Current members

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Emma E. Goldberg

I joined the UMN EEB faculty in January 2014. I was a grad student with Russ Lande at UC San Diego, then a postdoc with Bill Fagan at Univ Maryland, and most recently a postdoc with Boris Igić at Univ Illinois Chicago. Since moving here, I have progressed from falling down on ice to skating well enough to fall down while playing hockey. [CV]

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Alex Harkness

Alex joined EEB as a grad student in fall 2015, co-advised with Yaniv Brandvain. He was previously an undergrad and herbarium intern at the University of Washington. He is interested in anything to do with mating system evolution, and his current projects include modeling transitions from selfing to outcrossing and the origin of new self-incompatibility alleles. Alex also always brings the most exotic “organism stories” to lab meeting.

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Heath Blackmon

Heath joined the lab as a postdoc in summer 2015, for a collaborative project with Itay Mayrose on chromosome number evolution. He got his PhD in Jeff Demuth’s lab at UT Arlington, using comparative methods to study genome evolution, especially of sex chromosomes, especially in beetles. He now has independent funding as a CBS Grand Challenges Postdoc. Look for him surrounded by coffee and a swarm of new project ideas.

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Josh Justison

Josh is a biology major and computer science minor at UMN. He started off working with Heath on applying phylogenetic models of chromosome number and geographic range evolution. Now he is embarking on his own UROP project about how reticulation in phylogenies can throw off inferences about character evolution and diversification.

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Anna Nagel

Anna is a biology major at UMN with mathematical inclinations. She is developing a model of environment-dependent reinforcement, inspired by spadefoot toads.

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Sai Sunkam

Sai is a computer science and math major at UMN. He is developing a flexible Django web application to manage data on species traits and the literature from which it is derived.

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Mansi Bezbaruah

Mansi is a math major at UMN, with an interest in biology and computer science. She is learning to manipulate tree data structures and simulate stochastic processes on them.

Coming soon: We’re excited to welcome Will Freyman and Rosana Zenil-Ferguson as new postdocs! Beginning next year, they will each be working on phylogenetic projects related to trait-dependent diversification and polyploidy.

Past members

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Tanjona Ramiadantsoa

Tanjona joined the lab as a postdoc in fall 2014. He did his PhD work with Ilkka Hanski and Otso Ovaskainen at Univ Helsinki, working on models for ecological, macroevolutionary, biogeographic, and conservation questions. His work here included an elegant and ambitious model of insect physiology, inspired by inquiry in range limit determinants. He also founded the weekly EEB soccer game and kept us honest with our math. He has now moved on to a postdoc at UW Madison.

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Tim Ohlert

Tim is a recent graduate of UMN, where he studied environmental science, plant biology, and forest ecosystem management. He worked on an island biogeography UROP project in the theme of Baker’s law, investigating how breeding system and island distance shape species compositions on islands. His next step is graduate studies in ecology at Univ New Mexico.


Opportunities are available for students and postdocs to join the lab. Choices of projects are quite open: inquiries are encouraged from anyone with related research interests in quantitative aspects of macroevolution, biogeography, coevolution, or plant evolutionary biology.

I expect everyone in the lab group to be resourceful and work to develop their own interests and approaches. In return, I will be accessible for discussions of everything from broad ideas to technical details. Lab members are also encouraged to take advantage of expertise in nearby research groups. See especially our Theory Under Construction group, and the departments of Ecology, Evolution & Behavior and Plant and Microbial Biology. I will facilitate joint lab meetings and co-advising as appropriate.

Postdoctoral researchers

Inquiries are welcome from prospective postdocs to pursue projects of their own design. Some prior modeling and computing experience is helpful, but I am also happy to talk with people who have more empirical backgrounds and would like to explore related questions through theory. If you are interested, please send me an email introducing yourself and outlining the research areas you would like to pursue with the lab. We can then discuss specific projects and potential funding sources.

Graduate students

Prospective graduate students should have some research experience and quantitative inclinations, but the exact nature of those is flexible—I am happy to consider students who majored in biology, math, computer science, engineering, or other fields. (I started in physics myself.) I expect theses to have a substantial theory component, but I am open to discussing opportunities for complementary empirical work, such as gathering data to test a novel analysis technique or parameterize a model.

I can take students through the EEB grad program and the PlantBio grad program. Applications are due in early December. If you would like to apply to either department and perhaps work with me, please send me an email introducing yourself and outlining your interests so that I can look for your application.

Undergraduate students

I am always happy to hear from undergraduate students—majoring in biology, math, computer science, or other fields—who would like to conduct research in the lab. On your part, this requires curiosity, diligence, and an interest in thinking about biological questions in quantitative terms. I can help you identify a tractable question and learn the techniques you need to answer it.

If this interests you, please read about directed research in CBS and the Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program. Then send me an email introducing yourself and briefly describing what you might like to gain from the experience. We can meet to discuss possible projects and take it from there.