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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


Graduate Students

Alex Worm
Ph.D. Student
co-advised with Than Boves)

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

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)
Brian Photo.jpg

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

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

Undergraduate Students

Salma Abdel-Karim

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.

Paige Jennings
Anahi Garcia Valdez
Jasmine Jones

Lab Alumni

Malena Ayala (Summer Undergraduate Research): Undergrad at Dalhousie University
Callie Beaird-Campbell (ABI Intern and Post-grad Researcher): Educator
Mikayla Westman-Forbes (Undergraduate): Recent A-State graduate
Joe Green (Undergraduate): Accounting major at A-State 
Kendall Lee (Undergraduate): U.S. Air Force 
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