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Our People

The Conservation Physiology Lab and National Amphibian Genome Bank is co-led by Dr. Carrie K. Kouba, Associate Professor in Biochemistry and Dr. Andy J. Kouba, Professor and Head of Wildlife, Fisheries and Aquaculture at Mississippi State University (MSU). The MSU Conservation Physiology Lab is the country’s premier academic wildlife physiology research unit working to solve contemporary problems facing zoos and aquariums related to sustainability, genetic management and reintroduction ecology.


Faculty

Dr. Carrie K. Vance

Dr. Carrie K. Vance

Associate Research Professor

ResearchGate

Dr. Carrie Kouba earned her Ph.D. in Biochemistry and Biophysics from Johns Hopkins University after obtaining a M.S. degree from California Institute of Technology and dual degrees in Chemistry and Mathematics from The Ohio State University. She joined the Biophonics research team at Mississippi State University in 2008 and the faculty in 2015. Currently she is an Associate Research Professor in the department of Biochemistry, Molecular Biology, Entomology, and Plant Pathology. Her interests are in connecting concepts and techniques in biophysical chemistry with applications in endocrinology, reproductive and eco-physiology, nutrition, and disease to address issues in species conservation. She has worked with a variety of species including snow and Amur leopards, giant pandas, okapi, rhinoceroses, elephants, okapi, horses, cattle and numerous amphibians. Dr. Kouba curates the National Amphibian Genome Bank housed at Mississippi State University along with Andrew Kouba, but also continues to develop novel biophotonic approaches for non-invasive monitoring of animal physiology and health.

Dr. Andrew J. Kouba

Dr. Andrew J. Kouba

Head and Dale H. Arner Professor of Wildlife Ecology and Management

Dr. Andy Kouba received a dual degree in Wildlife Ecology and Conservation and Zoology, from Northwest Missouri State University in 1991. He subsequently went on to receive his M.S. degree at Clemson University and his Ph.D. degree from the University of Florida. Upon finishing his graduate degrees, he conducted a post-doctoral fellowship at the Cincinnati Zoo from 1999-2001, where he conducted research on antelope, rhino and amphibian conservation. Then in 2001, he accepted the position of Director of Conservation and Research at the Memphis Zoo, Memphis TN. While at the Zoo, he led various research projects on polar bears, elephants, giant pandas, Chinese giant salamanders, anteaters, giant river otters, threatened amphibian species and created the country's first National Amphibian Genome Bank. His area of research intersects conservation physiology, ecophysiology, reproductive endocrinology and genetic management of threatened wildlife. In 2015, Dr. Kouba moved to his current position as Professor and Head of the Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Aquaculture at Mississippi State University, where he also serves as the Executive Director of the Center for Resolving Human-Wildlife Conflicts.


Meet the Team

Mariana Santos-Rivera
Mariana Santos-Rivera
Ph.D. Candidate, Life Sciences-Biochemistry
ResearchGate

Hometown: Ibague, Colombia
Research: Biophotonics

Dissertation: Novel assessment detection and disease evaluation in species of relevance in Agriculture and Wildlife

Previous education:Veterinary Medicine and animal husbandry (2009), University of Tolima

At MSU, Mariana is testing NIRS in combination with chemometrics and aquaphotomics to generate the biochemical profile from animal and plant pathogens and diseases. Her ultimate goal is to provide the groundwork for a portable, fast, non-destructive, and accurate diagnosis tool capable of reducing the existing time necessary for illness detection.

Qingyu Sheng
Qingyu Sheng
Ph.D. Student, Life Sciences-Animal physiology
ResearchGate

Hometown: Gaoyou, China
Research: Biophotonics/NIRS in Giant Panda

Dissertation: Application of Near Infrared Spectroscopy (NIRS) on the Physiology Study of Giant Panda (Ailuropoda melanoleuca) and Red Panda (Ailurus fulgens).

Previous education: M.S.: Agriculture in Wildlife Conservation (2018), Northeast Forestry University. B.S.: Arts in History (2012), Nanjing Normal University.

Qingyu Sheng's research focuses on using NIRS techniques as a rapid, cost-effective, and non-destructive in-situ tool to solve problems concerning animal physiology and populations, including predicting diet quality, gender, and reproductive status of the giant panda and red panda.



Devin Chen
Devin Chen
Ph.D. Student, Wildlife, Fisheries & Aquaculture
ResearchGate | Google Scholar | Personal Research Website

Hometown: Omaha, Nebraska, USA
Research: Amphibian Conservation/Assisted Reproductive Technology/Cryobiology

Dissertation: Advancing salamander assisted reproductive technology (ART) through investigation of novel hormone administration routes, sperm diluents, and cryoprotectants

Previous education: M.S.: University of Calgary, Anthropology, 2020. B.S.: University of Nebraska Omaha, Environmental Science Major/Chemistry Minor, 2017

Devin is interested in advancing conservation science applications to better help protect threatened and endangered species. Her research currently focuses on salamander conservation through the optimization of assisted reproductive technologies (ARTs). Devin's dissertation work includes non-invasive hormone therapies and sperm cryopreservation that will be applied to at-risk caudate species.

Li-Dunn Chen
Li-Dunn Chen
Ph.D. Student, Life Sciences-Animal Physiology
ResearchGate

Hometown: Omaha, Nebraska, USA
Research: Biophotonics/ Endocrinology/ Amphibian Conservation

Dissertation: Applications of Non-invasive Technologies to Evaluate Aspects of Amphibian Physiology

Previous education: M.S.: Biological Anthropology (2020), University of Calgary. B.S.: Psychology (2017), University of Nebraska-Omaha.

Li-Dunn is interested in developing novel methods to evaluate factors relating to animal health and welfare. Chen’s current work is focused on predictive modeling, using NIRS coupled with endocrinology and ultrasonagraphy, to identify and assess physiological factors of biological sex and reproductive status in several amphibian species.

Isabella Burger
Isabella Burger
M.S. Student, Wildlife, Fisheries, and Aquaculture
ResearchGate

Hometown: Prattville, Alabama, USA
Research: Amphibian conservation

Thesis: The ART of amphibian conservation: Linking in-situ and ex-situ populations of endangered species through genome banking

Previous education: B.S.: Wildlife, Fisheries and Aquaculture (2019), Mississippi State University.

Isabella's work focuses on developing an optimum cryopreservation protocol for anurans, with the goal of applying these protocols to endangered species in order to increase population size, increase genetic variation, and link in-situ and ex-situ populations through genome banking.

Shaina Lampbert
Shaina Lampbert
M.S. Student, Agricultural Life Sciences-Animal physiology
ResearchGate

Hometown: Port of Spain, Trinidad
Research: Amphibian conservation

Thesis: Optimization of Assisted Reproductive Technologies in Female Caudates

Previous education: B.S.: Wildlife, Fisheries and Aquaculture (2020), Mississippi State University

Shaina's research focuses on using ultrasonography as a method of tracking follicular development in female amphibians with the aim of optimizing the efficiency of hormone protocols. She is also working on determining the optimum hormone protocol for inducing oviposition in female caudates in both in-situ and ex-situ populations.

Erin Saylor
Erin Saylor
M.S. Student, Agricultural Life Sciences-Animal physiology
ResearchGate

Hometown: Jacksonville, Florida, USA
Research: Amphibian conservation

Thesis: TBD

Previous education: B.S.: Wildlife Conservation (2020), Virginia Tech

Erin's research focuses on testing nasal hormone administration in female anurans, investigating alternative hormones, and improving in vitro fertilization in amphibians. The goal of her research is to optimize current ART’s and investigate new hormones and administration route options for application to other species.

Namia Stevenson
Namia Stevenson
M.S. Student, Wildlife, Fisheries and Aquaculture


Hometown: Spangdahlem AFB, Germany
Research: Amphibian conservation

Thesis: TBD

Previous education: B.S.: Wildlife Biology (2020), Charleston Southern University

Namia joined the lab January 2022 and is interested in developing conservation technologies, such as hormone therapy, in-vitro fertilization, ultrasound diagnosis and cryopreservation that assist amphibian captive breeding programs become more sustainable, genetically diverse and increase reproductive output to support reintroduction programs. She is particularly interested in zoo and aquarium science, education and leadership. Namia is supported by an Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) American Recovery and Rescue Plan Grant for training the next generation of professionals interested in living collections care and sustainability. She will be working with partners at the Fort Worth Zoo, North Carolina Zoo and Omaha Henry Doorly Zoo.


Previous Lab Members and Current Position

Allison Julien
Dr. Allison Julien
Former PhD Student

Dissertation: The Nose Glows: An investigation into amphibian endocrine pathways with quantum dot nanoparticles

Current Position: Post-doctoral fellow, Fort Worth Zoo, Ectotherm Department
Dr. Ruth Marcec-Greaves
Dr. Ruth Marcec-Greaves
Former PhD Student

Dissertation: Development of assisted reproductive technologies for endangered North American salamanders

Current Position: Director, National Amphibian Conservation Center, Detroit Zoo, Detroit, MI
Dr. Cecilia Langhorne
Dr. Cecilia Langhorne
Former PhD student

Dissertation: Developing assisted reproductive technologies for endangered North American anurans

Current Position: Research Scientist, Transgenic Technology Lab, Cancer Research UK Beatson Institute, London
Dr. Lu Zhang
Dr. Lu Zhang
Former Post-doctoral Fellow

Project: Reintroduction ecology of the Chinese giant salamanders

Current Position: Associate Researcher at School of Life Sciences, Sun Yat-sen University, China
Dr. Jen Germano
Dr. Jen Germano
Former Post-doctoral Fellow
Memphis Zoo/Mississippi State University Partnership

Project: Assisted reproductive technologies for conservation of the Mississippi Gopher Frog

Current Position: Technical Advisor Ecology / Kiwi Recovery Group Leader, Department of Conservation—Te Papa Atawhai, New Zealand
Mississippi State
Dr. Xiaoguang Ouyang
Former Post-doctoral Fellow

Project: Nutritional Ecology of the Giant Panda using Near Infrared Reflectance Spectroscopy

Current Position: Information Technology Support Contractor, Memphis TN
Mississippi State
Dr. Trish Rowlinson
Former M.S. Student

Thesis: The comparative effects of arginine vasotocin on reproduction in the boreal (Bufo boreas boreas) and Fowler’s (Bufo fowleri) toads

Current Position: Post-doctoral Fellow, Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute
Emmet Guy
Emmet Guy
Former Research Associate
Institute of Museum and Library Services National Leadership Grant

Project: Genome Banking for conservation of endangered salamanders

Current Position: Fisheries Biologist, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Kristen Counsell
Kristen Counsell
Former M.S. Student

Thesis: Novel spectral and biochemical indices for profiling animal stress and reproductive states
Current Position: Pathology Technician, SeaWorld San Diego
Amanda Gillis
Amanda Gillis
Former M.S. Student

Thesis: Assisted reproductive technologies in male Ambystoma tigrinum with application to threatened newt species
Current Position: Research Fellow with MSU
Katie Graham
Katie Graham
Former M.S. Student

Thesis: Conserving the Mississippi gopher frog through the use of assisted reproductive technologies
Current Position: Assistant Scientist, Marine Stress and Ocean Health Program, New England Aquarium

Visiting Scholars

Rhiannon Lloyd
London Zoological Society, Institute of Zoology

Lucia Arregui
University of Madrid, Spain

Amphibian GRB

Amphibian GRB

We conduct research aimed at developing assisted reproductive technologies for at-risk amphibian species.

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