Postdoctoral Fellows

aaron david

Aaron David

Aaron is interested in how plant-microbe interactions influence plant conservation and restoration. Specifically, his work considers how plant-soil feedbacks affect the demography of endangered plants. He is conducting his research at Archbold Biological Station, which boasts populations of several listed plant species endemic to Florida. Aaron is a member of both the Afkhami and Searcy labs. To learn more about Aaron’s interests and experiences please see his website!

Graduate Students

blessingBlessing Mutiti

Blessing is excited to be joining the lab beginning in August 2017. She is looking forward to the prospects of working on a project that can help to broadly understand the role of below-ground mutualisms in driving or limiting the establishment of rare or endemic plants in novel habitats.  She is fascinated about the complexity of mycorrhizae and rhizobium and describes it as the study of “logistics of below ground highways of nutrients.”  Her interests in this subject were inspired by her post graduate research where she worked on an endemic plant system found in one of the world’s biodiversity hot spots: South Africa’s Core Cape Subregion. In this study, she tested the effects of cultivation on the assemblage and abundance of mutualistic rhizobia associated with an endemic tea plant called rooibos (see her research here ).

damianDamian Hernandez

Damian is a PhD student interested in understanding the crosstalk between plants and their microbiome at a molecular/systems level. He became interested in molecular plant biology while completing his Master’s thesis on transcriptional complexes in hormone-mediated immune responses. He would like to continue researching molecular plant biology, but with a focus on plant-microbe interactions and the regulation of their underlying molecular network.

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Brianna Almeida

Brianna will be joining the lab in August 2017. She is fascinated by the mechanism that shape different levels of biodiversity. This stems from her previous work in a seed bank germination study from different possible restoration areas in the Dinner Island Ranch wildlife
management area. She is interested in how plants interactions with mycorrhizae may influence distributions and diversity of different
plant communities.


Kasey Kikasey2esewetter

Kasey is a PhD student broadly interested in understanding the effects of the climate change on communities. She became interested in community ecology during her undergraduate study where she wrote her honors thesis on phenological mismatch in ant mediated seed dispersal. She would like to continue researching community interactions but focusing on how plant-microbe interactions influence communities and their effects for conservation and restoration. Currently, Kasey is investigating the impact of fragmentation on herbivore-microbe interactions in the imperiled Pine Rocklands of Southern Florida (2% remaining of habitat).

Visiting Scientists

Chapmannia floridana.jpg

Khum at Archbold Biological Station doing some field work in the Florida scrub!

Khum Thapa Magar

Khum is interested in understanding the effect of positive interactions on the species distribution and coexistence.  Particularly, he wants to work in xeric scrub communities, where dominant cushion species locally maintain suitable micro-environments allowing other species easily to colonize and plant-microbial mutualism ameliorate the biotic and abiotic stress to expand the species niche and range. Currently, he is conducting greenhouse experiments to understand role of mycorrhizal fungi in protecting germination of Florida scrub’s rare and endemic species from allelopathic effect of Ceratiola ericoids (Florida rosemary).

Undergraduate Students


Sathvik-001Sathvik Palakurty

Sathvik is an undergraduate student pursuing a degree in Biology and Mathematics (Applied). He is interested in emerging systems biology approaches to complex problems and is currently using coexpression network analyses of RNAseq data to ask about the molecular basis of Multiple Mutualist Effects.

unnamed2Adriana Bolaños 

Adriana is currently a sophomore from Ponce, Puerto Rico majoring in Biology, pre-med track.  Living on a tropical island filled with beautiful flora made Adriana particularly interested in ecological research. In the future, she plans to investigate the fields of climate change and global warming.

IMG_3165 (2)Diego Torres-Lugo

Diego was born and raised in Arecibo, Puerto Rico and is currently a sophomore majoring in Biology at the University of Miami. He’s interested in community ecology, evolution, and conservation biology and has a “taste for adventure and field work”.

Picture2Shivam Khosla 

Shivam was born and raised in Chicago, Illinois and will be a junior majoring in Biology and Economics at the University of Miami. He first became interested in Ecology after taking a few Ecology classes and my interests further expanded to include community interactions and the genetic aspect of community relationships. He is interested in hands on work and hope to continue researching and obtain a doctoral degree further along in his career.





Mackenzie Smyth & Adriana Bevilacqua

collecting data on Florida Scrub endemic plant seeds!

Mackland Steele  


Lab Pet

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Chloe on a 6-mile hike in California’s Coast Range.


Epichloë (aka Chloe)

Chloe, named after the fungal endophyte Epichloë, is a “fluffy” corgi. She has been with Michelle since grad school and is excited for any and all attention!