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Principal Investigator

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Drew Sweet

Assistant Professor of Evolutionary Biology
Department of Biological Sciences
Arkansas State University
Jonesboro, AR USA

Email: asweet@astate.edu
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Graduate Students

Alex Worm
Ph.D. Student
(
co-advised with Than Boves)
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I’m a central Arkansas native that is turning a lifelong love of the natural world into a research career. I earned my BS in Wildlife Ecology and Management from A-State in 2013. During undergrad, I conducted research on over-wintering Red-tailed Hawks and American Kestrels. I joined the Boves Lab at A-State in 2014 to work on range expansion and hybridization of Scissor-tailed Flycatchers and Western Kingbirds for my MS in Biology. After graduating in 2017, I worked as an instructor at Hendrix College and A-State and as an avian tech with NC Wildlife Resources Commission. I returned to A-State to join the Sweet and Boves Labs to continue work with Tyrant Flycatchers for my Ph.D. Specifically, I will be continuing research on the hybridization between Scissor-tailed Flycatchers and Western Kingbirds, incorporating whole-genome sequencing. Another aspect of my work will focus on comparing co-phylogenetic divergence of a clade of kingbirds and their ectoparasites.

Paige Brewer
M.S. Student
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I am from Walnut Ridge, a rural town in northeast Arkansas. I am currently an M.S. student in Biology at A-State. In Dr. Sweet’s Lab I am helping to build an ectoparasite database and collection to document the biodiversity of bird lice in Arkansas. Additionally, we are sampling birds in various environments to measure the interactions and dispersal of different lice species. I am also learning how to analyze genetic data to answer questions about the evolution of lice. In academia I enjoy learning about ecological interactions and evolutionary processes and how these impact conservation decisions. Aside from school, I like to spend my time being in nature, cooking, and exercising. 

Brian Okwiri
Ph.D. Student
(co-advised with Brook Fluker)
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My research and academic backgrounds are in aquatic research. During my undergraduate, I focused on aquaculture and wetlands. After I graduated, I worked at National Museums of Kenya as an intern where I did a lot of field expeditions and lab work focused on specimen collection, identification, and taxonomy. I then proceeded to University of Chinese Academy of Sciences (in China) for my master’s in science degree in Zoology that was focused on taxonomy of catfishes of Lake Turkana using integrative taxonomy methods. I then joined Bowling Green State University for a master’s in science degree in Biology (Ecology) focused on understanding various aspects of the reproductive ecology of smallmouth bass of Pallette Lake in Wisconsin. I am currently in Arkansas State University at the Fluker and Sweet Labs working on the systematics of rosyface shiner (Notropis rubellus) in the Ouachita River. My work focuses on collecting and analyzing genetic data to re-evaluate the Notropis rubellus species group. I also use the genetic data generated to assess the genetic structure, variation, and estimate the effective population size of the Ouachita River population.

Nora Hines
Ph.D. Student
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I am from Walker Valley, New York, and am a PhD student at A-State. I completed my BS in Environmental Studies at Binghamton University, where I hopped around from research on Arabidopsis thaliana to studying biodiversity disease relationships among wetland amphibians, until I finally landed on studying the effects of targeted gardens on pollinator abundance and diversity. I am excited to be a part of the Sweet Lab where I will be studying the population genetics of northern cardinals and their lice throughout the different ecoregions of Arkansas!

Colleen Hurst
Ph.D. Student
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I am from Fort Collins, CO. I graduated from Colorado State University with a degree in Conservation and Wildlife Biology and spent the next four years doing field work on various projects across the western United States. My main area of research interest is disease ecology in the face of a changing world and the selective influence hosts and parasites have on one another. My project is focusing on novel nematode infection and range expansion in Arctic grouse and ptarmigan. I'm interested in exploring parasite-host coadaptation, host immune responses, and coinfection dynamics. 

Undergraduate Students

Salma Abdel-Karim
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My name is Salma Abdel-Karim, and I am from Jonesboro, AR. I am currently an undergraduate student at A-State, and I am majoring in Biology and Chemistry, with a pre-professional emphasis. I hope to attend medical school after I complete my undergraduate education in order to become a physician. In the Sweet lab, I am analyzing the mitochondrial genomes of lice and helping to sequencing DNA from arthropods.

Anahi Garcia Valdez
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My name is Anahi Garcia Valdez, originally from Guanajuato, Mexico. I have been residing in Jonesboro, AR since 2018. Currently, I am an undergraduate student at A-State, majoring in Chemistry with a focus on Pre-Pharmacy and a minor in Spanish. My aspirations include attending medical school to become a pediatric physician or pursuing a master's and PhD in Chemistry. In the Sweet Lab I am studying insects in northeast Arkansas by analyzing DNA to understand genetic diversity among different insect groups. I am also assisting with a research project on nematode infection and range expansion in Arctic grouse and ptarmigan.

Paige Jennings
Tra Le
Jasmine Jones
Kendall Lee

Lab Alumni

Sofia Ten Gonzalez (Visiting Scholar): PhD Candidate at University of Valencia
Anahi Garcia Valdez (NYIT COM SHARE High School Student): Chemistry major at A-State
Malena Ayala (Summer Undergraduate Research): Undergrad at Dalhousie University
Callie Beaird-Campbell (ABI Intern and Post-bac Researcher): Educator
Mikayla Westman-Forbes (Undergraduate): Recent A-State graduate
Joe Green (Undergraduate): Accounting major at A-State 
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