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Meet the Fellows

2023-2024 Fellows


Ashish Nerlekar

Ashish comes from Texas A&M University where his research focuses on the ecology, conservation and restoration of grasslands and savannas. He will continue to improve the scientific and public recognition of grasslands by understanding what kinds of plants are characteristic of global ancient grasslands, and how might these plants get affected by large-scale tree plantations on tropical grasslands.   

He also plans to organize a seminar on tropical ecology and conservation to showcase cutting-edge research being done by scientists based in the Global South. Additionally, Ashish will organize a journal club in the EEB community aimed at learning about best practices to decolonize ecology by exploring the consequences of "parachute science" - science conducted in another country without meaningfully engaging with the local stakeholders.

Mentors: Lars Brudvig and Lauren Sullivan in the Department of Plant Biology in the College of Natural Science


Ashwini Ramesh

Ashwini explores the impact of climate change on individual (within-host) infection dynamics using a combination of mathematical modeling and experiments in collaboration with the Elemental Health Institute in MSU’s College of Human Medicine. With this work she hopes to discover new ecological explanations to improve individual and ecosystem health.

For her community engagement initiative, Ashwini organized the first Art in Science competition in EEB in Spring 2023, inviting the EEB community to submit outstanding data-representation, photographs, traditional or digital art to tell a compelling story of the EEB members’ science - research images that are not just scientifically meaningful but also beautiful. The first competition results were announced in the 2023 EEB Research Symposium.

EEB mentors: Nina Wale in microbiology and molecular genetics and Christopher Klausmeier in the departments of plant biology and integrative biology.

Casey Youngflesh

Casey Youngflesh

Casey's work focuses on using quantitative tools to address questions in global change ecology, biodiversity, and population biology. He is particularly interested in diversity patterns of birds across the Americas. Casey is also working on an IBEEM-funded project to understand the links between environmental variability and life history traits, and what that can tell us regarding which systems might be most susceptible to climate change.

Casey has given public talks at forums such as the MSU Biology on Tap series, local chapters of the Audubon Society, and through the Skype-a-Scientist program. Casey recently served as an instructor for the Careers Pathways seminar course at MSU, focused on providing a broad range of professional development opportunities to students, from sessions on non-academic career possibilities to best practices in science communication. 

Casey will be an assistant professor at Clemson University beginning January 2024.

EEB mentors: Phoebe Zarnetske in integrative biology, Andrew Finley in forestry, and Kyla Dahlin in geography, environmental, and spatial sciences.


2022-2023 Fellows

Cinnamon Mittan

Cinnamon Mittan

Cinnamon uses genomic data to understand and support species’ ability to adapt to environmental change. She works with conservation practitioners to incorporate genetic data into management actions and policy. Cinnamon's research at MSU combines thermal physiology, genomics, and captive rearing (in partnership with US Fish and Wildlife Service and John Ball Zoo) to inform the conservation of the critically endangered Michigan butterfly, Mitchell’s Satyr.   

Cinnamon co-created and instructs the “Introduction to Field Biology Workshop.” To improve access to fieldwork experience, this week-long workshop at the Kellogg Biological Station introduces undergrads to common methods, gear, and safety protocols integral to conducting fieldwork in the biological sciences. The course encompasses a variety of field sampling experiences and techniques and ends with a professional development seminar to increase student confidence in applying to research opportunities at MSU and beyond. 

EEB mentors: Sarah Fitzpatrick and Nick Haddad in integrative biology the Kellogg Biological Station and Mariah Meek in integrative biology.

Guiding conservation with innovations and a local touch

Guiding conservation with innovations and a local touch

Boosting endangered butterfly confronting climate change

Boosting endangered butterfly confronting climate change

Society honors Mittan's talk about adaptation during range expansion

Society honors Mittan's talk about adaptation during range expansion

Envision EEB shows possibilities, delivers skills, builds relationships

Envision EEB shows possibilities, delivers skills, builds relationships

Daniela Palmer

Daniela Palmer

Daniela's work focused on the genomic evolution of sex differences and the evolutionary processes that shape sex chromosomes.

She led an EEB reading group which focuses on how systems of oppression such as colonialism, imperialism, and racism impact academic institutions and fields of study both historically and in the present.

Daniela is currently is an assistant professor of biology at University of Texas Arlington.

EEB mentors: Fred Janzen in fisheries and wildlife and the Kellogg Biological Station and Emily Josephs in plant biology.

Olivia Smith

Olivia Smith

Olivia's work focuses on how the environment shapes the probability of zoonotic pathogen spillover in agricultural ecosystems across a network of cherry farms.

She started the EEB Collaborative Research Group with all participants from a historically underrepresented group which meet weekly to discuss relevant literature, research activities accomplished and next steps to achieve research objectives. A meta-analysis resulted in a published paper.

Olivia also started monthly eeBirding in September 2021 wherein EEBers gather to look for birds at parks around the Lansing area. She founded it after hearing multiple people say they wanted more opportunity for in-person social events, seeing the gathering as an important activity for community building and maintaining community mental health.

Mentors: Catherine Lindell in integrative biology and Jen Owen in fisheries and wildlife.


Studying kestrels' superpower to shoo pest birds

Research helps farmers use birds to manage pests

Research helps farmers use birds to manage pests

journal pages

MSU study reveals inequity in journal peer review


Science of birds on the farm