Lab Members

Alex Franzen

PhD Student  (2020 – Present)

Alex Franzen

My interests are in the conservation of biological diversity and factors governing the ecology, evolution, and distribution of biological communities. The imperiled freshwater bivalves in the order Unionida (freshwater mussels) exhibit an amazing and unique diversity of natural histories. I am intrigued by the parasitic relationship these animals possess with fishes, many of which are not well understood. Luckily, modern molecular tools are becoming readily available to better understand evolutionary processes and aid conservation efforts. My dissertation research blends evolutionary ecology and conservation genomics to support freshwater mussel conservation. Freshwater mussels will serve as a model system to use modern genomics to investigate the evolution of host use and its effect on diversification and ecology. Additionally, I hope to contribute to the development of molecular and morphological tools to assist in the identification of cryptic taxa. Outside of the laboratory, I am a University of Minnesota alum, avid cyclist, birder, and craft beer connoisseur.

Ed Higgins

PhD Student  (2017 – Present)

Ed Higgins

I am interested in how animal-provided ecosystem services can be used as a policy tool to promote conservation of freshwater systems. My current research is investigating interactions between freshwater mussels, the microbiome they host, and the microbiome of the riverbed. I will also be investigating the impact that scientists and scientific societies can have in federal science policy. Outside of research, I recently completed an internship at the National Science Board Office in Washington DC and actively participate in outreach activities to communicate the importance of basic research to the public.  

 

Jonathan Lopez

PhD Student  (2017 – Present)

Jonathan Lopez

I am interested in research that builds a case for the conservation of freshwater mussels, especially focusing on the role they play in cycling biologically important nutrients. I find aquatic-terrestrial linkages via nutrient cycles particularly fascinating. I am also interested in the complex life cycles of these animals, and how the ecology of mussels changes from parasitic larval stage, to the juvenile stage and the long-lived adult stage.