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Department of Veterinary Sciences

College of Agriculture and Natural Resources

Department Graduate Students - Current Students

Jacob Berg
Jacob Berg, M.S. - Veterinary Sciences
Burns, WY
Advisor: Dr. Gerry Andrews
Project Summary: Jake will be studying and defining the role of the dendritic cell in shaping the protective immune response to Brucella abortus. He will look at how the dendritic cell responds to vaccination or infection and how it helps with T-cell acquired immunity. He will also test for improved vaccine protection by learning how the dendritic cell interacts with T-cells. This will help further define the immune response to B. abortus and ultimately lead to a better understanding of the RB51 vaccine mechanism of action in cattle.
Biosketch: Jake received his undergraduate degree in Microbiology and Molecular Biology from the University of Wyoming. A Wyoming born native, he plans on attending medical school to become a physician and serve the state of Wyoming.
Kelli Bechtler, M.S. - Veterinary Sciences
Advisor: Dr. Kerry Sondgeroth
David Donley
David Donley, Ph.D. - Neuroscience
St. Louis, Missouri
Project: The role of neuroinflammation in Huntington's Disease
Advisor: Dr. Jonathan Fox
Project Summary: Inflammation in the brain is a feature of Huntingtons Disease (HD), a fatal neurodegenerative disorder. The overarching goal of this project is to characterize the role of microglial cells and inflammatory pathways in the onset and progression of HD. The target mechanisms are common to many neurological disorders and will hopefully provide viable options for therapeutic intervention.
Amanda Dougherty
Amanda Dougherty, Ph.D. - Veterinary Sciences with a Minor in Environment and Natural Resources
Dakota, IL
Project: Immune responses and cytokine mRNA expression in brucellosis infected elk with comparison to a murine model and evaluation of recombinant S19 deletion mutants
Advisor: Dr. Gerry Andrews
Project Summary: This project looks at the immune response of elk by measuring levels of cytokine mRNA in peripheral blood mononuclear cells. In addition, the murine model will be used to identify cytokine expression patterns in response to infection and use for comparison to naturally occurring infections in target species. B. abortus S19 knockout mutants will be generated to characterize genes, assess gene function and role of virulence during infection.
Biosketch: B.A. in biology and biochemistry from Knox College, M.S. from UW and currently working on a PhD with a minor in Environment and Natural Resources. In my free time, I raise dairy goats, pack goats, chickens, the occasional turkey, a very naughty (but adorable) dog and a cat.
Molly Elderbrook
Molly Elderbrook, M.S. - Veterinary Sciences
Burlington, Wisconsin
Project: Servoprevalence of Brucella ovis in domestic sheep herds in Wyoming
Advisor: Dr. Kerry Sondgeroth
Project Summary: Brucalla ovis, the etiological agent for ovine epididymitis, is poorly documented in the United States, and a basic study concerning prevalence would be useful to better understand disease distribution. The primary purpose of this research is to gain valuable information regarding the prevalence of B. ovis in Wyoming sheep herds, and to further determine which risk factors influence the development and spread of the bacterial infection in individuals and flocks of sheep. This will be accomplished by obtaining serum samples from multiple sheep herds throughout Wyoming, and then running a series of diagnositc tests to confirm which indivduals and flocks are positive for the presence of antibodies to the bacteria. The disease causes reduced fertility in rams, abortion in ewes, and lamb neonatal deaths. It is not transmissible to humans as far as we know, but the economic effect on domestic sheep herds can be profound causing reduced conception rates, shortened lambing periods, higher incidence of pre-mature lambs, and a significant reduction of lambing disease in domestic sheep herds, but it can also be used in management and prevention of the disease. Future studies would include determining prevalence across other regions in the United States, and assessing the prevalence in Big Horn sheep herds.
Biosketch: I grew up on a dairy farm in Wisconsin, and obtained by B.S. in Biology with pre-veterinary emphasis from the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point. For about two years, I worked on various wildlife projects ranging from the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) and grassland bird habitiat management to the Missouri Department of Conservation and the reintroduction of elk into the Missouri Ozarks. In my free time, I enjoy hiking, fishing, and camping when the weather is optimal, and plenty of outdoor volleyball and softball in the spring and summer.
Brady Godwin
Brady Godwin, Ph.D. - Ecology
Wilmington, Delaware
Project: Hummingbird Genomics, Disease Ecology and Conservation
Advisor: Dr. Holly Ernest
Project Summary: I am interested in using genetics and genomics to answer ecological questions. For my PhD, I will study the population genomics and disease ecology of hummingbird species, and hope to investigate their potential as sentinel species for chemical and pesticide use. A significant part of my PhD work will be to help begin a hummingbird health monitoring program throughout the Rocky Mountain West based at the University of Wyoming.
Biosketch: I grew up in Delaware and attended a visual arts high school, with dreams of being an artist. I realized I may not be cut out for that, and followed my other (equal) passion of ecology. I attended Marlboro College in Vermont for my undergraduate degree studying biology. My senior thesis was on ecology and conservation in Madagascar, which stemmed from an internship there studying lemus in the rain forests. I completed by Master's of Science at the University of Wyoming studying river otter ecology using non-invasive genetics. I strive to clearly communicate science, visually and orally, every chance I can. In my free time like to draw, hike with my dogs, and cook.
Noah Hull

Noah Hull - Ph. D. - Veterinary Sciences
Tarzana, California
Project:  Creation and validation of a molecular assay for brucellosis and implementation of the assay to characterize disease in East Africa
Advisor: Brant Schumaker
Project Summary:  Brucellosis is an endemic bacterial-disease in Wyoming as well as globally.  It is considered one of the world's most widespread zoonoses and ranks as one of the seven most neglected diseases per the World Health Organization.  There are over 500,000 new human cases of brucellosis annually.  We intend to develop a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) assay in order to indentify animals infected with Brucellas spps.  Upon validation, this moleculary assay will be utilized in East Africa (specificaly Tanzania) to characterize the disease there.  In addition, we will conduct an epidemiologic study to identify and quantify risk factors for infection in Tanzania.

Melanie LaCava
Melanie LaCava, Ph.D. - Ecology
San Diego, California
Project: Pronghorn genomics and disease ecology.
Advisor: Dr. Holly Ernest
Project Summary: While a vast quantity of research has been performed on pronghorn (Antilocapra americana) in Wyoming, genetic and genomic research is somewhat limited. For my PhD, I will be applying molecular techniques to study pronghorn populations throughout the state of Wyoming. Biosketch: I grew up in San Diego, California, where I did rowing, snorkeling, hiking and anything else that got me outside. I earned by B.S. in Wildlife, Fish and Conservation Biology from the University of California, Davis where I completed an undergraduate honors thesis using genetic techniques to study the spawning strategies of the endangered Delta smelt, Hyopmesus transpacificus. After graduating, I spent six months on a research team in Morocco studying personality in Barbary macaques, Macaca sylvanus, and then a year working as a research associate for the Pacific Pocket Mouse Conservation Breeding and Reintroduction Program at the San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research. I love exploring new places and ideas, and enjoy learning and teaching others about wildlife conservation.
Michelina Meinzer, M.S. - Veterinary Science
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Project: Determining the effects of climate variables and material antibody on the natural transmission of bluetongue virus in range pastured beef cattle.
Advisor: Dr. Myrna Miller
Project Summary: Bluetongue is a non-contagious disease spread by Culicoides species (midges or no-see-ums) and  caused by the bluetongue virus. The purpose of this study is to determine what impact weather patterns and maternal antibodies have on the transmission of bluetongue virus. To do this, antibody levels in both maternal antibody positive calves and maternal antibody negative calves will be monitored. In addition, Culicoides abundance will be surveyed. This data will be compared to local weather patterns.
Biosketch:  I grew up in Pennsylvania, where I played soccer and fenced in high school. I earned a B.A. from Vanderbilt University in Ecology, Evolution, and Organismal Biology and German. In my free time I enjoy hiking, reading, and spending time with my dog.
Beth Mendelsohn - M.S. - Veterinary Science
Batavia, Illinois
Project: Great Gray Owl Population Genomics in Wyoming
Advisor: Dr. Holly Ernest
Project Summary:  My master's research is a population genomics study on the Great Gray Owls of Jackson Hole, WY. I plan to assess genetic diversity, population structure, and gene flow within the population, and compare to other populations of Great Grays. Boreal forest species such as this owl are increasingly vulnerable to habitat threats and environmental changes. This particular population resides on the southern tip of the range in the Rocky mountains. My project will help the field ecology study and contribute to the future conservation of the species.
Biosketch: I grew up in suburban Illinois, yearning for the wilderness and mountains. My love for adventure, science, and culture drew me to Reed College , where I earned a degree in Biology. Ever since, I have  made the wild country of Montana and Wyoming my home,  studying native wildlife . I feel incredibly lucky to have found work that combines my love joy in the outdoors with my passion for wildlife conservation.
Amy Rhoad, M.S. - Veterinary Science
Advisor: Dr. Kerry Sondgeroth

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