Welcome to the Lucky Lab! Here’s a brief tour of who we are. If you are interested in joining us, send me an email (firstname.lastname@example.org) describing your academic interests and career goals.
Jason Williams (PhD)
I am tangling with the taxonomy and systematics of the Prenolepis genus group: a speciose clade (>250 spp.) of formicine ants composed of seven genera with prominent members found in most of the world’s ant communities. Two of the genera-Nylanderia and Paratrechina-contain a few very widespread invasive species that have recently risen to infamy at the forefront of invasion biology research. While in the Lucky Lab I am performing revisionary work on the Nylanderia of Meso- and South America (approx. 60-70 spp.). This revision will facilitate future work in studying invasive species, especially the tawny crazy ant (Nylanderia fulva). The tawny crazy ant is native to South America and has recently invaded the United States through Texas and around the Gulf Coast. I also plan to address the phylogeography and population genetics of N. fulva in its invaded range in order to better understand its invasion. My goals are to track gene flow patterns, map out the path of invasion, establish when, where, and how many times introductions may have taken place, and determine possible factors facilitating its spread.
Rachel Atchison (MS).
My research interests are two-fold:
1) How disturbance shapes plant-insect interactions. I am interested in how disturbances such as prescribed fire, invasion by exotic species, subsequent management of invasive species, and urbanization influence community composition and the interactions within communities. Currently, I am investigating how frequency of prescribed fire influences the dynamics of ant-mediated seed dispersal in longleaf pine forests.
2) Increasing scientific literacy through involvement in citizen science. I would like to provide more non-scientists with opportunities to engage in the scientific process. Part of my graduate research will be evaluating the impacts of participation in science, either through citizen science or other creative venues, on science perception and literacy.
Michelle, Josh, Andrew and Gabe find an amphisbaenid, the Florida Worm Lizard (Rhineura floridana), while digging up a colony of Odontomachus brunneus trapjaw ants.
Gabe Somarriba, Entomology Major
I have a broad interest in natural history and in the Lucky Lab I work on several projects, including identifying insects to assess the impact of an invasive weed on arthropod communities. I also am interested in Septobasifdium, a genus of little-studied fungi that engage in an obligate symbiosis with scale insects. I am creating a revised key to the Septobasidium species of the Southeast USA.
Andrew Nisip, Entomology Major
My interests focus on both research and the husbandry of insects. I been raising/rearing insects for about 10 years and it started out as a way for me to better observe and learn their unique habits that I wouldn’t typically get to see in nature. One of my current research topics focuses on the differences in functional morphology of tarsal structures between arboreal and non-arboreal ants. With my experience, I am currently in charge of instructing others how to rear live ant colonies while also contributing to the research of ant-snail interactions between an exotic snail, and the native ant Odontomachus brunneus.
Michelle Dunbar, Finance Major & Entomology Minor
My project assesses the impact of an invasive weed on arthropod communities. In addition to identifying insects and analyzing data, I also help maintain the live ant colonies in the lab.
Nathan Duerr, Zoology Major
I am working on a project to help determine the effects of an invasive weed on arthropod communities. I help sort samples from the field experiment and analyze the data to understand how the arthropods are impacted.
Joshua Hildebrandt, Anthropology Major & Entomology Minor
We lost Josh in September, 2016. He was a friend, a mentor and a bright light to all of us. He is missed and remembered.
I am interested in the relationships and impacts insects have to humans. My primary goals while at the University of Florida are to better understand how insects affect human health and resources, and to use insects as a model to gain insight on social behaviors as whole. While in the Lucky Lab I have been a part of several projects where these disciplines meet including assessing the impacts of an invasive weed on arthropods, processing ants for the School of Ants Citizen Science project, participating in community outreach. My thesis examines the interactions between a non-native snail and a native ant, Odontomachus brunneus.