Searle Lab

Aquatic disease ecology at Purdue University


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Catherine Searle
Assistant Professor

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Hector Zumbado-Ulate
Ph.D. candidate

Hector is interested in the effects of parasites on species distributions and understanding the variables that allow remnant populations to persist. He is combining field sampling with spatial modeling to understand host and pathogen occurrence across space and time in the amphibian-Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis system.


Spencer Siddons
Ph.D. candidate

Spencer is interested in amphibian ecology, disease dynamics, and conservation. He is investigating the effects of environmental stressors on host infection risk and the pathogen themselves, with a focus on processes that occur during the winter in temperate regions. Personal website:


Paradyse Blackwood
Ph.D. candidate, NSF Graduate Research Fellow, Purdue Doctoral Fellow

Paradyse is interested in how environmental variation (e.g. temperature change), anthropogenic stressors, and disease interact to shape the health and abundance of amphibian species. They are studying how varying temperatures interact with road salt pollution to impact host-parasite interactions and how disease can influence species invasions.


Meredith Scherer
Purdue senior

Meredith is studying potential tradeoffs in salinity tolerance of freshwater organisms.


Jasmina (Lulu) Davis
Purdue senior


Emily Martin
Purdue junior

Emily is studying the effects of leaf litter on disease in amphibians.


Margaret Bui
Purdue junior

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Allison Milicia
Purdue sophomore

Lab alumni

Former graduate students and technicians:

Kacie Jonasen (2018-2020, lab technician) Currently a veterinary technician.

Abigail Merrick (2015-2018, lab technician & M.S. student) Currently an environmental toxicologist at the Wisconsin State Lab of Hygiene.

Former undergraduates:

Isabel Adarve-Rengifo. (2019). Currently a senior at EAFIT University in Colombia. Independent project: "The effects of leaf litter on growth of the amphibian fungal pathogen Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis."

Mariah Burgmeier. (2018-2019). Currently a technician at Charles River Laboratories. Independent project: "Effects of road salts on proliferation of an amphibian fungal pathogen."

Marin Bray (2017-2019). Currently a graduate student at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis. Independent project: "Examining differences in anuran communities between man-made and natural wetlands in central Indiana." 

Mackenzie Chapman. (2015-2018) Currently a graduate student at Purdue University. Undergraduate honors thesis: "Resource competition and its effect on disease dynamics in freshwater zooplankton populations." 

Brittany Heil (Farmer) (2017-2019). Currently a graduate student at Purdue University. Undergraduate honors thesis: "Effects of salinity on invasion in freshwater communities." 

Fabiola Fontan (Summer 2020). Currently a senior at the University of Puerto Rico Humacao. REU project: "The biodiversity of zooplankton communities in permanent and temporary ponds."

Baylie Hochstedler. (2016-2017) Currently a graduate student at Loyola University Chicago. Undergraduate honors thesis: "Effects of resources and parasites on competition between a native and invasive zooplankton."

Juliana Ilmain. (2017-2018) Currently a graduate student at New York University. Undergraduate honors thesis: "The impact of infectious disease on toxic effects in a freshwater zooplankton model."

Prasanna Janakiraman. (2017-2018)

Kiersten Nelson (2018-2019). Currently a graduate student at the University of Georgia. Undergraduate honors thesis: "Prevalence and infection intensity of Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis across an altitudinal gradient in Costa Rica."

Kaitlin O'Leary. (2014-2015) Currently a high school teacher for the Lower Kuskokwim School District. Independent project: "Inducing predator defenses in an invasive aquatic species."

David Prather. (2016-2019). Undergraduate honors thesis: "The effects of antibiotics on host-parasite dynamics in freshwater ecosystems."

Liz Rosario. (Summer 2017) Currently a graduate student at the University of Puerto Rico. REU project: "Comparison of frog call characteristics between natural and man-made habitats."

Jeannine Toth (2018-2020). Currently a microbiologist for Unilever.

Maggie Wigren. (2015-2016) Currently a technician at Purdue University. Undergraduate honors thesis:"The effects of resource availability on reproduction, competition and disease susceptibility in a native and invasive zooplankton."


Lab group photos

fall 2020

Fall 2020

Top: Meredith, Cat, Spencer, Emily

Middle: Allison, Paradyse, Hector, Lulu

Bottom: Kacie, Maggie


spring 2020

Spring 2020

Top: Emily, Cat, Hector

Upper midddle: Kacie, Marin, Jeannine

Lower middle: Paradyse, Meredith, Allison

Bottom: Spencer, Kiersten


spring 2019

Spring 2019

Top: Cat, Kacie, Jeannine, David, Kiersten, Spencer

Bottom: Marin, Mariah, Hector, Brittany, Isa


spring 2018

Spring 2018:

Juliana, Spencer, Stephanie, David, Abbie, Mackenzie


fall 2017

Fall 2017

Top: Spencer, Cat, Hector, Mackenzie, Prassana, Juliana

Bottom: Abbie, Marin, Brittany, Maggie