Team Science

Executive Committee

Cori Richards-Zawacki is an amphibian biologist, professor, and the director of the Pymatuning Laboratory of Ecology (the University of Pittsburgh’s biological field station). Research in her lab is focused on (1) how climate change and disease interact to affect amphibian biodiversity, (2) how amphibian populations and communities can recover after epizootics of chytridiomycosis, and (3) developing tools to facilitate discovery and quantification of rare and recovering species and their pathogens. Another focus of the lab has been on developing authentic research experiences in biology for use in middle school, high school and undergraduate classrooms.
Links: RZ Lab WebsitePymatuning Lab WebsitePublications

Jamie Voyles is an Associate Professor and Disease Ecologist at the University of Nevada, Reno. Her lab’s research focuses on how interactions among hosts, pathogens, and their shared environments can shift disease dynamics. Her research bridges many different scientific fields, ranging from microbial biology and organismal physiology to evolutionary biology and ecology. She uses a very wide variety of techniques (both in the laboratory and in the field) to work across multiple levels of biological organization and investigate how  disease is shaping our natural world. Links: WebsitePublications

Cherie Briggs combines modeling and experiments to understand the factors affecting the dynamics of animal populations. Links: WebsitePublications




External Advisory Board

Dr. Craig Allen, University of Nebraska – Dr. Allen is the director of a resilience center at University of Nebraska and on the Board of Directors of the Resilience Alliance. He has expertise in resilience theory and its application to real living systems. Links: Website

Dr. Jim Collins, Arizona State University – Dr. Collins is a former Assistant Director for Biological Sciences at NSF and former chair of the Biology Department at Arizona State University. He has decades of research experience relevant to the institute’s focus on amphibian disease and resilience. Links: Website

Ms. Priya Nanjappa – Ms. Nanjappa has 20 years of experience in applied conservation and policy relevant to the institute’s focus on amphibian declines and resilience. She is a former Director of Operations for a conservation non-profit and former National Coordinator for Partners in Amphibian and Reptile Conservation (PARC). She is also active in the areas of inclusivity, equity, diversity and environmental justice. Links: Website

Dr. Marvalee Wake, UC Berkeley – Dr. Wake is the founding chair of the Department of Integrative Biology at UC Berkeley, former president of the Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology, the American Society of Ichthyologists and Herpetologists, and theInternational Union of Biological Scientists. She has authored numerous papers on the topic of integrative biology research and education. Links: Website




Collaborative Team

Shane Robertson graduated from the University of Pittsburgh with a focus on biological sciences and chemistry.  He is a nature lover with a passion for reptiles, amphibians, and environmental conservation.  With years of management experience, Shane is the RIBBiTR project manager.

Doug Woodhams is a disease ecologist working to understand the microbial contribution to immunity and the applications of altering microbiota for conservation and human health. Recent studies apply disease mitigation strategies and a culture collection of several thousand host-associated and anti-fungal bacterial and fungal isolates. Current methodology includes immunological chemistry, low-oxygen microbial culture, and next-generation sequencing and bioinformatics analysis of microbial diversity and community function. Links: WebsitePublications

Louise Rollins-Smith is an immunologist studying the immune defenses of amphibians against skin pathogens, especially the chytrid fungi linked to global amphibian declines. Her lab group uses a variety of methods to investigate the nature and activity of host-derived factors including antimicrobial peptides, mucosal antibodies, and other factors found in the skin secretions. Chytridiomycosis results when the immune defenses of the amphibians are unable to control pathogen growth, and continuing research in her laboratory investigates the mechanisms by which the chytrid pathogens evade immune defenses. Links: WebsitePublications

Mark Wilber is a quantitative disease ecologist that combines novel statistical and mathematical modeling approaches with laboratory experiments and field data to understand how host, species, and landscape heterogeneity contribute to disease dynamics.  The lab is currently developing quantitative approaches to mechanistically identify maintenance species in multi-species host communities and link empirical host movements to disease dynamics on the landscape. By unraveling the contributions of heterogeneity across biological scales, research in his lab seeks to obtain actionable predictions through a mechanistic understanding of host-parasite interactions.
Links: WebsitePublications 

Bree Rosenblum is a Professor of Global Change Biology at UC Berkeley. Her research focuses on understanding the biological diversity of our planet. How are new species formed and why are species being lost at such an alarming rate? Her research integrates genomics and ecological approaches with study systems around the world. Her lab will lead the genetics components of the Institute by integrating studies of host and pathogen genomics to better understand the history of disease-induced amphibian declines and more fully assess mechanisms contributing to host resilience across study systems. Bree also loves working at the intersection of science, art, philosophy, and personal growth and will be contributing to training and outreach for the Institute. Links: WebsitePublications

Gui Becker is an assistant professor of disease ecology at The University of Alabama. His research can be divided into three broad areas of investigation: (i) host-microbe interactions, (ii) landscape genetics, and (iii) tropical ecology & conservation. The conceptual thread tying these areas together is the understanding that ecological threats to wildlife have important implications for evolutionary processes and conservation, and thus, are instrumental to understanding general patterns of biodiversity persistence. He is actively engaged in applying his disease ecology research to the management of endangered and threatened species while attempting to make applied conservation biology available to the decisionmakers that implement biodiversity conservation plans. Gui is also a musical artist writing about the intertwining links between global change stressors, emerging diseases and biodiversity conservation. He has recently introduced original musical composition as a nontraditional but high-engagement outreach tool to disseminate his work. Links: WebsitePublications

Roland Knapp is an aquatic ecologist in the Mountain Lakes Research Group at the University of California Sierra Nevada Aquatic Research Laboratory. His research focuses on (1) the recovery of amphibians in the California’s Sierra Nevada from the impacts of introduced disease and fish, and (2) the resilience of alpine lake ecosystems to human disturbance. Links: WebsitePublications 

Emily Le Sage is an integrative biologist, researching how global change interacts with emerging infectious diseases to cause population declines in wildlife. She integrates concepts and tools from physiology and immunology with population demography and disease ecology to understand variation in the severity of and recovery from disease impacts in several host-pathogen systems. Links: WebsitePublications

Michel Ohmer is an amphibian disease ecologist and global change ecophysiologist. She is starting as an Assistant Professor at the University of Mississippi in Fall 2021. Her research examines how global change shifts host-pathogen dynamics, and employs physiological, immunological, and mechanistic modeling tools to predict the impact of future climate scenarios on amphibian populations. Links: Publications

Justin Kitzes is an Assistant Professor of Biological Sciences at the University of Pittsburgh. His research broadly examines how human alternation of natural habitat impacts species abundance and diversity at large spatial scales. His specific research interests include (a) bioacoustics, including developing and deploying acoustic recording hardware and machine learning classification models, (b) conservation, including conducting acoustic field surveys of populations at risk, and (c) spatial ecology, including developing theory and models to explain general biodiversity patterns. Links: Website

Thomas Smith is an ecologist who studies freshwater communities in the Sierra Nevada ecosystem. Generally, he works to understand how species declines and extinctions affect communities, and how communities can influence species recovery. As co-lead of the Mountain Lakes Research Group based at the Sierra Nevada Aquatic Research Laboratory, much of Tom’s current work focuses on disease-driven declines and recovery of the endangered mountain yellow-legged frogs. This work meshes research with management and species recovery, and relies on close cooperation with state and federal agencies.
Links: WebsitePublications

Miranda Chen Musgrove is an ecologist , evaluator, and science education researcher.  As a postdoctoral research associate with Dr. Lisa Corwin at the University of Colorado,  Miranda is currently examining how the formation of biology interests and critical experiences impact the persistence of biology undergraduate students in STEM careers.  As an extension from her dissertation work, Miranda is also investigating the state of mental health in academia, particularly the experiences of teaching/research anxieties and coping in Biology Graduate Teaching Assistants (GTAs).  Miranda will be working with the RIBBiTR team to help evaluate the Institute’s educational programs. Links: Publications

Nancy Kaufmann, University of Pittsburgh. Dr. Kaufmann will assist in development of course-based undergraduate research projects to involve large numbers of students in the study of resilience mechanisms in amphibians. Links: Website

Becky Gonda, PhD., Director of Outreach, University of Pittsburgh Department of Biological Sciences. Dr. Gonda will assist in expanding the Outreach components of the project. She co-designed K-12 curriculum, Ectotherm ER, with the Richards-Zawacki lab and will work with the institute to broaden its use. Additionally, as part of an NSF INCLUDES Alliance, The STEM PUSH Network (Alliance #1930990), she will implement learnings from the network of precollege programming to broaden participation in STEM to authentic research experiences for high school students at institutions associated with the institute. Links: Website