Former Members


Former Post Doctoral Researchers

Donna W. Vogler

Associate Professor of Biology
SUNY College at Oneonta
116 Science Building 1
108 Ravine Parkway
Oneonta, NY 13820

Tel.: 607-436-3705




Frances Hanzawa

Associate Professor of Biology
Pomona College
R. C. Seaver Biology Building, Room 113
175 W Sixh Street
Claremont, CA 91711

Tel.: 909-621-8601



Katri Kärkkäinen

The Finnish Forest Research Institute
Muhos Research Unit
Kirkkosaarentie 7, FI-91500 Muhos, Finland

Tel.: 358 10 211 3767
Fax: 358 10 211 3701



Xavier Pico

Associate Professor of Research
Estación Biológica de Doñana (CSIC)
Avda. María Luisa s/n - Pabellón del Perú
41013 Sevilla, Spain
Tel.: 34 95 423 2340 / 187
Fax: 34 95 462 1125



Tingshuang Yi

Key Laboratory of Plant Biodiversity and Biogeography
Kunming Institute of Botany
Chinese Academy of Sciences
Kunming, Yunnan 650204
People's Republic of China




Former Graduate Students

Alison Hale

Understanding how biotic and abiotic contexts modify the strength of species interactions is a key goal in ecology. Mutualism effectiveness is particularly sensitive to environmental conditions, and the invasion of non-native species is hypothesized to be one biotic factor that can drive mutualism disruption between native species and their partners. Using an ecophysiological approach, Alison tested this mutualism disruption hypothesis using the allelopathic invasive plant, Alliaria petiolata, and examined its impacts on the interaction between arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi (AMF) and Maianthemum racemosum, a common native herb in North America.

Alison is currently a postdoctoral researcher with Dr. Stephen Tonsor at the University of Pittsburgh.


April Randle

April's work focused on better understanding the factors that lead to the origin of new species. One major factor central to speciation is the evolution of reproductive isolating barriers. For her dissertation, she simultaneously tested two prominent hypotheses related to the evolution of isolating barriers: The Dobzhansky-Muller (D-M) Model of Speciation and the Reinforcement Model. To test the predictions of these models, she used a comprehensive phylogenetic, biogeographic, and experimental approach to examine the strength of pre- and post-zygotic barriers to reproduction among all species in the genus Collinsia. She also examined how phylogenetic relatedness, divergence time, and current ecological interactions impact the fitness of closely related plant species in sympatry.

April is now conducting post-doctoral research with Dr. Pamela Diggle at the University of Colorado, Boulder.




Andrea Quesada-Aguilar

Pollination ecology. Andrea received her master's degree in 2007 and was co-advised by Dr. Tia Lynn Ashman and Dr. Kalisz. Andrea had been traveling the world in her work for the International Union for Conservation of Nature.


Tiffany Knight
Species interactions and population dynamics. Tiffany is currently an Assistant Professor at Washington University in St. Louis where her lab investigates the role of interspecific interactions on the viability of plant populations.



Shannon Bliss
Evolution soil seed banks. Since 2000, Shannon has been a faculty member at Cero Coso Community College in Lake Isabela, CA.


Denise Thiede
Quantitative genetics and evolution of plants. Denise is currently a Vice President of BioDiagnostics, Inc., located in River Falls, WI. Denise manages the ELISA technologies.


Brian Black
Natural selection and adaptation to variable environments. Brian is now an Associate Professor at Bay College in Escanaba, WI.


Dawn Jenkins Klus
Physiological responses of plants to elevated CO2. Dawn is the Dean of Science Education at the Sayre School in Lexington, KY.


Gary Schott
Plant adaptation and hybridization. Gary is a Faculty Instructor at the Harpeth Hall School in Nashville, TN.


Kristen Hanley
Allometric scaling of flower size and mating system evolution.


Peter Smith
Population dynamics of native plants.


Former Undergraduate Researchers


Katie Abele

I am a senior currently working on a BS degree in Ecology and Evolution, a BA degree in French Language and Literature, and a Chemistry minor. I started working in Dr. Kalisz’s lab earlier last year and so far it’s been great! After graduation I plan on taking some time off to volunteer either with the Peace Corps or Teach for America before continuing on with my education in grad school. In my spare time I like to hike, bike, and travel to new places.


Keith Garmire

Keith graduated in 2012 after majoring in Ecology and Evolution. He joined the Kalisz lab in the spring of 2012 and worked on an independent study researching species distribution of Collinsia flowers as a part of his certification in the Geographical Information System (GIS) program. He also worked in the university’s plant growth facilities. After graduation he intends to seek employment in a national or state park to help preserve and understand our nation’s unique ecosystems.



Brian Keil

I am an Ecology and Evolution major with a minor in chemistry. Currently, I am conducting an independent research project in the Kalisz lab in coordination with the National Aviary. The goal of the project is to determine how the Louisiana Waterthrush can act as a bio indicator for stream quality. I enjoy spending time outside and rock climbing whenever I can. After graduation I plan on finding a job for a couple years then going to grad school to further my education.

Katy Stark

Katy graduated in 2012 with a degree in Biological Sciences and a minor in Chemistry. She began working in the Kalisz lab in the fall of 2011. She is interested in conservation biology, and hopes to work in wildlife research upon graduation.



Tyler Stipcak

Tyler graduated in 2012 with a major in Ecology and Evolution and a minor in chemistry. He started working for the Kalisz lab in the summer of 2011, aiding with the Trillium Trail project. He then picked up an independent research project studying the effects of deer herbivory on woody species diversity at Trillium Trail. After graduation he plans on starting a career in the field of wildlife management.


Sarah Betz

Sarah graduated in 2011 with a Biology degree and was specifically interested in ecology and evolution. She worked in the Kalisz lab in the summer of 2010 collecting data on numerous native and invasive species at Trillium Trail Wildlife Reserve and assisting Alison Hale with her research project throughout the academic year. After graduation she plans to teach high school biology and then go to medical school to become a plastic surgeon.

Steven Brown

Steve graduated in 2011 as a Biological Sciences major with a chemistry minor. In the summer of 2010, Steve assisted with the fieldwork at Trillium Trail concerning the effects of deer on native and invasive plant species. Steve will be attending Pharmacy School.




Aaron Cantor

Aaron graduated in 2011 with a dual degree in Microbiology and History & Philosophy of Science, with a certificate in Conceptual Foundations of Medicine. He started in the Kalisz lab during the summer of 2008 with a project that focused on detecting allelochemicals released into the soil by garlic mustard. We may also eventually characterize an endemic garlic mustard pathogen. I was awarded a Rotary Ambassadorial Scholarship for the 2011-2012 academic year in Brisbane, Queensland in Australia. During my time abroad, I plan to work on a research project at the University of Queensland that aims to determine the mechanism of action of an anti-cancer compound isolated from an Australian plant and its efficacy against several human cancer types. Furthermore, I plan to volunteer with a local cancer council in their community skin cancer awareness and patient care programs. I will also visit Australian Rotary clubs and present about myself and the U.S. Lastly, I will teach woodworking for a few weekends and travel around Australia, Tasmania, and New Zealand during breaks. After all of this, I will begin medical school in August 2012. During my free time, I enjoy bicycling, motorcycling, and turning wood.


Cory Kohn

Cory graduated in 2011 with an Ecology & Evolution B.S. and a dual History & Philosophy of Science, and Anthropology B.A. In the Kalisz lab he started by working on a number of projects, most notably April Randle’s Timing of Selfing, Hybrid Breakdown, and Pollen Precedent experiments in 2008. In the following two summers he worked on Kalisz Lab fieldwork in Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore and Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore (focusing on the impact deer herbivory has on a number of understory plant species) and was involved with two study abroad experienes in Africa. During his junior and senior years, he completed a Honors Thesis titled "Incipient Speciation vs. Heterosis in Collinsia heterophylla: An Experimental Test of Genetic Incompatibility across the Transverse Ranges." Cory is currently a dual Ph.D. student in both Zoology and Ecology, Evolutioanry Biology, and Behavior at Michigan State University.

Samantha Maryak

Sam was a biology major who graduated in 2011. She started in the fall of 2009 and mainly concentrated on Trillium Trail data collection as well as other lab research projects. She plans on going to medical school and becoming a pediatrician or a pediatric surgeon, afterwhich she would like to join doctors with out borders specifically concentrating on Bolivia, a place she feel in love with.


Amantha Michalopoulos
Amantha is currently in her senior year as an Ecology and Evolution major. She started working in the Kalisz lab in the spring 2009 semester, helping Alison Hale with her project on determining whether obligately mycorrhizal species have any sanctioning abilities. That summer she helped with field work and worked on her own project which studied the effects of mycorrhizal fungi on the root morphology of facultative and obligately mycorrhizal plant species. After college she plans on eventually enrolling in an ecology doctoral program after a stint as a laboratory assistant at UPMC.


Justin Aaron
Justin graduated in 2010 with a major in Biological Sciences, a certificate in Global Studies, and a minor in Studio Arts. He called the molecular lab his home doing much of his research on determining outcrossing rates using microsatellite markers, but it was the field season at Trillium Trail that kept him coming back for more. He also worked on field research with Andrew and Cory in Michigan in 2009. Upon graduating Justin embarked on a Peace Corps adventure in Honduras.

Andrew Berson
Andrew graduated in 2010 with a Biological Sciences degree and a double minor in Economics and Italian. He started by focusing on a number of projects for April Randle and Dr. Kalisz but his main work focused on field studies involving paried deer exclosures and controls in two National Lakeshores. He worked in INDU and SLBE in 2009 with Justin and Cory and in SLBE in 2010 with Cory. Andrew is currently attending the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine.



Tom Korpar
Also in 2010, Tom graduated with an Ecology & Evolution degree and a double minor in Africana Studies and Religious Studies. He devided his efforts between working in the molecular lab with Chris Heckel in the field at Trillium Trail, quantifying the effect of allelochemicals emitted by garlic mustard on native tree seedling abundance and biomass. After taking a year off, he plans on enrolling in dental school.

Jaci Saunders
Jaci received a dual degree in Biology and Political Sciences in 2008. She then served as a Congressional and National Parks Intern and as a research assistant at the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center in Edgewater, MD. In September, 2009, Jaci moved to Seattle, WA to begin a PhD program in marine biology at the University of Washington.



Aileen Butera
In 2008, Aileen began medical school at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center.






John Ellis
After graduation John biked (pedaled) from Pittsburgh to Colorado with “Stern,” where he worked for an environmental consulting company. He then biked, and hitched occasionally, from California to Peru. After working in construction in Brooklyn, NY for two years, in July 2009, John took a position as a coordinator at Centro Medico Humberto Parra, a medical clinic outside Santa Cruz, Bolivia. He will work there for a year, and then he plans to attend medical school.

Theresa Strazisar
For the past two years, Theresa has worked at the Marine Education center in the Florida Keys and as an intern at Archbold Biological Field Station in Lake Placid, Florida, studying invasive plant population dynamics with Dr. Eric Menges. In the fall of 2009, she began graduate school at Florida Atlantic University. Theresa was awarded an Everglades National Park Fellowship to conduct her thesis work, which will combine GIS with the population biology of a native sea grass.



Ryan Unks
Ryan embarked on an ambitious biking trip pedaling from along the coastline of Mexico after graduating. In August of 2009 he began graduate school at North Carolina State University at Raleigh, NC. He is working on a restoration plan for Lindera melissifolia, a federally engangered SE endemic, as well as a lot of greenhouse and field experiments studying the ecology of Lindera.



Jake Winkler
Jake completed his last year of undergraduate study at the School for Field Studies on the Turks and Caicos Islands, where he received a scholarship to study Marine Resources Management. Jake graduated in April of 2007, and planned to work in field research for a year, before heading to graduate school. As an aquatic intern for the Western Penn Conservancy, Jake was last seen diving for mussels in the Allegheny River.


Erin Becker
Erin completed her PhD in Marine Biology at Penn State University in 2010. Go Erin!







Alyssa Baxter
Alyssa received her bachelor's degree in Biology from St. Vincent college. While at St. Vincent, she completed her senior research on variation of germination and flowering time in Arabidopsis thaliana ecotypes grown in four increasing temperature environments. Alyssa is now a graduate student at Chatham University.


Craig Beight
Craig is attending graduate school at Case Western Reserve University in a program for Medical Education.






Victor Bilan
Victor graduated in the spring of 2008 with degrees in biology and the history and philosophy of science. In the lab, Victor conducted research with Alison Hale on the allelopathic effects of invasive garlic mustard (Alliaria petiolata) on mycorrhizal fungi and their symbiotic relationships with native host plants. Victor plans to attend Medical School in the future.




Mollie Brooks
Mollie is attending graduate school at the University of Florida in Ben Bolker’s lab.


David Chaiffetz
David started medical school in the fall of 2007 at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center.

David's Research in the Kalisz Lab






Lindsay Dierkes
Lindsay is a graduate student at the University of Virginia working with Laura Galloway and is enjoying conducting field research at Mountain Lake Biological Station.




Melissa Faigeless
Melissa is working as an ecological field researcher while applying to Graduate Schools. While in our lab, Melissa conducted independent research on floral longevity and timing of floral development in the Tribe Collinseae. She has also worked at Pymatuning Lab of Ecology studying how herbivores impact plant community structure and studied tropical biology in Costa Rica with the Organization for Tropical Studies.
Melissa's Past Research in the Kalisz Lab


April Hansgate
In 2007, April joined the University of Maryland Program in Sustainable Development and Conservation as a graduate student.

Sarah Hudson
Sarah is working for a law firm in Pittsburgh and is planning to attend law school.

Ja’neisha Hutley
Ja’neisha is pursuing a master’s degree in forensic science at Temple University in Philadelphia.

Lara McCleary
Lara is working on an M.S. in Epidemiology at Pitt’s Graduate School of Public Health, where she’s focusing on environmental epidemiology and Women’s Health. She is also working as a Hazard Communication Specialist.


Dane Munzek
Dane graduated with a B.S. in Chemistry in the fall of 2008. While in the lab, Dane researched the effect of inbreeding depression in Collinsia corymbosa, an endangered flowering plant endemic to the sand dunes of coastal California.



Shane Myers
Shane is currently attending Saba Medical School in the Netherlands-Antilles.


Tom O’Day
Tom spent two years travelling across the country before returning to Pittsburgh. Among other things, he has worked with the Washington Conservation and the Fish and Wildlife Commission in Wyoming.



Sarah Parker
Sarah is an ecologist for the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy on the Pennsylvania Natural Heritage Program. Congrats to Sarah, Michael, and Stella on the birth of their baby boy!

Megan Ponzo
Megan graduated with a degree in Biology with a Chemistry minor. In the lab she worked on the Trillium Trail project and the Collinsia Outcrossing Rates Project. After graduation Megan took a job at Precision Therapeutics Inc. before heading into a Masters program in Environmental Engineering at Pitt starting in the fall of 2011.


Anne Seiler
Anne graduated with a degree in Biology in the spring of 2008. She also spent a summer abroad in Peru, where she perfected her Spanish and developed her love for alpacas. Anne is currently an intern at the Klamath Bird Observatory in Oregon and plans to attend veterinary school.


Joe Stauffer
Joe graduated with a degree in economics here at the University of Pittsburgh. He is interested in Finance and Banking. After graduation he plans to work and pursue an MBA.



Gretchen Sterba
After graduation, Gretchen traveled around the country working for the Washington Conservation Corps and Wyoming Fish and Wildlife Commision, and started Duquesne University's Ecological Managment Graduate Progam in the fall of 2008.




Matt Stern
Matt is the Mid-Atlantic Regional Campus Coordinator for the Chesapeake Climate Action Network (CCAN). CCAN is the only non-profit dedicatedly exclusively to fighting global warming in DC, MD, and VA area. As Campus Coordinator, Matt works within the Energy Action Coalition to help students in DC and Maryland reduce the global warming impact of their campuses through clean energy purchases, energy efficiency and other climate friendly initiatives. Check out his campaign

Anthony St.Leger
Anthony graduated in the spring of 2008 and is attending graduate school in Pitt's Department of Immunology.






Gina Zdanowicz
Gina is working in Pitt’s Department of Pathology in a lab studying the effects of immunosuppressive drugs on solid organ transplant recipients and is working on her MBA at Katz Grad School of Business.