Summer defenses

Several graduate students in our department defended their dissertations this past summer! Our dissertation defenses include an oral exam with faculty (the “B Exam”) and a public presentation to the department. Read on to find out about three recent Cornell PhDs, in their own words!

Ezra Lencer

My thesis investigated the developmental and genetic changes underlying the evolution of different ecologically important craniofacial phenotypes in a geologically young radiation of pupfishes (genus Cyprinodon) endemic to San Salvador Island, Bahamas. Combining classic morphology with emerging technologies in genomics and cell biology, I was able to show how changes to gene expression produce novel craniofacial phenotypes by affecting jaw growth rates via modifications to cell proliferation dynamics in the heads of each species during development.

I am currently an NIH postdoctoral fellow at CU Anschutz Medical Campus, where I am working on neural crest cell migration with Kristin Artinger and Rytis Prekeris.


Renee Petipas

Plant-associated microbes affect a wide-variety of plant functional traits, and thus they likely affect patterns of plant local adaptation. However, the role of microbes in plant local adaptation is rarely tested. For my dissertation, I explored this idea using reciprocal transplant experiments, moving seeds and soils between limestone barrens and old-fields in northern New York. I found that microbes change patterns of plant local adaptation and are particularly important for plants growing in the harsh limestone barren environment. Upon completion of my PhD, I received an NSF-postdoctoral research fellowship in biology (PRFB) and am currently working at Washington State University exploring coevolution between Medicago lupulina and Ensifer meliloti using museum specimens.


Katie Sirianni

Broadly, I study what determines the distribution of zooplankton populations throughout a landscape with many small rock pools. Dispersal is important because small rock pools are inconsistent habitat– they can dry out, get too hot, or too salty. In addition to dispersing among pools, these zooplankton can disperse in time by making eggs that hatch a long time (years!) after they are produced. These eggs can survive many conditions that the active zooplankton wouldn’t be able to tolerate. I measured how two similar zooplankton species use the combination of dispersal in time and space to persist in these harsh habitat conditions.

Currently, I am teaching classes on Ecology and Field Ecology at Cornell.


Recruitment Weekend

Last weekend, we welcomed 17 prospective grad students to our department! As always, our weekend was jam-packed with faculty interviews, dinners with faculty and grad students, tours, and awesome research and student life talks. Good luck to all the applicants, we hope to see you back in the Fall!


EEB Symposium 2017

We hosted our 2017 GSA symposium this past week! Graduate students and faculty in the department presented on their most recent work to their peers in Corson Hall. A day and a half of 15-20 minute conference-style talks were followed by a workshop on Bayesian statistics (thank you, CSCU!), a poster session by undergraduates and visitors, and drinks and awards. Here’s just a taste of the research topics we covered: speciation, developmental genomics, parasitism, herbivory, ecosystem function, disease ecology, phylogeography, and coexistence theory. Thanks to everyone who attended, and congratulations to the award-winning talks! The Book Award went to first-years Kara Andres and Maria Akopyan, and the Whittaker Award went to Erin Larson and Henry Kunerth for their amazing presentations.

Diversity Recruitment Weekend 2017: Video recap!

Last April’s Diversity Recruitment Weekend in EEB and NBB was a wonderful success, with students arriving from across the country to learn about graduate school and the application process. Organization of the 2018 Diversity Recruitment Weekend – now including the departments of Plant Science and Entomology – is already under way. Spread the word!

The 2018 application website:

Meet the dynamic duo who led the effort:


Meet the attendees and explore the weekend:

Faculty Search

For almost two months this semester, our department hosted and interviewed several exceptional scientists for two faculty positions in Quantitative Ecology and Evolution. Graduate students attended seminars, chalk talks, pizza lunches and individual meetings with each candidate and provided feedback to help with the difficult hiring decisions our faculty have to make. We’re looking forward to greeting the new scientists and mentors who join our department!

Recruitment Weekend


Thanks to the 21 applicants who attended our annual graduate student recruitment weekend from January 27-29. We hope you enjoyed your stay and left with all the information you needed about our department; if you still have questions, don’t hesitate to contact your faculty sponsor, the admissions committee, or any of the graduate students you met. Please check out the Prospective students page for even more information, as well as our departmental website. We hope to see you next year!

Save these dates!


The dates for two big departmental events have just been announced, so mark your calendars: the Holiday Party will be on Saturday December 3 from 6-10 PM, and the EEB Symposium will be December 5-6.

To RSVP to the Holiday Party, click here. Don’t forget to buy your tickets and bring a dish! Sign-up for the potluck here.

If you’d like to speak in the Symposium, abstracts are due Friday November 18.




Our neighbors in Entomology hosted their annual outreach event Insectapalooza on October 22! Thousands of parents and kids came to explore insect biology and Cornell research, and many EEB grad students attended and volunteered. For photos and more details, check out their website and coverage by the Ithaca Journal.