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The Bruns lab


May 2023: Rayshaun, Andrea, Sam H, Sam S, Dalia, Mackenzie, Emme, Eirena, Yanelyn

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Emme Bruns, PI

Emme got her start in plant disease ecology at the University of California Santa Cruz.  She did her Ph.D. with Dr. Georgiana May at the University of Minnesota, studying constraints to oat crown rust virulence evolution.  She went on to a post-doc with Dr. Janis Antonovics at the University of Virginia, studying disease dynamics at species range limits in the Alps.  She started as an Assistant Professor in the Department of Biology at the University of Maryland in January 2020. 



Sam Slowinski, Postdoc

Sam S. is an evolutionary biologist and disease ecologist.  He is working on the evolution of age-specific susceptibly and pathogen adaptation to temperature.  Check out his website to learn about his cool prior work on experimental host-parasite coevolution in nematodes and impacts of migration on disease in birds:


Sam Hulse, Postdoc

Sam H. is a quantitative evolutionary biologist with a background in sexual selection and applied mathematics from the University of Maryland, Baltimore County. He is working on resistance correlations grant, developing evolutionary models of general and specific resistance.


Yanelyn Perez,  Graduate student

Yanelyn is a PhD student in the BEES concentration of the BISI program. Her research interests center on pathogen competition and the evolution of host-specialization.  For her PhD she is using the Dianthus-Microbotryum system in the western Italian Alps to investigate the ecological and evolutionary factors shaping pathogen host breadth.  A native of LA, she graduated of the University of California-Santa Barbara, where she majored in biology and spent three years researching different aspects of the frog killing fungus, Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis.


Andrea Shirdon, lab manager

Andrea joined the lab in June 2022 after graduating in Biology from UMD with a concentration in ecology and evolution. She oversees several large greenhouse and field projects related to the age project. Prior to joining the lab, Andrea worked with the Bely lab for 3 years, completing an honors thesis (with high honors!) on freshwater annelids. 


Eirena Li, Honors student

Eirena is a senior in the Biology honors program.  For her honors project she is using families of Silene latifolia and isolates of its smut pathogen Microbotryum lychnidis-dioica from its native range in Europe  to investigate how variation in pathogen infectivity varies with host genotype and age.  


Rayshaun Petit, Honors student

Rayshaun is a senior in the Biology honors program.  For his honors project he is investigating the effects of host age and phylogenetic distance on sporidial conjugation rates in the fungal pathogen Microbotryum lychnidis-dioica, specialized to  Silene latifolia. 


Dalia Chen, Honors student

Dalia is junior plant sciences major in the Biology honors program.  Her thesis project is focused on the effects of temperature on the growth and infectivity of the smut pathogen Microbotryum lychnidis-dioica. Dalia is approaching this from a combination of in vitro assays of fungal growth under different temperatures, as well as greenhouse and field inoculation studies. 

Emma Yockman, Senior research student

Emma is senior majoring in Biology with a concentration in ecology and evolution. For her project, she is investigating the effect of intra-specific density of seedlings on transmission dynamics of the anther-smut fungus Microbotryum lychnidis-dioica. 

Hailey Papagjika, Senior research student

Hailey is senior majoring in Biology. For her project, she is investigating the effect of host sex on the transmission of anther smut disease in Silene latifolia. Her summer REU project quantified spores production on cut flower arrays that varied in sex ratio to test pollinator sex preferences.  She is currently working to test the specific susceptibility of different families of S. latifolia. 

Lab alumni

Allyson Kido 
Lab manager extraordinaire for two years.  Now a masters student in the iCare program at UMBC


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