Gaylord Donnelley Postdoctoral Associates

Maria Rebolleda-Gomez, Ph.D.

Research description: Maria is an evolutionary ecologist fascinated with bacteria, fungi, and plants. Maria is interested in how ecological dynamics affect evolutionary pathways and how evolution transforms an organism’s ecological interactions. Currently, Maria is a Donnelley Postdoctoral Environmental Fellow working with Ecology and Evolutionary Biology Professor Alvaro Sanchez in the Sanchez lab. Maria’s research examines the importance of community context and global warming in microbial community structure, function, and evolution. Additionally, Maria is interested in microbial communities associated with plants and their roles in plant evolution and adaptation to climate change. 

Fellowship dates: August 2019 - July 2021

Freya Rowland, Ph.D.

Research description: Freya is an aquatic ecologist who uses experiments, field data, and statistical models to describe ecosystems varying in size from ponds to the Laurentian Great Lakes. Freya has a B.S. in Biology from the University of Wisconsin, a M.S. in aquatic ecology from Miami University, and a Ph.D. from the University of Missouri in ecology. Before starting her postdoc at Yale, Freya spent a year as a postdoctoral fellow at the Cooperative Institute for Great Lakes Research at the University of Michigan. Currently, Freya is a Donnelley Postdoctoral Fellow in the lab Dr. David Skelly, a professor at the Yale School of the Environment. She is using wood frogs as a model system to explore questions about population ecology and natural selection.

Fellowship dates: August 2019 - July 2021

Catherine Davis, Ph.D.

Research description: Catherine is a paleoceanographer and micropaleontologist. Marine microfossils are one of the richest records of past life on Earth, and Catherine’s career has been focused on understanding how microfossil-forming organisms record their environment and how that record can help us to understand climates of the past and how climate and the biosphere interact on long time scales. Prior to her move to Yale, Catherine completed her MSc at the University of Bristol and PhD at the University of California Davis and spent time as a postdoctoral associate at the University of South Carolina.

At Yale, Catherine is working in the Department of Earth & Planetary Sciences with Professor Pincelli Hull where she is focused on understanding and reconstructing a record of past oxygen minimum zones from the fossil shells of planktic foraminifera adapted to these harsh environments. The goal of this work is to better understand how oxygenation in the oceans has responded to periods of rapid warming, such as that occurring in the modern ocean, and how the specialized communities that thrive in extreme low oxygen have changed through time.

Fellowship dates: October 2019 - September 2021

Advait Jukar

Advait Jukar, Ph.D.

Research description: Advait will be studying the impacts of human hunting and climate change on the megafaunal extinction in India. He will use tools including faunal analyses, stable isotopes, bone surface modification, and geochronology to understand the anthropogenic and environmental context of this extinction. The recent extinction of large terrestrial vertebrates has been the focus of paleontological, archeological, and ecological research for decades, but the causes are poorly understood in some of the most biodiverse regions of the world, like the Indian Subcontinent. India unlike large parts of the world, retains several species of large mammals such as rhinos and elephants. Advait’s goal is to understand why so many large species have survived in this region.

Fellowship dates: July 2020 – June 2022

James Lichtenstein

James Lichtenstein, Ph.D.

Research description: James has spent the last six years investigating the causes and consequences of individual behavioral variation. At YIBS he will study how ecosystems drive the evolution of diversity in predator behavior and how the evolution of behavioral diversity affects ecosystems. Species-diverse ecosystems are predicted to constrain the evolution of trait diversity within predator species, and this trait diversity increases how many prey they kill, thereby increasing plant growth. James will test this using experimental evolution to create predatory insect populations with low or high levels of diversity in the behaviors they use to hunt prey. These predators will then be deployed in meadows to test how their behavioral traits affect ecosystem structure. Teasing apart these intricate eco-evolutionary dynamics could help explain how ecosystems function, potentially allowing us to use artificial evolution to shape ecosystems.

Fellowship dates: September 2020 - August 2022

Thomas Boag

Thomas Boag, Ph.D.

Research description: Thomas’s research focuses on understanding how climate impacts trends in biodiversity both in the modern ocean and the geologic past. He uses a combination of tools in his research including stratigraphy, paleontology, and organismal ecophysiology to answer questions such as how changes in the redox structure and temperature of Earth’s oceans influenced early animal evolution. In addition, his work has focused on understanding how warming oceans in the coming centuries will impact the range size of species and latitudinal diversity patterns. At Yale, Thomas will be focused on understanding how climate change will impact the physiology of seafloor sediment-dwelling animals that are found throughout the global ocean. These animals play a critical role in mediating several key marine biogeochemical cycles, including the coupled carbon-phosphorous-oxygen cycle, the sulfur cycle, and organic carbon burial.

Fellowship dates: November 2020 - September 2022

Natasha Picciani, Ph.D.

Research description: Natasha is an evolutionary biologist interested in understanding how organismal diversity evolves and the mechanisms that can constrain or facilitate complex evolutionary outcomes across species. At Yale she will focus on understanding the mechanisms that drive the evolution of complex life cycles using the polyp and jellyfish life stages of cnidarians. The goal of her work is to better understand the relationship between jellyfish reduction and polyp specialization and investigate whether disruption of cell differentiation can serve as a developmental mechanism underlying the loss of complexity. The loss of complexity in one phase of a life cycle is often associated with an increase in another phase of the life cycle. Overall, her work investigates the dynamics of evolutionary constraints, how these shape changes in organismal complexity, and the developmental basis of those changes.

Fellowship dates: December 2020 – November 2022