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A number of faculty investigators affiliated with the Biodiversity Center oversee research streams affiliated with the College's award-winning Freshman Research Initiative. Browse some of the research projects that undergraduates in the year-long program are working on with their research educators and faculty leads.


FRI students get to explore unanswered questions relevant to biodiversity. They uncover new knowledge and develop innovative technologies in specialized research streams such as:

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The Biodiversity Discovery research stream led by Dr. Tom Devitt utilizes the natural history collections of the Biodiversity Center and students regularly collect data at two of our field stations, Brackenridge Field Lab and Stengl Lost Pines.  Biodiversity can be quantified in many ways – counting species, populations, individuals and genes are all ways of measuring biodiversity. Species are a fundamental unit in biology and we often work with species in our stream. We identify them, we describe their physical and behavioral characteristics, and we use their DNA to infer relationships between them.

Fish behavior

In the Fish Behavior research stream, undergraduates in the lab of Professor Molly Cummings examine patterns of behavior in fish to determine how species vary in their social interactions and whether relationships exist between how fish learn and behave.


In the Bioprospecting research stream overseen by Professor Christine Hawkes, first- and second-year students work to isolate beneficial compounds in endophytic fungi, which are found in most plant tissue and may lead to critical advances in medicine and agriculture.

Bugs in Bugs

In the Bugs in Bugs research stream, students affiliated with the lab of Professor Nancy Moran study the gut bacteria of pollinators and other insects to better understand the impact of microbial bacteria on the health of crucial species, such as bees.