Research Day (RD) is an annual one-day event in the Department of Biological Sciences at Virginia Tech. It consists of a keynote presentation by department alumni and invited oral presentations by graduate students, breakout sessions with talks by graduate students, and poster presentations by graduate and undergraduate students. 

As such, it provides an opportunity for graduate students to showcase their research and fosters interaction among Biological Sciences research labs.  It also serves to update and highlight the breadth of research activities in the department to alumni and prospective graduate students.

The 2019 RD will be held on February 9th, 2019 at The Inn at Virginia Tech/Skelton Conference Center.  

REGISTER HERE (The deadline for registration for attendees who are not presenting is NOON on Wednesday, February 6, 2019.)

Daniel Warner

Keynote Speaker

Dr. Daniel Warner

Assistant Professor of Biological Sciences

Auburn University

Title: "Developmental plasticity and natural selection: case studies of environmental effects on phenotypic variation in lizard populations"


The environment shapes phenotypic variation within populations in two major ways; (1) by phenotypic plasticity whereby environmental factors directly influence phenotypes of individuals, and (2) as an agent of selection that “chooses” among existing phenotypes based on their relative performance. Understanding how these two environmental forces contribute to phenotypic variation is a major goal of evolutionary biology and a primary objective of my research. In this talk, I will draw from different case studies from my research on lizards that (1) illustrate how maternal and developmental environments shape phenotypic variation, (2) assess the potential adaptive value of developmental plasticity, and (3) quantify the spatial and temporal dynamics of phenotypic selection in wild populations. Taken together, these studies highlight the complex environmental interactions among different life stages that shape phenotypic variation in natural populations.


Daniel Warner is an evolutionary ecologist whose research integrates aspects of population ecology, physiology, genetics and behavior, and combines laboratory and field experiments to gain insights into adaptive evolution. He received his Bachelor’s degree in Animal Ecology from Iowa State University (1998) and his Master’s degree from Virginia Tech (2000) (with advisor Robin Andrews). He was then employed as a fisheries biologist at the Florida Marine Research Institute (2001-2003) before starting his PhD research. He received his PhD at the University of Sydney (2007), where his research focused on the ecology and evolution of temperature-dependent sex determination in an Australian lizard. Thereafter, he returned to Iowa State University as a postdoctoral researcher. In 2012, he began a faculty position at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, and in 2015 he transitioned to a faculty position in the Department of Biological Sciences at Auburn University. He has published over 80 papers in peer-reviewed journals, and has received multiple awards for his research (e.g., 2011 Young Investigators Prize from the American Society of Naturalists, 2014 Bartholomew Award from the Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology).



8:30 am – 9:25 am

Coffee and Refreshments: Outside Alumni Assembly Hall

Poster Setup: Latham Ballroom A and Foyer

9:25 am – 9:30 am

Opening Remarks from Dr. Bob Cohen Alumni Assembly Hall

9:30 am – 10:30 am

Keynote Speaker: Dr. Daniel Warner Alumni Assembly Hall

10:30 am – 10:45 am

Break (coffee, etc.) Outside Alumni Assembly Hall

10:45 am – 12:05 pm 

Invited Student Speakers Alumni Assembly Hall

12:05 pm – 1:00 pm

Lunch Latham Ballroom C-D-E-F

1:15 pm – 3:30 pm

Breakout Sessions Alumni Assembly Hall and Latham Ballroom B

3:30 pm – 5:45 pm

Poster Sessions and Happy Hour (4:00 – 6:00 p.m.) Latham Ballroom A and Foyer

5:45 pm – 6:00 pm

Award Announcements Latham Ballroom A

6:00 pm – 6:15 pm 

Closing remarks by Dr. Bob Cohen Latham Ballroom A

Invited Student Presentations

Fadoua El Moustaid

"Temperature Effect on Bluetongue Disease Spread" (Modeling Vector-Borne Diseases)

Andrew Muchlinski

"Formation and Function of Volatile Terpene Metabolites in the Model Grasses Switchgrass and Setaria(Chemical Ecology)

Ben Vernasco

"Reduced cooperative behavior as a cost of high testosterone in male wire-tailed manakins" (Ecology, Evolution, and Behavior)

Nicholas Baudoin

"A tale of too many centrosomes: the evolution of newly formed tetrapoid cells" (Cell and Molecular Biology)


Breakout Session Student Oral Talks (1:15 pm - 3:00 pm)

Alumni Assembly Hall

Session 1 (1:15 pm): Moderator, Tuo-Xian Tang

Bidisha Barat (MCB/Micro)

"Tn-seq identification of genes involved in Bacillus subtilis spore germination" 

Angie Estrada (EEB)

"Back to the wild-ish: changesin skin microbiome, body condition and disease status of the limosa harlequin frog (Atelopus limosus) after reintroductions"

Holly Packard (MCB/Micro)

"Confirming the essential role of select transcription factorsin the phytopathogen Pantoea stewartii during in planta growth through reverse genetics"

Zach Gajewski (EEB)

"Predicting the growth of the amphibian chytrid fungus in a varying temperature environment"

Session 2 (2:30 pm): Moderator, Nicole Ward

Steve McBride (EEB)

"Carbon from volatile organic compounds emitted during leaf litter decomposition are consumed by soil microorganisms and form stable soil organic matter"

Ian Hines (MCB/Micro)

"Influence of host genetics on the epithelial-associated microbiomesin aquaculture-raised Nile tilapia (Oreochromis niloticus)"

Chloe Moore (EEB)

"Anuran Traits of the United States (ATraiU): A comprehensive traits database for basic and applied research"

Wei Song (MCB/Micro)

"Design of a disabled-2-derived peptide to impair platelet-mediated cancer cell extravasation"

Latham Ballroom B

Session 1 (1:15 pm): Moderator, Karl Compton

Stephen Plont (EEB)

"Linking organic carbonand nitrogenspiraling in streams across land usesand biomes"

Carissa James (MCB/Micro)

"The ribosomal protein rps25 regulates alternative translation initiation of GJA1"

Brynn O'Donnell (EEB)

"Biogeochemical consequences of stream flow changes: coupling concentration-and metabolism-discharge relationships"

Maya Wilson (EEB)

"How can the cavity nest-web inform conservation of the endangered Bahama Swallow (Tachycineta cyaneoviridis)?"

Session 2 (2:30 pm): Moderator, Mary Lofton

Xianlin Zou (MCB/Micro)

"Distinct control of PERIOD2 degradation and circadian rhythms by the oncoprotein and ubiquitin ligase MDM2"

Whitney Woelmer (EEB)

"Analysis of historical monitoring data to predictphytoplankton blooms in a small drinking water reservoir"

Arba Karcini (MCB/Micro)

"An assessment of G-protein coupled receptor presence in SKBR3 breast cancer cells"

Brooke Bodensteiner (EEB)

"Adaptive radiation in the multidimensional phenotype"


Poster Submission and Printing Information

Posters should be 48" wide and 36" high; landscape is the preferred orientation. Students are responsible for having their posters printed by submitting them, along with an ISR, to the Biological Sciences IT Support Lab by no later than 9:00 a.m. on Monday, February 4, 2019. Guidelines for submission can be found here.