Saunders

Adjunct Scholar


Sarah’s research focuses on declining and threatened wildlife populations to improve recovery efforts. Sarah is a Quantitative Ecologist in the Science Division at the National Audubon Society and a former postdoc in the lab. She continues to collaborate with the lab on a number of projects, including the development of models to tease apart the factors causing the decline of the eastern North American monarch population. Sarah completed her PhD at the University of Minnesota where she studied the endangered Great Lakes piping plover population. Sarah enjoys working with long-term data sets and advanced statistical models to tackle conservation problems.

Former Lab Members

Postdoctoral Researchers

Christie Bahlai, 2016-2017
​Current Position: Assistant Professor, Kent State University

Graziella DiRenzo, 2016-2019
Current Position: Assistant Unit Leader, USGS Co-op at University of Massachusetts, Amherst

Sam Rossman, 2014-2018
Current Position: Research Scientist, Hubbs-SeaWorld Research Institute

Sarah Saunders, 2016-2019
Current Position: Quantitative Ecologist, National Audubon Society

Erin Zylstra, 2019-2021
Current Position: Quantitative Ecologist, Tuscon Audubon Society

 

Graduate Students​

Jeffrey Doser, co-advised with Andy Finley, PhD (2022)
Current Position: Postdoctoral Researcher, Michigan State University

Matthew Farr, PhD (2021)
Current Position: Postdoctoral Researcher, University of Washington

Allison Sussman, MS (2017)
Current Position: Database and GIS Specialist, USGS Patuxent Wildlife Research Center

Alexander Wright, PhD (2021)
Current Position: Conservation Biologist, US Fish and Wildlife Service

 

Visiting Students​

Caroline Blommel, Postbac Researcher (2020-2021)
Current Position: MS student, Colorado State University

​Xabier Cabodevilla, Visiting PhD student from Spain (2019)
Current Position: PhD candidate, Universidad del País Vasco

Saba Manzoor, Visiting PhD student from Pakistan (2018-2019)
Current Position: PhD candidate, University of Faisalabad

Shahla Nargis, Visiting PhD student from Pakistan (2018-2019)
Current Position: PhD candidate, University of Faisalabad

​Valentina Oberosler, Visiting PhD student from Italy (2018)
Current Position: Postdoctoral Researcher, The Science Museum at Trento (MUSE)

​José Ribeiro, Visiting PhD student from Brazil (2016-2017)
Current Position: Quantitative Ecologist, Rainforest Connection

 

Undergraduates

Weston Barton (REU Student, 2018)
Daniel Greeson (Professorial Assistant, 2016-2018)
Vince Nguyen (Professorial Assistant, 2017-2019)

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