Dr. David W. Weisrock

(dweis2 “at” uky.edu)


Researchgate, GoogleScholar

I’m a lucky guy. I’ve been able to convince some great people to come work in the lab. The people listed on this page are the real drivers of the research in our lab. I just do my best to stir up some money, provide mentorship when needed, and stay out of the way. It’s probably a bit more detailed than that, but it’s how I think about it. If you’re interested in learning more about the lab, send me an email, or email one of the folks below. If you want to know a little bit more about me, here’s my CV.


Justin Kratovil, PhD (2017)

UK: Fall 2010 - Spring 2017

Before UK: Hartwick College (B.S.), Smith College (M.S.)

After UK: Postdoc with Jennifer White in Entomology at UK, Current postdoc with Elizabeth Jockusch at UConn.

Justin’s research focused on the genetics and behavior of speciating lineages and the evolution of reproductive compatibility. Using a combination of amplicon and ddRAD sequencing, and experimental mating trials, Justin tested hypotheses of species boundaries and gene flow among Desmognathus salamander populations in the Appalachians and isolated mountains in the Piedmont of North Carolina. Justin was awarded an NSF DDIG grant in 2014 to study the nuclear correlates of biased mitochondrial DNA introgression

Josh Williams, M.S. (2012)

UK: Fall 2009 - Spring 2012

Before UK: Eastern Kentucky University (B.S.)

After UK: Genomics Core Facility at the New York State Department of Health

Josh’s Master’s research focused on the use of multi-locus phylogenetic tools to reconstruct relationships among ambystomatid salamander species. Using nuclear sequence markers Josh developed the most robust phylogeny to date for this group.

Ben Tuttle

Undergraduate researcher

(Summer 2009)

Been earned his B.S. in Biology at Centre College in 2010, but spent a summer with us doing lots of PCR for tiger salamander research. He attended law school after graduating.

Pete Wallenhorst

Undergraduate researcher

(Fall 2009 - Spring 2011)

Pete worked on a microsatellite study of Indri lemurs (Published!) while in the lab. He attended medical school here at UK.

Alex Noble

Undergraduate researcher

(Fall 2008 - Spring 2010)

Alex is the other “first” member of the Weisrock Lab and attended dental school here at the University of Kentucky.

Stephanie Mitchell

Undergraduate researcher

(Fall 2008 - Spring 2010)

Stephanie was one of the first members of the lab and attended dental school at the University of Louisville.

Sarah Seger

Undergraduate researcher

(Fall 2010)

Sarah worked with the lab during the Fall semester of 2010. She is subsequently pursued a graduate degree in Pharmacy here at UK.

Ana Mendia

Undergraduate researcher

(Fall 2010)

Ana was a member of the lab during Fall 2010 and assisted in a number of projects, including a multi-locus phylogenetic study of the Ambystomatidae.

Scott Hotaling, PhD (2017)

UK: Fall 2011 - Spring 2017

Before UK: North Carolina State University (B.S.)

After UK: Postdoc with Joanna Kelley at Washington State University

Researchgate, GoogleScholar

Scott is interested in the evolutionary and ecological processes operating in alpine environments. Using invertebrate study systems (stoneflies and caddisflies) and RAD sequencing he is investigating the interplay between isolation and gene flow in the formation of population structure. This work has a particular focus on how populations maintain or lose connectivity in response to changes in glacial mass. More recently, Scott’s work has extended to similar questions in alpine microbial diversity.

Dr. Mehmet Zülfü Yildiz

  1. -Visiting Research Scientist

Assistant Professor, Department of Biology, Harran University — Sanliurfa, Turkey

yildizzulfu “at” yahoo.com

Mehmet was a visitor in the lab from January to September 2012. He’s an ace herpetologist in Turkey and honed his molecular skills here at UK by applying them to the study of molecular phylogenetics and phylogeography of Turkish amphibians and reptiles.

Schyler Nunziata, PhD (2017)

UK: Fall 2012 - Spring 2017

Before UK: Towson State University (B.S.), Eastern Kentucky University (M.S.), Savannah River Ecology Laboratory

After UK: Postdoc with Megan Fritz at the University of Maryland

Current job: Bioinformaticist with the USDA

Researchgate, GoogleScholar

Schyler’s interests are in changing population demographics over very recent time scales, and how these changes can be detected using genome-scale data sets. Schyler is using salamander species and multi-year genetic sampling to test for these shifts in a coalescent framework. In addition to this empirical work, she is building new models to account for the greater complexity that exists in the demographics of amphibian species. Schyler was awarded an NSF DDIG in 2016 to extend her work to a metapopulation level.

Website: https://sites.google.com/site/schylernunziata/

Rachel Cannon

Undergraduate researcher

(Fall 2011 - Spring 2012)

Ricky Grewelle

Undergraduate researcher

(Spring 2013 - Summer 2016)

Ricky was a major contributor to our tiger salamander research and is now in a PhD program at Stanford.

Tolu Odukoya

(Spring 2013 - Spring 2014)

Tolu worked on a number of projects in the lab and subsequently attended medial school here at UK.

Dr. Eric M. O’Neill

UK Postdoc: Fall 2008 - Summer 2013

Before UK: Utah State University (PhD)

Eric was an integral component of the Weisrock Lab for nearly five years. He studied species delimitation and phylogeny of tiger salamanders and was key to developing our parallel tagged amplicon sequencing methods. Eric was an Assistant Professor at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga (started in Fall 2013) and has since taken a position in the DNA Identity division at LabCorp in North Carolina.

Dr. Yukie Kajita

Postdoctoral research collaborator

Yukie’s postdoc at UK was based in John Obrycki’s lab in Entomology where she studied the ecology of invasive lady beetles. She complemented this work with population genetic studies in our lab and was awarded an NSF SEES Fellowship that integrated the ecology and evolution of these systems with studies of their economic impact.

Jose Bocanegra

Undergraduate researcher

(Fall 2011 - Spring 2014)

Jose worked on a number of projects in the lab, providing valuable contributions and co-authorship to a mouse lemur species delimitation paper.

Kara Jones (PhD candidate, UK A&S Royster fellow)

karajones “at” uky.edu

Before UK: George Mason University (B.S., M.S.)


Kara is interested in the processes driving diversification. She uses genomic and ecological tools to study Desmognathus salamanders in the southern Appalachian Mountains salamanders and test hypotheses of shared factors in their speciation history.

Deborah Lu

Undergraduate researcher

(Spring 2013 - Spring 2015)

Deborah is currently in medical school at UK.

Mary Foley (PhD student)

UK: Fall 2018-current

Before UK: UK (B.S.), Rutgers (M.S.)

Mary is interested in how microbial diversity varies across species and geography in aquatic environments, using freshwater mussels as a study system. Her work couples the study of microbiome diversity with host population structure to understand the drivers of microbiome change.

Mason Murphy, M.S. (2016)

UK: Fall 2013 - Spring 2016

Co-advised with Steve Price (UK Forestry)

Before UK: University of Notre Dame (B.S.)

Researchgate, GoogleScholar

Mason’s Master’s research investigated population structure of the mudpuppy (Necturus maculosus) across Kentucky river drainages. Mason is probably the first person to successfully generate population genomic data from an 85 Gb organism. These data have been important in identifying a complex interplay of isolation and gene flow across and within Kentucky river basins. Mason is currently a PhD student at Miami University in Ohio.

Mackenzie Humphrey

Undergraduate researcher

(Fall 2015 - Spring 2017)

Mackenzie was a participant in a number of research projects, and is now in medical school at UK.

Kelly Sovacool

Undergraduate researcher

(Spring 2016 - Spring 2018)

Kelly worked on Bayesian analyses of SNP data to test hypotheses of lineage divergence in Desmognathus fuscus and then rebuilt the bioinformatics pipeline used to process our parallel tagged amplicon NGS data. She is now in a bioinformatics PhD program at Michigan.

Paul Hime, PhD (2017)

NSF GRFP, Blue Waters Graduate Fellow

UK: Fall 2011 - Spring 2017

Before UK: Washington University in St. Louis (B.S.), St. Louis Zoo

After UK: Postdoc at the University of Kansas Biodiversity Institute


Paul’s research covered a broad spectrum of evolutionary divergence, from the early stages of speciation in hellbender salamanders, to divergence among the extant orders of amphibia. Within these frameworks, he delves into questions about how phylogenetic information varies across the genome, how molecular evolutionary processes vary across the genome, and how they may differ among clades with varying diversification rates. Paul was awarded an NSF DDIG in 2016 to study the phylogenetic evolution of nuclear genes associated with the mitochondrion, relative to those with other functions.

Mariah Donohue (PhD student, Fulbright Scholar)

mariah.donohue “at” uky.edu

UK: Fall 2017-current

Before UK: Stony Brook University (B.S., M.S.)

Mariah is interested in the interplay between environment and evolutionary history in the shaping of gut microbiome diversity in lemurs, and the possible role that the microbiome plays in speciation.

Derek Filipek (PhD student)

derek.filipek “at” uky.edu

UK: Fall 2017-current

Before UK: Central Arkansas University (B.S., M.S.)

Derek is interested in how life history impacts the population structure and phylogenetic history of snakes, with a focus on the tribe Thamnophiini (e.g., the garter snakes).

Angela Jones (2019 Goldwater Scholar)

(Spring 2017 - present)

After numerous contributions to the tiger salamander PTAS study, including bioinformatic work and manuscript development, Angela is embarking on a population genomic study of lady beetles in the US. Angela aims for a PhD program to study pleuripotent stem cells and regeneration.

Mary Gibbs

Undergraduate researcher

(Fall 2016 - Fall 2017)

Mary spent her time in the lab participating in a study of salamander reproductive isolation among species and populations of Desmognathus salamanders.

Nikki Lawrence

Lab Technician

Nikki was an undergraduate researcher in the lab (see Hime et al. 2016!) and then graciously stuck around for another year after her graduation to keep the lab running smoothly. Nikki entered the genetic counseling graduate program at Baypath University in Fall 2017 and is now a genetic counselor at the UK Clinic.

Dr. Katie Everson (UK Research Fellow)

kathryn.everson “at” uky.edu

Before UK: University of Alaska, Fairbanks (Ph.D)

GoogleScholar, Reseachgate

Katie is broadly interested phylogeography and species delimitation. In the Weisrock Lab, she works primarily with phylogenomic data to: (a) estimate the evolutionary history of lemurs, and (b) understand how certain properties of genomic data impact species tree reconstruction.

Tom Maigret (PhD candidate)

thomas.maigret “at” uky.edu

UK: Fall 2014-current


Researchgate, GoogleScholar

Tom is interested how species are impacted by human-mediated disturbance on the landscape, studying copperheads and timber rattlesnakes to learn how their dispersal, land-use characteristics, and population structure have been shaped by roads and mountaintop removal in eastern KY.

Dr. Levi Gray

Email: levi.gray “at” uky.edu

Before UK: University of New Mexico (Ph.D)

GoogleScholar, Researchgate

Levi is interested in the use of population genetic and phylogenetic approaches towards the study of speciation, with a particular interest in the evolution of Mexican biotic diversity. In the Weisrock Lab, he is using phylogenomic data to study diversification in salamandrid salamanders.

Ben Browning

Undergraduate researcher

(Spring 2017 - Fall 2018)

Postdocs & Technicians

Graduate Students

Former lab members

Undergraduate researchers

Visiting researchers

Ruth Percino-Daniel

(Summer 2019)


Ruth is a PhD candidate at the Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Mexico (UNAM), studying landscape genomics of direct-developing frogs (Craugastoridae) along a tropical elevation gradient. She’s interested in employing different approaches to understand how biotic and abiotic factors influence gene flow and population divergences. Ruth is visiting our lab to hone her skills with RAD data and landscape genetics.