Reece Lab

Evolutionary Genetics and Conservation Biology

Lab News

December 2019: Rachel gave her graduate thesis defense on her work titled “Use of DNA sequencing to identify the origin of Northwestern and Southwestern Pond Turtles in captive breeding programs”. Congratulations Rachel! Shant, Drew, Hailey, and Natalie also graduated, congratulations!

September 2019: Dr. Reece and students from Conservation Biology traveled to Sequoia and Kings Canyon to learn about the effects of natural and prescribed fire on bat biodiversity in the parks. Students were able to talk to a park biologist and see some of the acoustic detectors that are set up in the fire area.

August 2019: Dr. Reece and students from his Conservation Biology class attended the final mist-netting and acoustic monitoring trip for the summer in Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks. The students learned about acoustic monitoring, the bats present in SEKI, and worked with National Park biologists to mist net for bats in Cedar Grove.

August 2019: Welcome back from summer! Reece Lab is joined by new graduate student Samantha and undergraduates Alejandro, Drew, and Shant!

Summer 2019: Lab members enjoyed participating in a variety of research trips this summer! Dr. Reece and students conducted bird and invertebrate surveys in Morro Bay and assisted National Park Service biologists with acoustic monitoring and mist-netting of bats in Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks! Dr. Reece and several lab members were featured in a Fresno State article about field research! Check out the story here.

June 2019: Dr. Reece gave a talk at the Hooting Owl Lecture Series in Wawona on his work involving environmental DNA (eDNA) identification of fish, amphibians, and turtles. Check out the video here!

May 2019: Dr. Reece and Dr. Lent led an exciting study abroad trip to Costa Rica! The group enjoyed the beautiful scenery, Costa Rican culture, and vibrant flora and fauna through multiple birding opportunities (over 100 species of tropical birds were seen!), hikes through the cloud forest, and a visit to the Osa Peninsula! The course focused on conservation and the biodiversity of Costa Rica’s fauna and observing animal behavior. It was an amazing trip!

February: Dr. Reece, Rachel, and Shelby attended the Western Section of the Wildlife Society meeting at Tenaya Lodge! Dr. Reece gave a poster presentation on last summer’s bat research in SEKI, Rachel gave a poster presentation on her work with Western Pond Turtle genetics and conservation, and Shelby gave a poster presentation on phylogenetics of climate change vulnerability in California birds.

January 2019: Dr. Reece, Rob, Chrisionna, and Shelby attended the CSU Biotechnology Symposium in Anaheim! Rob and Chrisionna presented posters on their work with acoustic monitoring of bats in SEKI last summer and Shelby presented a poster on her work with biodiversity in Morro Bay.

November 2018: Dr. Reece and students were featured in a video for Fresno State’s Day of Giving! The video was about Dr. Reece’s work with Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks for environmental DNA sampling of the rivers in the area. Check it out here!

October 2018: Reece Lab was featured in Fresno State news for research involving acoustic monitoring of bats in the Central Valley and Sequoia National Park! Check out the story here. Rachel was awarded a Graduate Research Fellowship for her research on Western Pond Turtle genetics and conservation. Congratulations Rachel!

September 2018: Dr. Reece’s first graduate student at CSU Fresno, Chris, successfully completed his Master’s thesis! His thesis project involved researching the phylogenetic distribution of extinction risk in California’s mammals and the evolutionary implications of losing species. Congratulations Chris!

August 2018: Dr. Reece, Chris, Rachel, and Shelby travel to New Orleans, Louisiana to attend the Ecological Society of America meeting! This years’ theme was extreme events, ecosystem resilience, and human well-being. Dr. Reece gave a presentation on his research on sea level rise and climate change in Georgia and Chris, Rachel, and Shelby gave poster presentations on their research.

July-August 2018: Lab members enjoyed participating in a variety of research trips this summer! Dr. Reece and students conducted bird and invertebrate surveys in Morro Bay, snorkeled in Sequoia National Park to collect water samples and information on amphibians, reptiles, and fish that live in foothill streams, and assisted with acoustic monitoring and mist-netting of bats in Sequoia National Park.

June 2018: Our undergraduates Rob, Saramae, and Lexi were awarded grant funding through the ASI Undergraduate Research Grant program at CSU Fresno! Rob and Lexi are researching how coastal dredging will impact the ecology of Morro Bay, California. Saramae’s project involves using environmental DNA (eDNA) to monitor California tiger salamanders in local riverine systems. Claire, who researches sea-level rise with Dr. Reece, was accepted as a transfer student to UC Berkeley. Congratulations and best wishes Claire!

June 2018:  Saramae and Dr. Reece were awarded a $5,000 grant from the Sequoia Learning Center to do environmental DNA surveys of amphibians and fish in Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks. Our first collection trip is in July; Congratulations Saramae!

June 2018: Chrisionna joins the lab! Dr. Reece and four students (Rob, Saramae, Chrisionna, and Shelby) travel to Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park to collaborate with the park wildlife team during the first of several bat monitoring events over the 2018 summer. Dr. Reece and his students assisted park staff with data collection and public outreach throughout the evening.

May 2018: Dr. Reece led an eight-day study abroad course to Belize! He was accompanied by 18 students and another CSU Fresno biology faculty member, Dr. Lent. The group experienced the beautiful scenery, Belizean culture, and vibrant flora and fauna through birding opportunities (over 100 species of tropical birds were seen!), rainforest hikes, and snorkeling on the Belize Barrier Reef! The course focused on conservation and the biodiversity of Belize’s birds, mammals, fish, amphibians, reptiles, and invertebrates. Students learned about the different Belizean ecosystems, conservation issues, and the interaction between biodiversity and humans in Belize. It was an amazing trip!

March 2018: Dr. Reece, Rachel, Saramae, Lexi, and Shelby attended a donor event for the College of Science and Mathematics to present their research. Rachel and Saramae presented on California Tiger Salamander eDNA and Western Pond Turtle conservation genetics. Lexi and Shelby presented on interdisciplinary course-based research and the impacts of coastal dredging in Morro Bay.


February 2018: Dr. Reece and Conservation Biology students travel to Morro Bay to collect more sediment and survey for coastal birds. They were joined by Dr. Brady’s sedimentology class.

January 2018: Dr. Reece and his Conservation Biology class travel to Morro Bay to collect sediment samples and survey for coastal birds!

January 2018: Dr. Reece, Chris, Rachel, and Shelby travel to Santa Clara to present research at the CSUPERB conference.
October 2017: Rachel, Claire, Bryant, Rob, Lexi, Saramae, and Daisy joined the lab as undergraduates! Chris, Rachel, Claire, and Shelby were awarded FSSRA grants and Claire and Shelby were awarded COAST grants.
September 2017: Chris was awarded the CSU Fresno Graduate Net Initiative Fellowship!
June 2017: Dr. Reece, Chris, and Shelby traveled to Portland, Oregon for the 2017 Evolution conference. Dr. Reece gave a talk about body size and shape evolution in hagfish, Chris presented on phylogenetics of California’s high-risk mammals, and Shelby gave a poster presentation on phylogenetics of climate change vulnerability in California birds.
February 2017: Dr. Reece was interviewed on Central Valley News about Climate Change:
November 2016: Our undergraduate,  Francisco Barajas, was awarded funding from the “COAST Undergraduate Student Research Support Award” from CSU Fresno for his research on hagfish evolution!
 October 2016: Dr. Reece and the lab travel to San Francisco to take hagfish measurements from the California Academy of Sciences.
Josh and Hagfish
August 2016: Reece Lab moves to CSU Fresno!
Shelby, Gurjap, Francisco, Conner, and Michael all join the lab as undergraduates.
The red-haired Reece was recently featured in an article by PBS on one of his sea turtle papers. Read the full story here.
Dr. Reece was accompanied by two additional VSU faculty members, Theodore Uyeno and Corey Anderson, in attending the 2015 International Society of Integrative and Comparative Biology (SICB) meeting in West Palm Beach, Florida. Each of the faculty members presented on their research, and we also brought along seven VSU undergraduates who presented on their research. The students (and their advisors) were:
Bradley D. Owens (Reece-Uyeno)
Erika L. Schumacher (Reece)
Arturo Sanchez (Reece)
Lauren C. Sparks-Hoskins (Reece)
Ashilee T. Thomas (Reece)
William A. Haney (Reece-Anderson)
Yessi Castro (Uyeno)
Dr. Reece gave an oral presentation on his research on how sea-level rise, climate change, and human infrastructure affects sea turtle nesting patterns. Dr. Uyeno was invited to speak in a special symposium on the biomechanics of soft-bodied organisms. Dr. Anderson presented a poster on his research on the spatial distribution of spanish moss.
As for the students:
Brad Owens attended to learn more about the comparative methods he is using to understand the evolution of hagfish and their unique morphological characteristics. Erika Schumacher coauthored two posters, one with Arturo Sanchez and Dr. Reece where we describe a method we developed to use genetics to identify the sex of the Florida Grasshopper Sparrow, a Federally Endangered species with males and females that look identical. This work will aid in the design of captive rearing programs for this species. In a second poster, Erika Schumacher, William Haney, Dr. Reece and Dr. Anderson describe the results of a genetic survey of the Florida Grasshopper Sparrow where we show that the mysterious and precipitous decline in this endangered species is not due to low genetic diversity. Lauren Sparks-Hoskins and Dr. Reece presented a poster that examined how different color patterns evolved in tropical moray eels. Lauren developed a crowd-source method (using VSU undergraduates) to identify unique color patterns and then she examined evolutionary correlations between color patterns and the ecology of the different eel species. She found that different color patterns probably relate to the ability of morays to camouflage themselves, either to ambush prey or to avoid predation themselves. Ashilee Thomas and Dr. Reece presented a poster describing their research on how different species of eels evolved from ancestors that were entirely marine to descendant species that varied from marine to freshwater to brackish water to different types if migratory eels that spend portions of their lives in freshwater but breed in salt-water. We found that the ability to move from marine to freshwater environments evolved independently several times, probably through unique adaptations each time. Yessi Castro delivered an oral presentation on how a local species of crayfish (sampled from near the VSU campus) generates sound, and under what conditions it makes various types of sound. See article here.


Dr. Reece taught the inaugural version of his Coastal Biodiversity (BIOL 4020/6020) course this summer. Thirteen students participated in this course, which focused on the coastal ecosystems of Florida and Georgia. This was primarily a field course, and the class visited Sapelo Island (a barrier island in Georgia), Florida’s gulf coast springs and beaches, Seahorse Key (Gulf of Mexico), Key Largo for snorkeling and diving in coastal marine environments, Everglades National Park, the premier nesting beach for loggerhead turtles in Melbourne Beach, Florida, and the Matanzas region of North Florida. In addition to field experiences in coastal ecosystems, students focused on understanding how past climate change and sea-level rise has affected these systems, and how the current pattern of accelerated anthropogenic climate change is and is likely to continue to affect these systems. Dr. Reece plans to teach this class in future Maymesters. See article here.


Dr. Reece was recently featured on People Behind the Science.

Dr. Reece recently earned an award for best presentation, see here, here, and here.

Dr. Reece was recently featured for his work on climate change and sea level rise, see here.

Undergraduate Erika Schumacher recently was awarded student employee of the year at Valdosta State University, see here.