IRES fellows-Alumni

Mentor Alumni:

Samantha Lantz: PhD Student, Tulane University (2012-2016)

I am a graduate student in Jordan Karubian’s lab at Tulane University. I completed my MS in Dale Gawlik’s lab at Florida Atlantic University where I focused on environmental factors affecting prey availability to foraging wading birds in the Everglades. Since then, field jobs have taken me to Panama, Costa Rica, the Mariana Islands, and Australia, where I have worked on avian species including manakins and crows on questions involving sexual selection, female mate choice, dispersal, and more. My broad interests are in behavioral ecology and sexual selection. My PhD dissertation focuses on signal evolution and social environment during the nonbreeding season. My study system is the red-backed fairywren in the tropical savannas of the Northern Territory, Australia and in Queensland, Australia.

2017 Undergraduate Participants:

Lauren Hitt – Tulane University

LaurenI’m a sophomore at Tulane University double-majoring in Ecology & Evolutionary Biology and Classical Studies, plus I’m a Netflix and ultimate frisbee aficionado on the side. Growing up in Colorado, I’ve always loved exploring the outdoors and first became interested in a career in the sciences while volunteering at Denver Zoo. At Tulane, I’ve had the opportunity to travel to Alaska and perform research on threespine stickleback reproduction, but this will be my first experience working with birds. I hope to go on to a career in conservation or a similar field. I am so excited to gain more field experience this summer in Australia and to learn more about this incredible system!


Tess Kendrick – William and Mary
TessI am currently a sophomore at William and Mary studying Biology. An avid animal and nature lover, I grew up hiking and camping in the Blue Ridge Mountains and spent most of my weekends riding horses at a barn nearby. At William and Mary I am involved in research studying the effects of Mercury in zebra finches. I am also a member of the William and Mary Choir. I am very excited for this opportunity to participate in field research as well as to explore Australia!


Megan Massa – William and Mary

MeganI am a rising senior at the College of William and Mary majoring in Biology and minoring in Environmental Science. I am deeply curious about the aesthetics and behavior of animals, having studied scientific illustration at the National Museum of Natural History and worked as a naturalist in my local park. I also have a great passion for birds and birdwatching, which I discovered through the Bird Club of William and Mary. The chance to study visual signals and behavior in Australian birds is the perfect field experience for me!

Sam Hagler – Cornell University

Sam.jpgI study ecology and evolutionary biology at Cornell, and I have a strong interest in ornithology, animal behavior, and conservation biology. My love of birds and wildlife conservation started in fifth grade when I learned about peregrine falcons for the first time, but since then I’ve come to love just about any and all birds. At Cornell, I do research on sooty shearwater movements and avian hybrid zones, and I hope to do field research in the future on the evolution of cooperation in birds, especially cooperative raptors like Harris’s hawks. There is a special place in my heart for raptors, thrushes, fantails, and Lewin’s honeyeaters.

Jess Taylor – Cornell University

JessI’m a senior at Cornell University majoring in animal science but un-officially concentrating in wildlife. When I’m not studying I’m leading backpacking, rock climbing, or sea kayaking trips for Cornell Outdoor Education. My passion for animals and the outdoors combines pretty perfectly in wildlife research. I’m really interested in ecology and the different ways species interact with each other. In addition to my project on fairy wrens parasites in Australia I’ve also been able to do a project in Argentina on bone distribution in the Patagonian steppe looking for patterns in where scavengers choose to consume their food!

Toni Brown – Tulane University


2016 Undergraduate Participants

Darcy Gray: Tulane University

IMG_2601 Darcy is a sophomore who likes honey, bees, and guide dogs.

Facundo Fernadez-Duque: Cornell University

I’m a sophomore majoring in Biological Sciences, with a concentration in Systematics and Biotic Diversity. Growing up in Argentina, I developed an interested in biological science thanks the countless hours I spent playing in my father’s field site. My interest persisted through high school, where I got involved with ornithological research. Afterwards, I was fortunate enough to land here, where I’ve met an array of incredible people. I’m currently involved in a couple of projects at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology but look forward to this IRES and new research opportunities.

Trey Hendrix, Tulane University:

I am a sophomore at Tulane University majoring in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology. I am originally from Idaho and grew up doing a lot of outdoor activities like kayaking and hiking that drew me to nature. I also spend way too much time watching nature documentaries on the Internet. I have been involved in some laboratory research at Tulane concerning migratory birds and am excited to gain field experience in Australia. I currently hope to attend graduate school and continue my studies of ecology, but I am not sure what I would like to specialize in.


Elizabeth Ransone: William & Mary

Elizabeth is a sophomore studying Biology at the College of William & Mary. She is spending Spring 2016 studying abroad at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland. Her hometown is the small town of Mathews, Virginia, an old fishing community that gave her an appreciation for the conservation of native species. Her research career started at the Virginia Institute of Marine Science in high school, and she looks forward to continuing it in Australia!



Isabel Ritrovato: William & Mary

Hi! My name is Isabel (or Izzy), and I am a sophomore Biology and Environmental Science major at William and Mary. On campus, I currently work in the Applied Conservation and Ecological Research (ACER) lab where I am involved with a project that concerns the Endangered Species Act. I am interested in conservation and evolutionary biology and am hoping to branch out to other areas. IRES will be my first real experience in the field, and I am very excited to begin my research. Later on, I intend to continue with field research into graduate school. I love the outdoors, animals and plants of all kinds, hiking, and travelling, so I am naturally thrilled to have the chance to participate in IRES.


Sarah Toner: Cornell University

I’m a freshman at Cornell University, majoring in Biological Sciences with a concentration in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology. I started watching birds when I was 8 years-old, and my passion for birds has driven me to pursue a career in ornithology and research, particularly conservation biology and ecology. I’ve worked on bird and plant surveys at Seney National Wildlife Refuge, in my home state of Michigan, and I’ve contributed to several projects at the Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology, but I’m excited to be able to design and implement my own research project with IRES. I’m hoping to pursue a Ph.D. and continue researching many aspects of ornithology, biology, and ecology!

2014 Undergraduate Participants

Grace Ahn: Cornell University

IMG_4862My name is Grace (or Sora) and I was born and raised in the suburbs of Philadelphia, PA. I am a sophomore studying Neurobiology and Behavioral Sciences and Psychology at Cornell University and am currently in the Lust Lab researching the cognitive and linguistic deterioration of those diagnosed with early on-set Alzheimer’s Disease. I love to travel, eat good food, run in beautiful weather, and play the ukulele—but anything that involves being outdoors is great. I hope to continue work in behavioral and neurological research, but my time with the IRES program will definitely be a pivotal experience in deciding where to go from here. I’ve never had the chance to travel outside the continent, so spending the summer in Australia for my first research experience is something I’m really looking forward to.

Jake Durden: Cornell University






Ryan Cleland: College of William & Mary

RyanI am a junior at the College of William and Mary majoring in Biology.  I am from Virginia Beach, Virginia and love animals, the outdoors, and making movies. I intend to continue my passion for animals by pursuing a career in veterinary medicine.  While I have had a lot of hands-on experience with dogs and cats in preparing for this career path, I have been fascinated with birds since a young age.  This will be my first time conducting research, but I look forward to putting my years of bird watching and outdoors skills to the test!

Alex Gulachenski: Tulane University

IMG_4684I am a sophomore at Tulane University from Massachusetts pursuing a degree in Environmental Biology. I hope to eventually pursue a graduate degree in Microbiology. I enjoy exploring every type of music, be it at a concert or just on Spotify. I am also currently involved in a molecular ecology lab at Tulane University, however the IRES program is my first field research opportunity and I couldn’t be more excited!



Nicole Moody: Tulane University

IMG_0040Originally from a lake community in Michigan and more recently mountainous Utah, I’ve always had nature at my back door. A childhood of frog collecting and an innate fascination with the brain has led me to study Ecology and Evolutionary Biology and Neuroscience. I’ve conducted lab based research in cognitive endocrinology for over two years and I’m excited to gain my first field research experience as an IRES fellow this summer. I plan to attend graduate school and pursue a degree that combines my neurological and ecological passions.


Nathalie Moore: College of William & Mary

Nathalie MooreI am a freshman at the College of William and Mary, majoring in Biology and Environmental Science.  My family currently resides in Northern Virginia, but I have moved frequently enough that I consider myself a “free spirit”.  At a very young age, I knew I wanted to be a biologist; after working in a research lab at the Virginia Institute of Marine Science, I found my passion in environmental science and ecology.  I love to swim, hike, volunteer, and spend time in the great outdoors.  This summer will be my first field research experience and my first time leaving the country.  I plan on pursuing a graduate degree after graduation and hope to eventually enter the world of academia.

2013 Undergraduate Participants

Kathryn Grabenstein: Cornell University, returning from 2012!

Check out this video about the other 2013 fellows and their research down under.


Erik Iverson: Tulane University


I was raised in the San Francisco Bay Area and came to Tulane in 2011. I’ve always had a passion for biology, particularly zoology, and 8 years of Boy Scouts instilled in me a desire to work outdoors. Field work combines these passions, and I am excited to become more deeply involved in it as I work my way to grad school and beyond. The plan is to become a researcher, but the specialization has yet to be determined–so far, everything seems equally fascinating.



Vera Ivezic: Cornell University

veraI’m a sophomore attending Cornell University majoring in Biological Sciences with a concentration in Neurobiology and Behavior and (hopefully) a minor in Animal Science. I am from Bethesda, MD which is just right outside of Washington D.C. I’ve always loved animals, hence my non-stop watching of Animal Planet shows whenever I go to my grandparents’ house, and hiking. I initially thought about pursuing a Veterinary degree, but the courses I’ve taken and the research I’ve done on campus with weakly-electric fish has gotten me even more interested in behavioral research. I don’t know where I’ll be after I graduate, but I’m hoping that this experience will give me a better idea if field behavioral research is the career path for me.

Payton Phillips: College of William & Mary


As a sophomore here at William and Mary, I am studying Biology and Environmental Science. My love for animals and nature arose from my childhood in the mountains of Southwest Virginia. I have also always had a passion for traveling and am very excited to combine these interests while pursuing research in Australia. This will be my first real research experience, so I’m hoping to get a feel for field work. I have absolutely no clue what I want to do with my life, other than that I hope to work with animals and possibly be involved in Conservation. Hopefully, the IRES program will provide me with some insight.


Xander Rose: Tulane University

xanderHi! My name is Alexander Rose, though I go by Xander. I am attending Tulane University as a sophomore and majoring in Environmental Biology. Growing up in the lush, wet woods of Oregon’s Coast Range, I have long loved nature and the outdoors. Back home, I enjoyed hiking, keeping lots of pets and hunting as well. Now, in New Orleans, I love to bike and go see funk music! At Tulane, I have worked in a frog lab since the beginning of freshman year. Not entirely certain whether to become a research scientist or a biologist in some other vein, I hope this project will help me figure things out. At any rate, I intend on eventually going to graduate school.

Greg Tito: College of William & Mary

gregI am a junior at the College of William and Mary, and hail from the beautiful and excellent city of Richmond, Virginia. I love all aspects of nature, but I am particularly enthralled by birds. I currently intend to go to grad school to become an ornithologist, although almost any bird-related job would probably be fine with me. I’ve worked on a couple projects involving captive Zebra Finches, but this will be my first foray into field research. When not watching birds, I like to read almost anything, listen to old music, watch old movies, and consume tasty stuff.


Kat Zelak: Cornell University

katI am a junior at Cornell University double majoring in Animal Science and Natural Resources and minoring in Biology. I am from Rochester, NY which has blessed me with the most wonderful, nasally way of pronouncing pretty much everything. I enjoy reading for hours at a time, snow, bright colors, being outside, playing ice hockey, and I’m excited for my life skills gained as a Girl Scout summer camp counselor to be put to use in the real world when we rough it in Australia. I have done research on chemical and physical predatory cue recognition in Lunatia heros, the North Eastern moonsnail, but this will be my first large scale project. I’m not really sure where I will be in 5 years, but I know that I will definitely be doing something with wildlife conservation.

2012 Undergraduate Participants

Kelly O’Toole: College of William & Mary    

I am a sophomore at the College of William & Mary majoring in Anthropology and Biology. I have lived in Northern Virginia, fondly known as NOVA, my entire life. After deciding that I wanted to major in Anthropology when I was in eighth grade, I went on to W&M with intentions of focusing solely on cultural studies. It was only after my first semester that I discovered my love of biology and more specifically my interest in behavioral ecology. The IRES red-backed fairy-wren program is the first biological research project in which I have participated, so I am looking forward to getting started! In addition, I am very involved in community service, and I spend a great deal of time volunteering at my local animal shelter. I’m also an avid runner, reader, and music lover!

Tess Curry: College of William & Mary    

I am a sophomore at William & Mary majoring in Biology and minoring in Music. I am from Potsdam, NY, a small town close to the Canadian border. I love to play the piano, as well as hike, swim, play soccer, and basically do anything else outside. I have researched the Spruce Grouse in the Adirondacks and the effects of hurricanes on the William & Mary College Woods. After graduating, I plan on attending graduate school and becoming a High School Biology teacher.



Mitchell Hinton: Tulane University

I am a Junior at Tulane University, majoring in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology. Though I have lived in 8 different states throughout my life, I graduated high school in Los Angeles, CA. I first became extremely interested in ecology and evolution (specifically behavioral ecology) during my introductory Biology class here at Tulane, and soon thereafter found myself on the path towards ecological research. Since then I have worked as a volunteer at the Audubon Zoo in New Orleans, and I am currently conducting research on the amphibian fungal disease chytridiomycosis in Dr. Richards-Zawacki’s lab here at Tulane in addition to my involvement in this IRES behavioral project. Upon graduation I will pursue a Phd in ecology and evolutionary biology, with the ultimate goal of professorship and a career in behavioral research.

Kathleen Riley: Tulane University

I am a sophomore at Tulane university double majoring in Ecology/Evolutionary Biology and Anthropology. I plan to attend graduate school and ultimately earn a PhD. I am very interested in bird species and have participated in research on Brown Pelicans.




Kathryn Grabenstein: Cornell Univerity

I’m a sophomore Biology major at Cornell University concentrating in Neurobiology and Behavior. I’ve spent the vast majority of my life in the beautiful state of Tennessee but I was originally born in Chicago. Implications? I’m 100% accent free and I say “pop”, not coke, or soda, or cola, etc. While I’ve been fascinated with animals pretty much from birth, running around the backcountry woods of East Tennessee gave me a greater appreciation for nature and all its intricacies than steel-studded skyscrapers ever could have. As far as interests go, I enjoy cooking/baking, hiking, gardening, reading (though my “must read” list hasn’t gotten any shorter over the years), soccer, and photography. I currently work in Mike Webster’s lab out at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology where I use molecular techniques to determine paternity in Red-backed Fairy-wren populations. After graduation, I would like to attend graduate school and pursue a degree in the life sciences.

Rose Tarsio: Cornell University

I am a junior at Cornell University majoring in Animal Science and minoring in Biology. Most of my life has been spent in Southwest, Florida but I am originally from Nyack, New York. I have always loved animals; my love for animals has led me to set my journey on attending veterinary school. I plan to focus on research in reproduction and behavior while in graduate school. I’m excited for the fairy wren project and this will be my first approach to research. Some of my interests include improvising on the piano, cooking, traveling, volunteering, and wildlife conservation.