People

Principal Investigator

Dr. Brent Sewall

Dr. Brent Sewall is an Associate Professor in the Department of Biology at Temple University.  The goal of his research is to understand and address critical and emerging threats to biodiversity and developing effective strategies for conservation.  He is especially interested in emerging infectious diseases of wildlife, biodiversity conservation, and drivers of biodiversity patterns.  Ongoing work focuses on understanding threats to bats caused by the disease white-nose syndrome; identifying and addressing critical threats to tropical and temperate biodiversity; and clarifying how diverse types of species interactions shape biodiversity patterns.  His work has focused on cave, forest, and grassland communities in eastern North America and tropical sub-Saharan Africa.  Dr. Sewall is also providing technical advice on ecology and conservation to the Pennsylvania Mammal Technical Committee and the U.S. National White-Nose Syndrome Response Team.  He has received several awards, including the American Society of Mammalogists’ William T. Hornaday Award for outstanding contributions to mammal conservation, the U.C. Davis Merton Love Award for best dissertation in ecology and evolution, and Temple University’s William Caldwell Memorial Distinguished Mentoring Award.  Prior to beginning his current position, Dr. Sewall was a Research Assistant Professor at Temple University, and a Visiting Assistant Professor of Conservation Biology at the College of William and Mary.  Dr. Sewall received his Ecology from the University of California, Davis.

 

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Staff Scientist

Dr_Matthew_BanksDr. Matthew Banks

Dr. Matthew Banks is a Research Assistant Professor in the lab specializing in non-human primate behavioral ecology.  Matthew recently received his PhD from Stony Brook University in physical anthropology where he focused his doctoral research on the effects of human activities and naturally-occurring ecological variation on the diurnal primate communities in forest fragments in the extreme north of Madagascar, including patterns of 1) abundance and distribution and 2) species richness at the population-level.  He spent over five years conducting research in these isolated habitats and training the first teams of wildlife stewards to staff the newly gazetted 85,000 ha
Andrafiamena-Andavakoera Forest Corridor, a hotspot for the critically endangered Perrier’s sifaka (Propithecus perrieri) and other high priority flora and fauna for conservation, including members of one of Madagascar’s endemic tree families, the Sarcolaenaceae. Since initiating his first research project in the littoral forests of Madagascar in 1997, Matthew has advocated community-based approaches to research and is interested in increasing the network of local research professionals in northern Madagascar where the Sewall Lab is currently studying the mutualistic networks that characterize plant-frugivore interactions at Ankarana National Park.  His research interests include investigating the role of herbivores as ecosystem engineers and specifically their role in driving shifts in tree community dynamics in tropical forest ecosystems.

 

Postdoctoral Researchers

Dr. Emily Booth

Dr. Emily Booth is a plant ecologist specializing in fire ecology. She received her Ph.D. in 2017 from the University of Texas at Austin and her M.S. in 2011 from a joint program between Northwestern University and the Chicago Botanic Garden. She is broadly interested in bridging the gap between research science and land management, and has worked to this end in many ecosystem types including desert, savanna and forest. Over the course of her graduate work, she investigated plant-pollinator interactions, the potential impacts of climate change on plant species of conservation interest, and the ways in which management actions, soil types, and burn severity shape post-wildfire plant community recovery trajectories. Through the Sewall Lab, she is currently working with the Forestry department at Fort Indiantown Gap to: 1) assess the effectiveness of prescribed burns to meet objectives of fuel consumption and woody plant community composition; 2) study the effects of thinning on tree growth rates; and 3) provide recommendations on fire effects monitoring protocols and appropriate fire regimes for management goals.

 

Dr. Emily Le Sage

Dr. Emily Le Sage (she/her) is a conservation biologist interested in emerging infectious diseases associated with wildlife population declines. Her PhD research at Washington State University focused on a group of viral pathogens of ectothermic vertebrates, ranaviruses, known to cause mass mortality events in larval amphibians in North America. By integrating physiology and disease ecology, she found that an anthropogenic stressor, road salt runoff, increased the severity of ranavirus epidemics in the northeastern United States. Specifically, the osmoregulatory demands of sublethal salinity concentrations found in roadside habitats reduced feeding behavior, growth, and immune function of larval wood frogs, which ultimately led to greater transmission and mortality rates at the population level. In the same vein, her postdoc research at Vanderbilt University examined the carry-over effects of early life stressors on amphibian immunity. In a collaborative DoD funded project, she found that early life exposure to either predicted future temperatures or a rapidly drying pond had long-lasting effects on leopard frog pathogen defenses and susceptibility to infection from a chytrid pathogen, Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis (Bd). In an effort to better predict climate change effects on chytridiomycosis, the disease caused by Bd, she is currently integrating seasonal rhythms of host, pathogen, and microbiome. For updates on this ongoing work, check her website (https://emilymhall88.wixsite.com/mysite). Scaling up from the organismal level, her current project as a postdoc in the Sewall lab is to study long-term population trajectories of hibernating bat species and evaluate whether management activities can reduce the impact of white nose syndrome, a fungal disease caused by Pseudogymnoascus destructans.

 

Graduate Students

Marianne Gagnon_Scotland - croppedMarianne Gagnon

Marianne began her doctoral studies in the fall of 2015. She is interested in understanding how environmental change influences the ecology, behavior, and conservation of wildlife populations. For her dissertation research, she is studying behavioral and ecological aspects of host-pathogen interactions and dynamics in North American bat populations affected by white-nose syndrome, an emerging infectious disease. Prior to starting her PhD program at Temple University, Marianne obtained her Master’s degree in Wildlife Biology from McGill University where she studied the effects of torpor expression on the behavioral ecology, physiology, and reproductive biology of mammalian hibernators.

 

Technicians

Chris LeClair

Chris LeClair is a research assistant with the Sewall Lab studying Spotted Lanternfly (Lycorma delicatula) and its effect on our native Pennsylvania flora. He is primarily interested in plant ecology and forest pathology. In 2019 he received his undergraduate degree in Horticulture B.S. from Temple University. Throughout his undergrad he concentrated on examining the ecological impacts to our eastern-deciduous forests, which led him into a technician role for the City of Philadelphia’s Emerald Ash Borer management team. Following graduation, Chris spent several field seasons with the National Park Service at Valles Caldera National Preserve, NM, as a plant ecologist technician. During his time there he helped develop and execute the Park’s various vegetation surveying & monitoring projects for fire-treated forest plots, riparian areas, range plant ecology, and invasive plant management. He hopes to continue combining his interests in research and land management into graduate school.

 

Daniel Taratut

Daniel Taratut is a senior at Temple University majoring in Biology. Aside from his passion for wildlife conservation and ecosystem ecology, Daniel is interested in pursuing mycological studies to better understand the complex fungal world humans live beside, and how fungi provide crucial links between various organisms in our ever-changing world. His curiosity for the adaptations and multiple interactions of fungi stems from a young age when he learned about certain fungi controlling and consuming insects internally through chemical interferences. From then on, he knew he wanted to understand the unique life cycle of nature’s most successful and efficient recyclers. Daniel joined the Sewall lab in the winter of 2019 and assists in the research studying white nose syndrome in North American bat populations. He recently won a Diamond Research Scholar award to support his ongoing research.  After he graduates, he hopes to continue fungal research along the lines of his studies and ultimately understand why fungal attacks on wildlife are rising worldwide.

 

Undergraduates

Jack Collins

Jack Collins is a senior majoring in biology at Temple University. Jack is interested in pursuing a career in entomology studying the behavior and ecology of agricultural pests. Non-native animals can spread to new areas rapidly due to the interconnectedness of the modern world and ensuring the security of food production is highly important. Jack has had a passion for nature and its creatures since he was very young and aims to apply his passion to helping others. Jack joined the Sewall lab in the summer of 2021 and assists in the research conducted on the Spotted Lanternfly at the Temple Ambler satellite campus. After he graduates, he would like to continue his schooling to acquire higher entomology degrees and conduct further research on insect species.

 

Lindsey Hoover

Lindsey Hoover is a senior Biology major at Temple University. She is interested in disease ecology and the effects of disease on populations, species, and communities. Her enthusiasm for ecology originated from being raised in a wooded area of northeastern Pennsylvania. This led to a specific interest in the relationship between disease and a wide range of organisms. She joined the Sewall lab in the summer of 2021 through the College of Science and Technology’s Undergraduate Research Program and assists in Spotted Lanternfly Research at the Temple Ambler Field Station. After graduation, Lindsey plans on attending graduate school and furthering her research experience.

 

Lab Affiliates

 

Konstantina ZografouDr. Konstantina Zografou

Dr. Konstantina Zografou is a conservation ecologist with expertise on the ecology and conservation of terrestrial invertebrate communities, including butterflies and Orthoptera (grasshoppers, crickets, katydids). During her Ph.D. research at the University of Ioannina (Greece), she explored butterflies’ and orthopterans’ species responses to climate change and identified measures needed to conserve species populations within protected areas. She also examined the effects of habitat-specific variables and especially of altitude and canopy cover, used as proxies of possible climate (via space for time substitution) and land use change (agriculture abandonment and forest encroachment). As a postdoctoral researcher, she focuses primarily on statistical analysis of data that have been systematically collected from 1998 on regal fritillary (Speyeria idalia), an extremely rare butterfly species, for which the only viable remaining eastern population occurs at Fort Indiantown Gap National Guard Training Center in central Pennsylvania.  Additional data on the whole butterfly species pool is also being used to better interpret ecological and behavioral patterns of the butterfly community, to clarify long-term population trajectories and spatial distributions and to evaluate the effects of wildfire and prescribed fire on grassland butterflies and their host plants.

 

George AdamidisDr. George Adamidis

Dr. George Adamidis was a postdoctoral research fellow specializing in plant ecology. He recently received his Ph.D. from University of the Aegean (Greece) in plant functional ecology where he focused his doctoral research on the functions and factors shaping plant species diversity in harsh (serpentine) environments, and on understanding the mechanisms behind the processes of metal tolerance and hyperaccumulation in plants. His research in functional ecology focuses primarily on analyzing the ecological consequences of variability of plant functioning using functional traits. He has also investigated the effect of harsh abiotic conditions on the structure and diversity of serpentine communities and the decomposition dynamics of mixed-species litters across contrasted environments. A part of his research focuses on the inter-population variation in Ni tolerance, accumulation and translocation patterns in the Ni-hyperaccumulator Alyssum lesbiacum. Finally, he has also focused on the genetic diversity and population structure of this serpentine-endemic species. Currently, George is very interested in: 1) how natural communities across biotic and/or abiotic gradients may respond to climate change, through the mediating role of plant functional traits and 2) disentangling the relative importance of biotic interactions and abiotic factors in defining significant ecosystem processes such as litter decomposition and pollination.

 

Marcellin Secondary Forest Ficus_postMarcellin Jaoravo

Marcellin Jaoravo is a PhD student interested in the ecology and conservation of birds of Madagascar.  He began his doctoral studies in 2013 and is focusing his dissertation research on bird species of conservation concern, and especially the foraging ecology of the Madagascar green pigeon Treron australis, a species endemic to Madagascar whose population is declining.  Marcellin is pursuing a degree from the University of Toliara, Madagascar, but is advised by Dr. Sewall on his dissertation research.  Marcellin has previously received his matrise and DEA (Master’s degree equivalent) in Animal Biology and Environmental Sciences, with a specialty in Ornithology from the University of Toliara.  He has extensive research experience, including field research on the community ecology, foraging and reproductive behavior, and systematics of several species of Malagasy birds and lemurs and conservation work on mangroves.  He has also served as an Assistant Instructor of Natural Sciences, manager of the Biochemistry Laboratory, and manager of the Biology Laboratory at the University of Antsiranana, Madagascar.

 

 

Research teams

2021 Spotted lanterfly field team

2018 Research team in Sewall and Freestone Labs

Field crew 2014 - park sign - cropped

 

2014 Field crew in Madagascar

Madagascar field team 2013

Madagascar field team 2013

2013 Field crew in Madagascar

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2012 Field crew in Madagascar

2012 Sewall and Freestone Labs and friends

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