PEOPLE

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ALISON RAVENSCRAFT

Principal investigator

I am fascinated by the diversity and complexity of insect-microbial symbioses. My work integrates high-throughput sequencing, culture-based assays, and experimental manipulations to understand the composition and function of symbiotic communities. I employ both complex microbiota (e.g. butterfly gut flora, with dozens to hundreds of members) and pairwise relationships (e.g. the bug-Burkholderia symbiosis) as mutually informative systems.

I did my PhD at Stanford University, where I studied the structure and function of the butterfly gut flora with Carol Boggs and Kabir Peay. This work was funded by an NSF GRFP grant. I began exploring the bug-Burkholderia system during an NIH-funded postdoctoral fellowship with Molly Hunter at the University of Arizona. In September 2019 I started as a professor at the University of Texas, Arlington. Find me online: Twitter  CV

Graduate students

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PATRICK STILLSON

Graduate student (joined summer 2020)

I’m a Ph.D. candidate in the lab, studying insect-microbe interactions, using the bug-Burkholderia symbiosis as a model to better understand how different strains of environmentally acquired microbial symbionts alter host insect development and survival under varying environmental conditions. I am studying the effects symbionts have on the host by analyzing a symbiosis associated region of the Burkholderia genome, investigating how the Burkholderia symbiont may mediate host thermal tolerance, and how variation in symbiont gene expression may alter host development time and final adult size.

Overall, my research interests broadly relate to host-microbe interactions ranging from microbial symbionts to vectored pathogens. I conducted my master’s research at Michigan State University with Zsofia Szendrei, where I researched aster yellow phytoplasma and its potential insect vectors.

Find me online: Twitter  Website  CV

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ALY BLANTON

Graduate student (joined fall 2021)

Hi! My name is Aly. I earned my B.S. in general Biology back in 2018 from Northern Illinois University and my M.S. in Biology in 2020 from Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville. I’m a microbial ecologist with an interest in all the ways insect microbiomes affect their hosts. My current projects center around pesticide degradation via the insect microbiome and the conferred resistance phenomenon.

Find me online: Twitter  Website  CV

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BIBEK SINGH PARAJULI

Graduate student (joined fall 2021)

I’m Bibek Singh Parajuli, a 2nd year Ph.D. student in the Ravenscraft Lab studying the insect-microbe symbiotic relationship. My research focuses on Leptoglossus phyllopus and its microbial symbiont Burkholderia, and the cost-benefit tradeoffs of this association for both partners. I plan to study desiccation tolerance in Burkholderia symbionts and test whether acquisition of desiccation-resistant strains of Burkholderia increase host survival in low humidity. My research will help us better understand the benefits and persistence of environmental acquisition in obligate host-microbe symbioses. My research interests also include understanding the genomic underpinnings of this symbiotic association. I conducted my undergraduate research at University of Texas at Arlington with Dr. Matthew Walsh, where I researched transgenerational plasticity and eye evolution in Daphnia.

Find me online: Twitter  Website  CV

Rachel Vargas

Graduate student (joined fall 2021)

I’m Rachel Vargas, I joined the Ravenscraft lab in the Fall of 2021 as a Ph.D. student. My current projects focus on the gut microbes associated with the spotted bird grasshopper (Schistocerca lineata) and the American bird grasshopper (Schistocerca americana). Some of my main interests are exploring how factors like diet, developmental stage, and different populations may contribute to the differences in their microbial composition. Identifying the ability of these gut-microbes to detoxify plant toxins is another aspect of research I wish to delve into. As an undergrad, I studied the immunological effects of autotomy on a species of brown wolf spiders (Tigrosa helluo) at St. Edward’s University where I graduated with a BS in Biology in 2020. For my dissertation I hope to learn as much as I can about invertebrates-microbe symbioses, which are completely understudied for how amazing they are.

Find me online: Twitter  Website  CV

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JON ADAMSON

Lab technician (joined spring 2020)

I graduated magna cum laude from UTA in the Fall of 2019 with a major in Microbiology and a minor in Biochemistry.  I also have professional experience in plant health care and integrated pest management with respect to ornamental flowers, shrubs, and tress.  My goal is to combine these disciplines with agricultural science to improve crop performance and soil health.  I joined as a lab tech in late Summer 2020 and have since become enthralled by the interplay between insect pests, their microbial symbionts, and the plants the pests eat.  I do a little bit of everything around here, from raising plants to sequencing microflora samples.  When I have free time I am usually tending my lawn and gardens, fixing/building things around the house,  or simply enjoying time with my wife and pets on the couch. 

Staff

Undergraduates

LILLIAN STORM

Honors thesis project (joined fall 2022)

Hello! My name is Lillian Storm. I am a senior at UTA pursuing my BS in Microbiology. I am also a part of the Uteach program which means I will be certified to teach junior high and high school when I graduate. Currently, I am working on my honor's senior thesis at Ravenscraft lab. My project is comparing different methods for introducing Burkholderia into Leptoglossus’ environment in the lab to find the method with the highest efficacy. I will be presenting my findings at the honors research symposium in November 2022. After graduating I plan on teaching the next generation of budding scientists. 

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ADRIANA BAILEY

Undergraduate research assistant (joined summer 2022)

I am currently working on obtaining a BS in both Biology and Microbiology. I am easily intrigued by everything I have learned in my educational journey, however, I currently have particular interest in molecular work. I am currently assisting in a pesticide degradation project that involves Burkholderia, a symbiont in the microbiome of the leaf-footed bug, Leptoglossus.

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SAMANTHA MARTINEZ

Undergraduate research assistant (joined summer 2022)

I am entering my senior year as a Microbiology major at UTA. I joined the lab during the summer of 2022. I am interested in further understanding symbiotic relationships with microbes found in nature and how we can utilize these interactions to better our world. I am currently assisting on a cost-benefit study, examining how the fitness of Burkholderia is impacted through its symbiosis with the leaf-footed bug. In my free time I enjoy going to concerts, traveling, and hanging out with friends.

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JEREMY WILSON

Undergraduate research assistant (joined summer 2022)

Hi there! I’m a senior microbiology major who is currently researching gut microbial community composition in the grasshoppers Schistocerca americana and Schistocerca lineata. I joined the Ravenscraft lab in Summer of 2022 and am still learning and gaining experience in research. In my spare time I enjoy cooking, painting and taking care of my house plants.

Alumni

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LEILANI LILLY

Undergraduate research assistant & LSAMP student (Jan 2020-Dec 2021)

Leilani majored in microbiology and was interested in symbiotic and parasitic relationships between microbes and their hosts. She was also a part of the Campus Cat Coalition; she helped feed cats on the UTA campus and get them fixed. She joined Ravenscraft Lab in Fall 2019 and worked on several projects, including an experiment rearing bugs with different Burkholderia strains and a comparative summary of similarities and differences between the bug-Burkholderia and legume-Rhizobium symbioses. Leilani is currently a research associate at SRFC Bio. In her spare time she enjoys hiking, baking, and reading.

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ARSHYA TEHRANI

Undergraduate research assistant (Jan 2020-May 2021)

Arshya earned a double Major in Microbiology and Biology. He worked on projects including calculation of the growth speed of the lab's Burkholderia isolates at different temperatures and an experiment rearing bugs with different Burkholderia strains. He is now a PhD student in Boll Lab studying antimicrobial resistance. Outside of the lab he enjoys walking his 2 dogs, going for runs outside and playing video games.

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SHAIKH ULLAHANSARI

Undergraduate research assistant (Jan-Dec 2020)

Shaikh is a biochemistry major. During his time in Ravenscraft Lab he researched the differences in benefits conferred to hosts by different strains of Burkholderia and also managed to overcome his fear of bugs! Shaikh is now a member of the Joint Admission Medical Program (JAMP) and hopes to go to medical school. In his free time, he often finds himself playing basketball and watching sports highlights, cooking, and helping his mom tend the garden.