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Graduate Students (Advisor / Co-advisor)

Lacy Rucker (Ph.D. student, West Virginia University)


Lacy is from a small town in rural Tennessee located just outside of Cherokee National Forest, where her affinity for natural resources and wildlife sparked. She received her B.Sc. in Wildlife and Fisheries Science with a minor in Forestry from the University of Tennessee-Knoxville in 2012. While at UT-Knoxville, she worked on several amphibian projects where she found her calling focusing on amphibian conservation. After completing her undergrad, Lacy continued her education at Alabama A&M University where she studied the effects of silviculture treatments on amphibian breeding in upland hardwood forests. Lacy’s Ph.D. work will focus on climate change impacts on survival, growth, and competition of Plethodontid salamanders in Monongahela National Forest. She enjoys rock climbing, backpacking, hiking with her dogs, and exploring new places.

Alissa Gulette (M.Sc. student, West Virginia University)


Alissa is from South Florida and grew up in a city next to the Everglades. Exploring the swamps throughout her childhood fostered a passion for conservation and a love for the wildlife of wetlands. She received her B.Sc. in Wildlife Ecology and Conservation from the University of Florida in 2014. Keen on making an impact, she assisted research on invasive Burmese Pythons and Black and White Tegus, worked for Florida’s wildlife commission on American Alligator management, concentrated on environmental education and invasive plant removal as a park ranger, and collected data for research on urban habitat for the threatened Wood Stork. She is now excited to start a new adventure, studying the suitability of restored wetlands from the Wetland Reserve Program for aquatic turtles. She enjoys hiking, kayaking, and biking in nature.

Carl Jacobsen (M.Sc. student, West Virginia University)


Carl grew up in Central Maryland and developed a passion for wildlife as a child. He received a B.Sc. in Ecology, Evolution and Environmental Biology from Appalachian State University in Boone, N.C. He became fascinated with studying herpetofauna through a class trip to Vietnam where they encountered over 100 species of amphibians and reptiles. Upon returning to North Carolina, he began an undergraduate thesis on the effects of symbiotic algae and predation on the maintenance of dimorphic spotted salamander egg masses. He also travelled to Alaska to research the effects of climate change on the growth rates of salmon as part of the NSF’s REU program. After graduation, he worked as a herpetology technician for the Wyoming Game and Fish Department, conducting surveys for amphibians and reptiles. For his Master’s thesis project, he will be studying the effects of prescribed fires on terrestrial salamander occupancy and abundance on the George Washington National forest in eastern West Virginia and western Virginia. He enjoys hiking, mountain biking, and travelling to new places.

Lenza Paul (M.Sc. student, West Virginia University)


Lenza is from Barboursville, West Virginia and currently resides in Fayetteville, West Virginia working for the National Park Service as a Wildlife Technician. She completed her B.Sc. in Natural Resource Management and Conservation from Marshall University in 2011. Her current position focuses on monitoring populations of threatened and endangered species in the Gauley River National Recreation Area, New River Gorge National River, and Bluestone National Scenic River in southern West Virginia. For her Master’s thesis project, Lenza will be studying the effects of the widely used insecticide Imidacloprid on herpetofauna in hemlock conservation areas within the parks. Lenza enjoys spending her free time rock climbing, biking, and hiking with her two dogs in the beautiful New River Gorge area.

Sara Crayton (M.Sc. student, West Virginia University)


Sara is from Farmington, Pennsylvania. She received her BA in Biology with a minor in Computing and Information Studies from Washington & Jefferson College in Washington, PA. While at W&J College, she completed research on the signaling behavior of wolf spiders. She discovered a passion for herpetofauna as an intern at The Wilds in Ohio, where she trapped turtles at a reclaimed strip mine and raised hellbenders in a headstart facility. Most recently, she worked as a wildlife technician with Iowa State University and Iowa DNR completing wildlife inventories along the Missouri River with a diversity of taxa. She also mist-netted saw-whet owls and captured hawks with a county park. Sara’s Master’s research investigates whether salamander populations are affected by the insecticide imidacloprid. Outside of school, she enjoys reading and hiking.

Graduate Students (Committee Member)

Laura Farwell (Ph.D. student, West Virginia University)


Laura grew up in the Pacific Northwest on a small island in the Puget Sound. She first became interested in ecology and conservation while working in the Alaskan subarctic, in Denali National Park. She is broadly interested in how human activities impact forest ecosystems and wildlife distributions, at large spatial scales. She received her M.Sc. from the University of Washington, where she studied avian responses to urban and exurban development in the greater Seattle area. As a Ph.D. student, Laura is investigating the impacts of shale gas development (fracking) on forests and songbird communities across the Central Appalachian region. She loves running long distance and exploring the hills of West Virginia with her husband Jeff and two little boys, Kai and Cole.

Eric Margenau (Ph.D. student, West Virginia University)


Eric is from northwest Wisconsin where he grew up ice fishing and dog sledding as a kid. He received his B.S. in Ecology and Field Biology from Saint Cloud State University in central Minnesota. Eric “saw the light” while taking an ornithology course, and since then has been primarily interested in songbird conservation and ecology. After completing his undergrad, he continued his education at Alabama A&M University where he studied songbird response to shelterwood prescriptions. Eric’s Ph.D. is focused on young forest habitat creation throughout West Virginia via cut-back borders along various landscape features (transmission powerlines, gas pipelines, and field openings), and within low-performing hardwood forests. He is evaluating avian, reptile, and amphibian responses to young forest habitat in these managed landscapes. In his free time, Eric enjoys mountain biking, kayaking, rock climbing, disc golf, and reading (non-scientific papers).  

Gretchen Nareff (Ph.D. student, West Virginia University)


Gretchen grew up in New England and credits her love of birds and avian ecology to her time at the University of Vermont and specifically to ecologist and author Bernd Heinrich, her biology professor at UVM. After spending several years as a field technician, Gretchen received her M.S. from the University of Georgia where she studied dabbling ducks and shorebirds in managed tidal impoundments on former rice plantations in coastal South Carolina. She has also worked on the reintroduction of whooping cranes and Mississippi sandhill cranes and the translocation of Florida scrub-jays and burrowing owls. As a Ph.D. student, Gretchen is studying cerulean warblers and the songbird community's response to silviculture in the Central Appalachian region. Outside of school, Gretchen enjoys CrossFit, hawkwatching, and reading non-fiction books.

Undergraduate Students

Sam Wilson (B.Sc. student, West Virginia University)


Samantha is from a small town in Northeastern Ohio. Her love for science and the outdoors came from her father's encouragement and enthusiasm in taking her outside and on camping trips. She graduated from Salem High School in 2017 and is now a Freshman Biochemistry major. She enjoys hiking, backpacking, and exploring.

Affiliated Students