The Faculty and Staff of the Department of Biology extends our warmest congratulations to the Class of 2020. With so much turned upside down in our world right now, we wanted to find a way to recognize the accomplishments of our graduates in light of a postponed commencement ceremony. Please browse through the names of our graduates below, categorized by degree, read up on our undergraduate and graduate award winners, and click on the green button below for memories and accomplishments shared by the graduates themselves. We are so proud of all of your accomplishments, and we can't wait to celebrate with you in person once UVM's commencement ceremonies have been rescheduled.

    Class of 2020 Memories >>


    Each spring, the Department of Biology recognizes five outstanding seniors, selected for their academic performance and research accomplishments during their undergradaute years. Normally we would honor them in a departmental ceremony and luncheon for their families, along with a formal presentation of awards with the College of Arts and Sciences. Closures due to COVID-19 have unfortunately prevented us from carrying out this tradition for the Class of 2020. Please read below about the awardees' accomplishments and join us in celebrating their success.

    George Perkins Marsh Award in Ecology or Evolution: Jessica Crooker

    Honors Thesis: "Stage and Population Specific Salinity Tolerance in Acartia tonsa Copepods
    Research Interests and Future Goals: I'm planning to continue in research in biology and living systems, and to pursue graduate level studies in this area. I have a lot of interest in genetics and microbiology, so I hope to be able to continue to use the skills and knowledge I've gained doing population genomics and ecological research throughout my career in science.
    Comments from Dr. Melissa Pespeni, Research Mentor: I am delighted that Jessica Crooker has been selected to receive our prestigious George Perkins Marsh Award this year. George Perkins Marsh warned about climate change, describing the impacts of deforestation on weather systems, decades before the beginnings of the conservation movement in this country. 170 years later, Jessica, in the Department of Biology at the University of Vermont, designed her honors thesis research to better understand how an ecologically foundational species will weather the storms that have become increasingly frequent and intense in the global conditions Marsh foretold. Using the coastal copepod, Acartia tonsa, Jessica took meticulous care to collaboratively develop a new, low-salinity tolerance assay. She designed her studies to integrate her interests in genetics, physiology, development, and evolution and test hypotheses about variation in low salinity tolerance among populations along a broad latitudinal gradient and across life-history stages of the copepod. She found that populations from Florida, the area with greatest storm intensities and frequencies, survived at much lower salinities than populations from New York and Maine. Surprisingly, she also uncovered that the juvenile life stage was most sensitive to low salinity, relative to babies and adults, particularly in the northern populations. As all good research does, Jessica’s work turned answers into more questions and revealed lessons in resilience along the way. Jessica’s experiment certainly didn’t work the first time, the second time, or even the third time. But with thoughtful determination, she refined her approaches and questions to yield new insights into genetic and developmental variation in these critical adaptive traits present in natural, under-studied populations.
    Jessica’s membership in my lab group over the last year and half yielded more than important research results; she built friendships, shared knowledge through training other students, and cultivated happy copepods and more data through her collaborations and willingness to assist in animal care and experiments for several other ongoing projects in the lab. She was a delight to have in lab meetings, not only for her delicious baked goods, but also for her thoughtful contributions to paper discussions, practice presentations, and brainstorming sessions. I am excited to see what answers and questions she turns over next in her pursuits of a PhD and MD.
    About the Award: George Perkins Marsh is regarded as the founder of the environmental movement with his 1864 publication of Man and Nature, which is still in print. The book influence many important scientific and political figures, including Theodore Roosevelt, and some argue that it was this influence that led President Roosevelt to establish the National Park system. The Marsh farm was a model for sustained agriculture and was later purchased by Frederick Billings, who set out to test Marsh’s ideas. The Marsh-Billings Farm is now a national park, the first and only in Vermont. Marsh was also a diplomat, holding the record for longest service to our nation, and was the primary designer of the Washington Monument. The Marsh Life Science building is named in his honor.

    George M. Happ Award in Biology: Benjamin Recchia

    Honors Thesis: "Strategies for Enhancing Zoological Best Practices"
    Research Interests and Future Goals: I plan to research education and conservation in zoos and aquariums while pursuing a Masters of Science in Zoo Conservation Biology at the University of Plymouth, UK.
    Comments from Dr. Deborah Blom, Research Mentor: When approaching his last semester in college, Ben had nearly exhausted the zoology-related courses at UVM, and, in talking to him about his aspirations, I suggested he undertake some different experiences to expand upon what he learned in the classroom. He decided to develop his teaching skills further through a series of teaching assistantships and further explore his future career goal to be a zoo professional through independent study. For his independent study, Ben first explored the idea of visiting professionals at zoos and aquariums to learn about ways they are enhancing their best practices.
    After determining that his original project idea would usurp too much of the zoos’ and aquariums’ resources, Ben designed an independent study in which he dove deeply into the literature around zoo best practices and completed over 75 professional development courses available through the World Association of Zoos and Aquariums. Equally remarkable, for his final project, he synthesized all that he learned into a series of dense briefs which cited the principal literature on management, stewardship, husbandry, conservation, and education in zoos and aquariums. To continue on his trajectory towards a career as and zoological professional, Ben will attend a Master of Science program in zoo conservation biology at the University of Plymouth (UK) and the Paignton Zoo (a member of the Wild Planet Trust) beginning in September.
    About the Award: This award is presented to a student with outstanding academic performance in Biology. Dr. Happ arrived at the University of Vermont as a Professor and Chair of the Department of Zoology in 1978. He was instrumental in transforming the faculty to a teacher-scholar model and prioritized obtaining funding to stimulate research. His research interest focused on the physiology and immunology of dogs, and he has collaborated with the University of Alaska on prions in moose and caribou and avian disease.

    Kurt Milton Pickett Award: Riley O'Halloran

    Comments from Dr. Ingi Agnarsson and Dr. Laura May-Collado, Research Mentors: I met Riley in my BCOR12 during her first year at UVM, soon after that, she was one of the first undergraduate researchers joining the CURE lab where she dedicated her time to study humpback whale songs. Last year as part of a large collaboration Riley presented her work at the World Marine Mammal Conference and was also a co-author in a publication (  Riley is studying the song structure of humpback whales that migrate from Oregon, Washington, and California to reproduced in Central American waters. She is a hard working and passionate young scientist deserving of this recognition.
    About the Award: Kurt Milton Pickett arrived in the Biology Department as an Assistant Professor in 2007 and was promoted to Associate Professor shortly before his death in 2011 after a seven-year courageous struggle with cancer. Dr. Pickett was one of the world’s foremost experts in the systematics of wasps and the evolution of social behavior in insects, and traveled extensively to collect and observe wasps in a wide variety of habitats. His research combined the time-honored discipline of taxonomy with modern computationally-based molecular phylogenetics methods. During his too-short time at UVM he became highly respected for his probing intellect, dedication to science and teaching, and wonderful sense of life and humor. Dr. Pickett’s natural affection for his students at both the undergraduate and graduate level garnered him respect and admiration.

    Bernd Heinrich Award in Physiology or Evolution: Emily MacDonald

    Honors Thesis: "Establishing the Pharmacophore of Novel Synthetic Peptide Activators of cGMP-Dependent Protein Kinase"
    Research Interests and Future Goals: My research interests lie in the field of vascular physiology and its associated pharmacological interventions. My honors thesis examined the function of novel activators of PKG, an enzyme involved in blood vessel dilation. I look forward to pursuing my academic interests through both laboratory and clinical research. I plan to matriculate into medical school in 2021, where I hope to specialize in anesthesiology.
    Comments from Dr. Wolfgang Dostmann, Research Mentor: Emily MacDonald provided critical evidence for the development of First-In-Class cGMP-dependent protein kinase (PKG)-targeted therapies for the treatment of hypertension. There remains a significant unmet need for novel antihypertensive agents with improved efficacy and fewer side effects. None of the existing hypertension drugs target PKG, an enzyme critically responsible for mediating arterial dilation. A PKG-targeted therapy would establish a novel treatment for patients with uncontrolled blood pressure and may provide a clinically relevant alternative to the existing repertoire of antihypertensive therapies. Emily’s honors thesis project “Exploring the Pharmacophore of Novel Synthetic Peptide Activators of type 1 alphacGMP-Dependent Protein Kinase” contributed significant conceptual information to our understanding of the molecular features of these novel lead compounds.
    About the Award: Bernd Heinrich, Professor Emeritus of Biology, has been a member of Biology Department since 1980. He has a long career in science in ecological physiology, animal behavior, and evolutionary ecology. Dr. Heinrich is a popular teacher, and he still teaches the famous “Winter Ecology” course each year at his estate in the wilds of Maine. Dr. Heinrich has produced hundreds of publications in the best journals and is often regarded as one of the world’s foremost ecologists and naturalists. He has also written many award-winner books, including classics such as Bumblebee Economicsand Ravens in Winter. His biography of his family and his remarkable life, The Snoring Bird, is one of the best accounts of why children grow up to be biologists. He is a member of the American Academy of Arts & Sciences.

    Joan M. Herbers Award in Biology: Kate Ziegler

    Honors Thesis: "Singing Activity and Song Evolution of Southern Hemisphere Humpback Whales Wintering off the Gulf of Chiriqui, Panama"
    Research Interests and Future Goals: During my years at UVM, I developed a love for research. While my focus was on the acoustic behavior of humpback whales, I am interested in the marine sciences in general and I have a passion for environmental research that contributes to conservation and management efforts. In the future I hope to do field work researching whales or sharks. A little further down the road, I am thinking about applying to medical schools or going back to school for a teaching degree.
    Comments from Dr. Laura May-Collado, Resarch Mentor: Congratulations Kate! in receiving the Joan Herbers Award. Kate has dedicated two years of her undergraduate studies to the analysis of over 42,000 minutes of passive acoustic monitoring data to study the song structure of humpback whales wintering off the coast of Panama. Her work was presented last year at World Marine Mammal Conference in Barcelona and at UVM Student Research Conference, and she is currently working a manuscript for publication. Throughout my time working with Kate I have enjoy seeing her developing her resilience, passion, perseverance, and consistency, all key traits of a promising young scientist. I can’t wait to see where your passion for science will take you next.
    About the Award: Joan M. Herbers arrived at UVM in 1979 as the first tenure-track female Professor in the history of the Department of Biology, which is one of the oldest departments on campus, and quickly rose to full Professor, the highest rank for a faculty member. Her exciting classes drew wide praise from students, and Dr. Herbers mentored many undergraduate and graduate students in her laboratory and at field sites. Dr. Herbers has been for many years one of the world’s most important researchers in animal behavior, especially the social behavior of ants. Her landmark studies examine the factors driving the sex ratio, foraging behavior, and social organization within colonies. Her work has appeared in many publications. Dr. Herbers was named a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, one of the highest honors for an American scientist. She left UVM in 1993 to take a position as Chair of Biology at Colorado State University and subsequently Dean of Arts and Sciences at Ohio State University, where she remains as Professor of Biology. Professor Herbers has remained a close friend of the UVM Department of Biology to this day.

    Class of 2020 Graduates

    Bachelor of Arts in Biology

    Lillian M. Anderson
    Hailey V. Cray^
    Kristen E. Dougherty
    Irene L. Drew
    Elizabeth C. Dybas*
    Hannah C. Edmonds
    Kylie E. Elliott
    Timothy J. Ennis
    Brenna K. Finegan
    Jordyn M. Fofi
    Makenzie A. Hines
    Alexandra C. Hollander
    Lila I. Johnson
    Michael C. Kearney
    Taylor E. Lamarre
    Kari A. Lavalette
    Thu K. Le
    Ryan C. Lutrzykowski
    Emily E. MacDonald^
    Benjamin T. Moffat
    Owen P. Molind
    Carolyn R. Morshead
    Wyatt T. Mosher
    Erin L. Murphy*
    Alice C. Osiecki
    Sean Z. O'Sullivan
    Ryan C. Pratt
    Violet M. Radoncic
    Makayla A. Rounds
    Samuel S. Schorno
    Karl Schulz
    Robert C. Simon
    Abigail E. Smith
    Annie C. Spence
    Jack Sullivan
    Grace J. Tamposi
    Cameron J. Zagursky
    *Phi Beta Kappa
    ^Beta Beta Beta

    Bachelor of Arts in Zoology

    Alexandra R. Chase
    Elizabeth C. Chicarello

    Bachelor of Science in Biological Science

    Lajla Badnjevic
    Veronika M. Becker
    Melissa E. Beer
    Isabel S. Belash
    Olivia S. Berger
    Amara Chittenden
    Jessica R. Crooker*
    Caitlin C. Decara
    Baylee R. Duarte
    Amanda C. Holmsten
    Sami Itani
    Julia K. Ivarson
    Noah S. Jacobs-Rebhun
    Jhanavi H. Kapadia
    Sophia E. Kogut^
    Raymond Looney
    Lena L. Mak
    Jade L. McMillan
    Aenea C. Mead
    Braden J. Meyer
    Caliann C. Murray
    Alyssa P. Neuhaus
    Jonah T. Rehak
    Aliza M. Rosenkranz
    Zachary D. Sheets
    Adam J. Slamin
    Jared B. Smith
    Gretchen H. Thompson
    Sebastian J. Virga
    Jordan E. Walsh
    Bryan Williams
    Jiazheng Zhao
    Kate J. Ziegler*
    *Phi Beta Kappa
    ^Beta Beta Beta

    Bachelor of Science in Environmental Science

    Andrew D. Araneo
    Joanne F. Berger
    Meryl A. Braconnier*
    Emily A. Bridgers
    Lily A. Canavan
    Macy J. Chutoransky
    Timothy E. Foster
    Korbyn M. Gehlbach
    Madison R. Hajjar
    Elias S. Haworth
    Katherine R. Helmer
    Kristen N. Hemphill
    Siga K. Juozelskis
    Michael J. Keady
    Samuel A. Knapp
    Juliana M. Landis*
    Carly C. Mangan
    Caitlin M. McHugh*
    Alana K. Medeiros
    Hailey M. Muniz
    Meagan V. Ochtera
    Frank C. Piasecki
    Delaney R. Pluta
    Avery J. Reavis
    Sasha G. Rosen
    Matthew J. Saunders
    Phoebe M. Schwartz
    Brian T. Schwarzkopf
    Jack B. Templeton
    Anna E. Thomas
    Jack D. Walinski
    Ben M. Wasser
    *Phi Beta Kappa

    Bachelor of Science in Neuroscience

    Anya E. Alden
    Dina M. Alter
    Hannah E. Antonellis
    Corinne Atkinson
    Nicholas E. Bouffard
    Skylar M. Bouffard
    Ashley A. Brogan
    Miya S. Brown
    Hannah Bryant^
    Emily O. Burzynski
    Gianna E. Celenza
    Devin G. Champagne
    Jennifer L. Cook
    Styles J. Crawford
    Azilee J. Curl*
    Daniel D. DeBlieck
    Rory A. Decker
    Bridget A. Dews
    Julia K. Deziel
    Conor R. Dickson
    Leianna C. Dolce^
    Ryan D. Doncaster
    Meghan E. Draper
    Charlotte A. Evans*
    Casandra A. Gale
    Channing W. George
    Sophie W. Gibson
    Madeleine E. Givant
    Cooper M. Gonyaw
    Braelin A. Hanbridge
    MacKenzie S. King
    Anthony J. Lovezzola
    Shania M. Lunna
    Ariana Macz
    Erin M. McCafferty
    Julie A. Meloche
    Harriet R. Milligan
    Mikaela Natale
    Jennifer M. Powers
    Jamie H. Rienhimer
    Emma E. Russo
    Ashley L. Secor
    Alannah M. Sullivan
    Catherine R. Thorpe*
    Abigail B. Wootton*
    Reana L. Young
    Laura R. Ziemer
    *Phi Beta Kappa
    ^Beta Beta Beta

    Bachelor of Science in Zoology

    Sarah E. Boller
    Aidan Deluke
    Sonja M. Koblas
    Danielle M. McAree
    Riley A. O'Halloran
    Lydiana C. Pelletier
    Carly N. Sarbacker

    Master of Science in Biology

    Benjamin D. Block
    Emily A. Shore
    Lisa Chamberland

    Lisa Chamberland, Biology Department Graduate Teaching Assistant of the Year

    Lisa is an outstanding candidate for this award. Here in the Biology Department, she has taught a variety of courses, from basic first year courses such as Introductory Biology to advanced upper-level courses such as Field Zoology. In all of these classes, Lisa has received outstanding course evaluations. Students consistently describe her as patient, kind and accessible for anyone who needs help. At the same time, she is is authoritative and highly organized, so her lab sections run smoothly no matter how complicated the exercise. Lisa puts in extra time to work with students who need help, and she is admired and respected as a mentor and effective teacher across the campus.
    -Dr. Nicholas Gotelli, George H. Perkins Professor of Zoology
    Aside from being an excellent lab TA, Lisa has gone far and beyond both in the Field Zoology course and in advising undergraduate students in the lab. Lisa absolutely loves teaching and, for example, was happy to take over the lecture part of the course mid-semester in 2018. Not only was she able to successfully complete the course; the students raved about her performance as a teacher. Lisa also supervises undergraduate researchers in the lab, regularly four or more on a given semester. She trains them in imagin and DNA protocols and helps them with their research. She has, for example, contributed in major ways to three ongoing graduate projects, and will eventually co-author publicatios on all three. Taken together, Lisa is alread a model (fledgling) teacher-scholar, and I believe she truly merits recognition for all her work and selfless devotion to UVM undergraduate education.
    -Dr. Ingi Agnarsson, Howard Associate Professor of Natural History and Zoology
    I have observed Lisa's teaching on several occasions and have repeatedly been impressed by her ability to enthusiastically engage students, connecting classroom content to relevant, real-world applications. From her very first communication with students, introducting herself over email before the first lab meeting, she presents herself as an approachable, knowledgeable guide for the semester, sparking student curiosity through sharing a video of her study organism (net-casting spiders). During my visits, I have observed Lisa's excellent organization skills and her forethought in anticipating where students may encounter problems throughout the lab session. I have also witnessed Lisa's outstanding job facilitating discussions which prompt all students to talk and ask questions of each other. I believe this whole-class engagment occurs because of Lisa's enthusiasm, establishing a good rapport with students, and setting a respectful classroom climate.
    -Dr. Sarah Wittman, Lecturer of Biology