Prospective Graduate Students

Labs accepting graduate students in the coming academic year

PHDMS Faculty Taking New Graduate Students
Y Y Ximena Bernal


My interests lie at the interface between behavior, evolution and ecology. My research focuses on animal communication. I address questions about signal function and evolution by performing experiments within a naturalistic context.


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Y Y Christie


I am a molecular ecologist and evolutionary biologist. Much of my research focuses on conservation genetics, kinship and parentage analyses, gene expression, and population genetics. Whenever possible, I enjoy developing or adapting theoretical approaches to address applied questions.


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Y Y Dukes


His lab is focused on: understanding how ecosystems respond to climate and atmospheric change, understanding and minimizing the impacts of invasive species on ecosystems, and exploring the ecological consequences of switching our energy supply from fossil fuels to biofuels. Dukes has a particular interest in understanding how changes in climate and the atmosphere will affect the success and impact of invasive species.


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Y Y esteban


My research is question-driven, and is focused on behavioral ecology, visual ecology, and conservation biology. I answer my questions in a comprehensive manner, using a combination of empirical, theoretical, and comparative approaches. My model species are usually birds, but I have also worked with mammals, amphibians, insects, and fish.

I am interested in two research areas at the moment:

  • Behavioral ecology and sensory ecology: the role of ecological factors in the evolution of avian visual systems in species with different degrees of sociality.
  • Conservation biology: human-wildlife interactions in urbanized landscapes, protected areas, and airports.

My lab combines techniques to characterize different properties of the avian visual system (visual fields, retinal topography, visual acuity, color vision) with behavioral experiments in controlled conditions (indoors and outdoors) and field observations.


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Y Y Lucas


My lab focuses on animal communication, both from the perspective of the receiver and from the perspective of the sender of signals. We are using a technique called Auditory Evoked Potentials to measure the properties of the auditory system. Our goal is to understand the adaptive significance of the processing of sound with an emphasis on the role that habitat and seasonality plays in signal processing. We were one of the first labs to demonstrate seasonal patterns in the peripheral processing of sound in birds, and we have expanded our understanding of seasonality in auditory processing in several recent publications.

We are also studying the degree to which complex signals convey "information" among birds. Studies of bird communication, in turn, provide an excellent model for understanding our own language. We have focused most of our work on Carolina chickadees — birds that have one of the most complex vocal systems of any species outside of humans. Indeed, chickadees are one of the few animals known to use syntax in their vocal signals.


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Y Y Minchella


Drawing upon both molecular and experimental field approaches, research in my laboratory focuses on the population biology, evolution, and genetics of host-parasite interactions. The research program encompasses host-parasite coevolution, parasite competition and the evolution of disease, the genetic structure of parasite populations, and gene transfer between parasites and their hosts (See Projects page for overviews).

Variation in host-life history patterns may be a result of a parasite adaptation, a host adaptation or a non-adaptive side effect of the interaction. Genetic heterogeneity of hosts and parasites fuels the coevolutionary arms race leading to an array of varied outcomes. Using snail-trematode systems as models, we have demonstrated that hosts potentially modify the outcome of parasitic infection either by resisting infection (immunity) or varying other life-history parameters. Combinations of field observation and laboratory experimentation are utilized to better understand the interaction between host-parasite coevolution and variations in host-life-history.

Interactions between trematodes and their snail hosts influence parasite genetic systems and impact on disease epidemiology in humans. Microsatellite DNA sequences are used to quantify host and parasite genetic heterogeneity in natural populations across space and through time. Currently, we are combining mathematical models and empirical field studies to assess and predict the genetic population structure of human schistosomes. Results will yield evolutionary insights into the epidemiological process, help identify genetic consequences of control strategies, and complement concurrent immuno-epidemiology studies of humans in endemic Brazilian communities.


Y Y Pelaez


Vascular smooth muscle physiology and signal transduction, physiology and evolution, biology education, physiology education.




I am a disease ecologist studying the effects of species composition and community structure on infectious diseases. In natural systems, disease dynamics can be altered in a variety of ways as communities lose species (e.g. from habitat loss, pollution, etc.), gain species (e.g. from species invasions), or experience changes to population sizes and intraspecific diversity. These factors can influence the frequency and severity of disease outbreaks. To understand these processes, I combine field observations with experimental manipulations in the field, mesocosm and laboratory. My primary host systems are freshwater zooplankton (Daphnia) and amphibians (with a focus on chytridiomycosis). Through these studies, I aim to understand how changes global to biodiversity are altering disease dynamics.


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Funding opportunities:
Numerous funding opportunities are available to graduate students in the Department of Biological Sciences at Purdue University. Recent graduate students in the Ecology area have received fellowships and/or research funding from national and international sources, including the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation Program for Native American Graduate Education , the National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship (GRF), Sigma Xi Grants in Aid of Research, the American Museum of Natural History, and the Organization for Tropical Studies. In addition, Purdue University internal funding is available through the Andrews Environmental Fellowship and the Bilsland Dissertation Fellowship. See Purdue's Graduate Student Fellowship Manual and the Purdue Biological Sciences graduate student web page for listings of additional funding sources.

Purdue graduate student community & professional resources:

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