Lab Alumni

Graduate students

Jimena Golcher Benavides, PhD student

Jimena defended her PhD in the Program in Ecology at the University of Wyoming in Summer 2021. She came to the lab with extensive background in tropical biology, particularly fieldwork in her native Costa Rica and in Nicaragua. Jimena managed and led an impressive amount of fieldwork in Lake Taganyika, and also has gained funding for her work from the Society for the Study of Evolution, among other sources. She worked on community diversity and evolution in Tanganyikan cichlids. She is now a Fisheries Research Technician at Iowa State University.

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Jessica Rick, PhD student

Jessi started her PhD in the Program in Ecology at UW in Fall 2016 after finishing a masters in Integrative Biosciences at the University of Minnesota – Duluth in 2015. She worked previously on population genetics of insects and wolves, and worked in the Wagner Lab on the genomics of African Nile Perch and sardines, as well as becoming involved in a diversity of other projects on arctic char, African small mammals, cichlids, and others. Jessi was very successful in attaining independent funding for her work, and is the recipient of grants from the Society of Systematic Biologists, the Wyoming Biodiversity Institute, and NASA, among others. She received a Postdoctoral Fellowship in Biology from the National Science Foundation, and will be starting her own lab as a tenure-track assistant professor at the University of Arizona in Fall 2023!


Alex Lewanski, MS student / Research Technician

Alex defended his MS in the Wagner Lab at the University of Wyoming in Fall 2021. Alex worked on using genomic data to reconstruct history in a case study of cichlid speciation, integrating diverse methods in population genomics and phylogenetics. During his MS Alex also became interested in functional trait diversity and questions in evolutionary community assembly, and after defending his MS he began working as part of the EcoSTOICH project on questions integrating functional and phylogenetic trait diversity in the context of understanding the evolution and functioning of stoichiometric traits. He worked as a research technician on the EcoSTOICH project for one year, and in Fall 2022 began a PhD at Michigan State University working with Sarah Fitzpatrick.

Lucia Combrink, MS Student

Lucia began her masters in Fall 2019 after finishing a BA in Biology at Westmont College in California. She worked on introduced trout populations in alpine lakes in the Wind River Range, seeking to better understand their ecological interactions and investigating adaptation in these populations since their introduction. This project is a collaboration with the Walters, Krist, and Shuman labs, funded by a Science Initiative Seed Grant. Although having grown up in the tropics, Lucia loved windy and cold Wyoming! She was particularly enthusiastic about the extended fieldwork in beautiful alpine Wyoming terrain that her MS project entailed. She is now a PhD student in Dolph Schluter’s Lab at the University of British Columbia.



Liz Mandeville, Postdoc

Liz Mandeville joined the lab in summer 2016 to work on a project in collaboration with Annika Walters and the Wyoming Game and Fish Department, to look at hybridization between rainbow trout and native Yellowstone cutthroat trout in the North Fork Shoshone, and also collaborated with the lab on cichlid genetic work. She completed her PhD in UW’s Program in Ecology in 2016, working with Alex Buerkle on hybridzation genetics in catostomid fishes. Liz started her position as an Assistant Professor at the University of Guelph in Ontario, Canada in January 2019. Check out what her lab is up to here!


Chad Brock, Postdoc

Chad joined the lab in February 2017, and worked on using genomic data to infer details of the evolutionary history of African cichlid radiations. His project continues to link Wagner lab work with that of the Seehausen group, and Chad spent time working in Switzerland as part of this collaboration. Chad completed his PhD at the University of Texas, Austin, and prior to that completed a master’s degree at Washington State University. He is now an assistant professor at Tarleton State University in Texas.

Undergraduate Students


Karly Higgins, Undergraduate Research Assistant

Karly worked in the lab from Fall 2016-Spring 2017, associated with Liz Mandeville’s project on Yellowstone cutthroat trout x Rainbow trout hybridization. Karly graduated in Spring 2017, and is now a PhD student at the University of California, Merced, in their Quantitative and Systems Biology Program, pursing her dream of researching issues in marine conservation.


Brittany Nordberg, Undergraduate Wyoming Research Scholar

Brittany began working in the lab in Fall 2015 as a Wyoming Research Scholar. She worked on understanding the evolutionary history of Nile Perch species with genetic tools, and she also took on a major role in our Yelllowstone cutthroat trout work by conducting a field season doing spawning surveys, and compiling 100 years of information about stocking in the North Fork Shoshone. Brittany graduated in fall 2017 and is gaining additional field experiences as a fisheries field technician prior to starting grad school. She published a paper in the North American Journal of Fisheries Management about her work on stocking in the North Fork Shoshone in 2021!


Reid Olson, Undergraduate Research Scholar

Reid joined the lab in summer 2018 as an INBRE undergraduate research fellow, and a Wyoming Research Scholar. He is worked together with Chad Brock to analyze whole genome data of East African cichlid fishes, in particular focusing on understanding the history and implications of hybridization on diversification in East African cichild radiations. After graduating in 2020 Reid started a job at WEST.

Rebecca Hinds-Collins, Undergraduate Researcher

Rebecca started working in the lab as a McNair Scholar in summer 2020. She used stomach contents and stable isotopes to analyze diet in trout from two focal lakes in the Wind River Range with populations of golden trout, Yellowstone cutthroat trout, and their hybrids, to test for potential diet partitioning among species and their hybrids. Her work was funded by a Vern Bressler Scholarship. Rebecca presented her research at multiple conferences, including winning the President’s Award for best presentation at the University of Illinois McNair Symposium. This introduction to research in stable isotope analysis led Rebecca to a job at the UW Stable Isotope Facility after her graduation in spring 2021. In 2022, Rebecca started a MS in Botany working on stable isotope ecology with the Williams Lab. Way to go Rebecca!

Lab supporters


Kiwi, mascot

Kiwi acted as a supporter of science and exploration of all kinds for her 10 years in PI Katie’s life. From the depths of grad school to launching my career as a PI in Wyoming, Kiwi was there offering her support and enthusiasm for science, sticks, digging, and snow. She touched the lives of many people, and we miss her.