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Angelina Dichiera aims to understand the physiological adaptations fish undergo in our ever-changing environment. Fish represent the largest and most diverse vertebrate lineage, comprising almost one-half of all vertebrate species. Her research uses this diversity to explore the evolution and function of respiratory characteristics across a wide range of fish taxa. Furthermore, she is studying how these characteristics may be flexible in response to environmental changes, examining multiple levels of biological organization – from molecular to whole-animal – in fish like the red drum (pictured here).  As a Stengl-Wyer fellow, she will be completing her Ph.D. which is focused on how evolutionary pressures have shaped a diversity of respiratory gas exchange mechanisms, and how plasticity may promote the ability to adapt to natural and anthropogenic environmental changes. Angelina received her B.S. in Coastal Biology from the University of North Florida, where she studied lionfish, before joining Dr. Andrew Esbaugh’s lab at UT’s Marine Science Institute in Port Aransas, TX. 

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CRM web


Colin Morrison’s research takes place at the intersection of community, chemical and evolutionary ecology. His research seeks to answer questions about proximate mechanisms that contribute to the high levels of host plant specialization characterizing most herbivorous insects. Specifically, Colin wants to understand how phytochemistry, natural enemies, and competition work together in predicting which specialist herbivorous insects occupy individual passion vines plants of a given species and how these associations contribute to community structure. His dissertation work focuses on Heliconius caterpillars and passion vine flea beetles across latitudes ranging from Central Texas to Costa Rica. 

Colin is currently a PhD Candidate in Dr. Larry Gilbert’s laboratory in the Department of Integrative Biology. His questions keep him busy with field work and analytical laboratory techniques. As a Stengl-Wyer Fellow, he will continue studying how natural enemies and plant chemistry contribute to structuring parallel insect herbivore communities centered around passion vines. He will also continue to lead an investigation of prickly pear cactus chemical ecology with respect to native and exotic moth interactions.


Nishida web 


Alex Nishida is interested in the specificity between animal hosts and their gut microbiomes.

As a PhD student in the lab of Howard Ochman, Alex’s research focuses on understanding to what extent microbial communities are specialized to hosts by analyzing differences in microbiome composition across a diverse range of host species, both in natural and artificial environments. Her research has shown how captivity homogenizes the microbiome composition of great apes and erodes the presence of host-specific microbial lineages that are present in wild individuals. As a Stengl-Wyer fellow, Alex will investigate genomic variation among bacterial strains that reside in humans and their closest relatives, the great apes. She is particularly interested in whether bacteria strains show convergent changes following host-switching from humans into great apes residing in captivity.

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Julia York studies the evolution of temperature sensation in animals that are adapted to specific thermal environments using phylogenetics, sequencing, and electrophysiology. Research on the molecular basis of temperature sensation has focused on transient receptor potential (TRP) channels, evolutionarily ancient ion channels that contribute to an organism’s perception of the world around them. By investigating how animals adapt their TRP channels to environments as different as the Antarctic Ocean and central Texas, this research aims to elucidate the relationship between thermosensation, physiological limits, and the impacts of climate change and variability. 

Julia is currently a PhD candidate in the Ecology, Evolution, and Behavior program in the Department of Integrative Biology. Previously, she worked on the respiratory adaptations of high altitude waterfowl for her master’s degree from the University of British Columbia. 

Read more about Julia here...