Assistant Professor
Emily Puckett, PhD


Emily earned her BS in Botany from NC State, MS in Biology from SUNY-ESF, and PhD in Biology from the University of Missouri.  She uses range-wide genomic data to understand phylogeographic patterns in mammals with a focus on the evolutionary history of bears and rats.  She is also interested in the intersection of phylogeography to the conservation of species.

Graduate Students
Matthew Pollard– PhD Student


Matthew earned his BSc in Zoology and MRes in Biological Sciences from Cardiff University, United Kingdom. He is studying the evolution of carnivorous diet within the mammalian order Carnivora. This will involve reconstructing ancestral diet states within Mammalia and identifying signatures of diet-specific adaptation in carnivorous lineages. Previous research during his master’s degree focused on identification of Y-chromosomal sequences within the polar bear reference genome assembly.

Heather Clendenin– PhD Student


Heather earned her BS in Biology from Bowling Green State University and her MS in Bioinformatics and Computational Biology from the University of Idaho. Her current research pertains to the evolution of American black bears and genomic signals of recent and ancient inbreeding, with an eye on applications in wildlife management  and conservation. Her previous research incorporated genetic and genomic data into the monitoring and management of gray wolves in Idaho and explored kinship and diversity among red wolves in North Carolina. She is a proponent of the use of ecological monitoring as a tool for adaptive management and community engagement.

Undergraduate Students
Isis Davis


Isis is a Biology major (minors: Chemistry and Psychology).  She worked to synthesize spatial genetic diversity for all eight bear species, and is now focused on identifying variants in coat color genes in brown bears.  Her career goal is to be a veterinarian.

Samhitha Swarna


Samhitha is a Biology major (minors: Chemistry, Psychology, Healthcare and Society).  She is working to identify RoH segments in bears. She wants to find an MD-PhD program where research is part of her career.

Heather Thomasovich


Heather is a Biology major (minor: Chemistry). She is working to identify RoH segments in bears. Her career goal is to be a veterinarian and work in wildlife rehabilitation.




Caleigh Holley



Caleigh is a Biology major (minor: Chemistry).  She is training in bioinformatics and wet lab skills with a research project TBD.  She wants to attend medical school after graduation.

Information for Perspective Lab Members
Lab Expectations