Seth Wenger, Associate Professor. Seth is an associate professor in the Odum School of Ecology and serves as the Director of Science for the UGA River Basin Center. He earned a PhD in Ecology from UGA in 2006 and spent a little over five years as a staff scientist with the nonprofit Trout Unlimited before returning to UGA in 2014.

Mary Freeman is a research ecologist with the US Geological Survey’s Eastern Ecological Science Center (formerly the Patuxent Wildlife Research Center). Mary’s MS and PhD degrees are both from the University of Georgia, in Entomology and Forest Resources, earned near the end of the last ice age. She has been a federal scientist pretty much ever since, and an adjunct graduate faculty member at Auburn University (1992-1996) and the University of Georgia (1997-present). Mary’s particular passion is collaborating with academic, agency and NGO colleagues on conservation of rare fishes native to southeastern US streams.

Charles B. van Rees | Odum School of Ecology

Charles van Rees, Assistant Research Scientist. Charles earned a Ph.D. in Ecology, Behavior, and Evolution at Tufts University as a member of the Reed Research Group and a doctoral fellow in the NSF IGERT program in Water Diplomacy. After his PhD he spent a year as a Fulbright Postdoctoral Scholar at Doñana Biological Station in Seville, Spain, before moving to a postdoctoral position at Flathead Lake Biological Station in Montana. He joined UGA in April, 2021, as a postdoc with the Network for Engineering with Nature, where he coordinates the Engineering for Biodiversity and ecosystems project. He became an Assistant Research Scientist in the fall of 2022. Here’s Charles’ webpage.

Our People – Engineering With Nature

Kyle McKay is a research civil engineer with the US Army Engineer Research and Development Center (ERDC) Environmental Laboratory. He received a B.S. in Environmental Engineering from Colorado State University, an M.S. in Civil Engineering from the University of Illinois, and a Ph.D. at the University of Georgia’s Odum School of Ecology. His research focuses on examining ecological effects of water resources infrastructure with applications related to stream and watershed restoration, fish passage improvement, environmental flow management, and sustainability policy. He is stationed in the USACE New York District to facilitate cooperative research between the ERDC, the District, and other local partners.

Phillip Bumpers, Research Coordinator, PhD Student (co-advised by Amy Rosemond). Phillip is the joint research coordinator for the  Wenger lab in the River Basin Center and the Rosemond lab in the Odum School of  Ecology. Phillip received his MS in ecology at the Odum School in Dr. Rosemond’s lab where he studied how nutrient enrichment altered the growth and diet of larval salamanders. He leads a several projects that monitors fish populations in the Etowah and Conasauga rivers that aims to determine how populations of species of interests are changing over time. He has also been heavily involved in several other projects in the lab investigating flow ecology relationships of ecosystem processes and drivers and patterns of conductivity in urban streams. Phillip is broadly interested in how global change affects stream ecosystem structure and function with a particular interest in nutrient enrichment, climate change, and urbanization.

Shelby M. Bauer, M.S. student in Integrative Conservation and Sustainability (co-advised by John Maerz). Shelby received her B.Sc. in Zoology from Oregon State University in 2015 and has since worked as a field technician from coast to coast, researching and monitoring amphibians for academic universities, the US Fish and Wildlife Service, and the US Geologic Survey’s Amphibian Research and Monitoring Initiative (ARMI). She is broadly interested in the ecology and conservation of the terrestrial-aquatic interface and understanding how habitat structure and ecosystem function in this space relate to species dynamics (Photo credit: Brome McCreary). 

Emily Chalfin, M.S. student in Integrated Conservation and Sustainability (co-advised by Rhett Jackson). Emily graduated from UMass Amherst with a B.S. in Natural Resource Conservation. She has worked with the USGS Coop Unit in Massachusetts on stream invertebrates, dam removals, freshwater mussel conservation, and eDNA analysis, and with Wisconsin DNR on brook trout conservation. She previously worked in the Wenger Lab as a Research Technician, assisting with freshwater fish surveys and stream temperature modeling.


Caitlin Conn, PhD Candidate (co-advised by Amy Rosemond). Caitlin received her B.A. from Hendrix College with majors in Biology and Religious Studies, and went on to hold a variety of conservation, environmental education, and academic research positions with state agencies, nonprofits, and universities. Caitlin is broadly interested in how human activities, especially management practices, impact freshwater ecosystems and how scientific research can be used to better inform these management practices. Her current research aims to quantify the effects of different flow conditions, and thus different management strategies, on the key ecological functions of stream metabolism and nutrient retention. Specifically, she is examining how changes in primary production, as a response to varying flow conditions, affects these ecological functions.

Mackenzi Hallmark, Research Technician. Mackenzi earned her B.S. from Virginia Tech in Biology. Her previous work as a technician includes amphibian conservation research at Virginia Tech, feral hog population monitoring at Tall Timbers Research Station, and longleaf pine ecosystem hydrology and wetland monitoring at the Jones Center at Ichauway. Mackenzi joined the Wenger Lab in July 2021.

Carleisha Hanns received a B.S. in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology from the University of Tennessee. Prior to starting her M.S. at Odum, she spent the past 3 years working at The Nature Conservancy doing GIS work for a range of conservation initiatives based in Colorado. She also spent 2 years as a field technician working for CFI, a conservation fish hatchery working with rare and imperiled fish species throughout the southeastern United States. Broadly, Carleisha is interested in stream ecology, ecological processes of freshwater fishes, and nature-based solutions in freshwater systems.

Jasmine Longmire is an M.S. student in Integrative Conservation and Sustainability (ICAS) advised by Mary Freeman. Jasmine received her bachelor’s degree in Environmental Science with a minor in biology from Georgia Gwinnett College in 2022. Jasmine is broadly interested in freshwater conservation and environmental justice, especially within minority communities that are negatively affected by poor water management. She’s also interested in interdisciplinary areas that overlap and allow for community-based research and learning with youth. Her current research aims to create an effective action plan to conserve and protect the area within and around the Broad River, a large tributary of the Savannah River.

Laura Naslund, PhD Student (co-advised by Amy Rosemond). Laura received a B.S. in Biology from Duke University where she studied the transport of selenium from mountaintop mining-impacted streams to terrestrial predators through emerging aquatic insects. She is broadly interested in human impacts on chemical fate and transport in freshwater ecosystems. For her dissertation, Laura is studying the impact of small impoundments on greenhouse gas emissions and nitrogen fluxes in stream networks to inform evaluations of the costs and benefits associated with dam removals.

Laura Rack is a PhD student advised by Mary Freeman. Her master’s work focused on the impact of low-flows on biota in perennial system. During that time, she worked with the Upper Flint River Working group to identify potential ecological consequences of severe low-flow in the shoals of the Upper Flint River. She is very interested in connecting ecological research with management and planning processes and is continuing to work on developing ecological metrics for water planning. In her free time, she enjoys running with friends in Athens and finding new spots for trail runs.  

Shishir Rao, PhD Student. Shishir is an engineer-turned-ecologist interested in hydrology, freshwater ecology and watershed management of tropical river ecosystems. Broadly, his research focus is on understanding how altered hydrology affects ecology-flow relationships and how reservoirs can be better managed to restore hydrological connectivity and incorporate downstream socio-ecological demands. His past research in the Western Ghats of India dealt with a) understanding the socio-ecological and hydrological impacts of small hydro power projects and 2) quantifying the degree and extent of hydrological alteration by large dams with a focus on developing environmental flows. At the University of Georgia, Shishir is enrolled as a PhD student under the Integrative conservation and ecology program.


Ed Stowe is a Postdoctoral Associate with the Network for Engineering with Nature and the U.S. Army Engineer Research and Development Center (ERDC) Environmental Laboratory. Ed received a B.S. at Yale University in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology and subsequently worked for various conservation, sustainability, and resource management entities. He graduated from UGA with a PhD in Ecology under the co-advisement of Mary Freeman and Seth Wenger.


Sameera Talati Gujarathi, PhD Student (co-advised by Susana Ferreira). I have worn several hats in my professional career so far. From being an engineer working in the power sector in India, to being a marketing executive and business development manager working in the remote farms of Southeast Asia, India and China to working as an business analyst in the mature biotech industry in Denmark and North America, my varied work experiences drew me back to academics. I am drawn to investigate the interplay between development and environmental degradation or conservation. With a background in Economics from UGA and now as a PhD student with ICON and the Odum school of Ecology, my research focuses on investigating the trade-offs between growth and conservation, socio-economic and ecological impacts of economic growth, and how development shapes conservation attitudes. As a mother of two children who will probably see a very altered world by the time they reach adulthood, sustainable growth is something I care about deeply and I hope my research will address those kind of issues.

Eric Walther, PhD student (co-advised by Mary Freeman). Born and raised in Washington state, Eric received a B.S. in Biology and a B.A. in History from Western Washington University, and a M.S. in Fisheries from the University of Alaska Fairbanks. Prior to starting his PhD in Ecology at UGA, Eric spent six years working as a fish biologist with the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife. Broadly, Eric is interested in how the landscape and environment shape the demographics, traits, and ecological processes of freshwater fishes.  

Former Lab Folks

Former Postdoctoral Associates:

Lee Dietterich was a postdoctoral researcher in S. Kyle McKay’s group in the U.S. Army Engineer Research and Development Center (ERDC) Environmental Laboratory (EL), based at the River Basin Center. He is now an Assistant Professor of Biology at Haverford College.

Duncan Elkins, former Postdoctoral Associate. Duncan is now a Lecturer in the Warnell School, just on the other side of the turtle pond at UGA. 

Suman Jumani was a postdoctoral researcher with the Network for Engineering with Nature and the U.S. Army Engineer Research and Development Center (ERDC) Environmental Laboratory (EL), based at the UGA River Basin Center. She received an M.S. in Wildlife Biology and Conservation from the National Centre for Biological Sciences, India, and a PhD from the University of Florida. She is now with the Durable Freshwater Protection program at The Nature Conservancy.

Doug Leasure, former Postdoctoral Associate. Doug is now a Senior Researcher and Data Scientist at the Leverhulme Center at Oxford University. He is also the founder of  Geodata Crawler, a nonprofit that provides an automated system for multi-scale GIS data collection.

Kit Wheeler, former Postdoctoral Associate. Kit is now an Assistant Professor at Tennessee Tech.

Former Wenger Graduate Students:

Anna Baynes, Master’s Student in Conservation Ecology and Sustainable Development. Anna received her B.S. in Environmental Sciences from Elon University. After graduating, Anna worked at UGA Marine Extension as a Marine Education Fellow where she did aquarium husbandry and taught a variety of classes, her favorite being estuary trawls. She also worked at the Oyster Hatchery and the Skidaway Institute of Oceanography studying marine microbes. Anna then worked at the UGA Savannah River Ecology Lab as a research technician studying the spread of rabies in wildlife. Anna graduated in Spring 2022 and is now a PhD student with Allison Roy at the University of Massachusetts Amherst.  

Kyle Connelly, former Master’s Student (co-advised by Krista Capps). Originally from Northeast Ohio, Kyle earned his B.S. in Wildlife and Fisheries Resources from West Virginia University and has worked on a number of water quality monitoring projects for both watershed NGOs and a regional government agency.  After graduating, Kyle spent two years in the Philippines as a Coastal Resource Management Volunteer with the Peace Corps, where he facilitated the collection of local environmental data and helped write a five-year management plan for the area.  Kyle graduated in summer, 2021, and is currently a Presidential Management Fellow working with the Bureau of Land Management in Flowood, Mississippi.


Greg Jacobs, former PhD Student (co-advised by Craig Osenberg). Greg joined the Wenger lab as a PhD student in 2015 to investigate patterns and variation in fish migration and life history in large inland aquatic systems (i.e. lakes and river networks). He has a BS in Biology from Alma College, a MS in Resource Ecology and Management from the School of Natural Resources and the Environment at the University of Michigan, and spent four years as a fish biologist for the US Fish and Wildlife Service before returning for his PhD. He graduated in May, 2021 and is currently a postdoctoral associate at Cornell University.

Jon Skaggs, former Master’s Student. Jon graduated in December, 2020, with a MS degree in Conservation Ecology and Sustainable Development. His masters degree focused on understanding landscape scale patterns and processes that drive species distributions, with applications to conservation such as systematic spatial conservation prioritization. He is currently the lab manager for the DeVault lab at SREL.

Zach Butler, former Master’s Student.  Zach graduated in May, 2020 with a MS degree in Conservation Ecology and Sustainable Development. His thesis examined the ecological impacts of nine-banded armadillos on barrier islands. Zach now works as a biologist for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.


Emily Johnson, former Master’s Student (co-advised by Amy Rosemond). Emily graduated in 2020 with an MS degree in Conservation Ecology and Sustainable Development. Her thesis focused on patterns of aquatic conductivity in urban streams in the Athens area, and the use of conductivity as a real-time monitoring tool. She now works with the consulting firm Tetra Tech in Atlanta.


John Spencer, former MS student (co-advised by Amy Rosemond). John Kyle Spencer, the first graduate student in the Wenger lab, died unexpectedly in January 2016. He was an extraordinary individual loved for his humor, generosity, energy, enthusiasm, and kindness. He studied urban streams and was passionate about freshwater ecology, conservation and ecological restoration. His legacy is honored by the John Spencer Fellowships and the John Spencer Graduate Student Small Grants.

Carol Yang, former PhD Student. Carol received her B.S. in Environmental Sciences from the University of Virginia. She worked on lakes in northern Wisconsin, participating in comparative lake surveys and whole-ecosystem experiments to research aquatic-terrestrial linkages. Carol went on to work in Costa Rica for several years, as the Environmental Education coordinator at a K-11 school and program coordinator at a Sustainability Demonstration Center. She finished a PhD in Ecology under the advisement of Seth Wenger in 2023. She now works as a, focusing on the role of freshwater crabs in tropical streams. Carol is broadly interested in stream ecology, as well as environmental education and outreach.

Recent Former Freeman Lab Students (there are a lot of other former Freeman Lab Students!)

Andrew Nagy, former Master’s Student advised by Mary Freeman. Andrew obtained his B.S. in Ecology at The Ohio State University in 2017. His interests in stream ecology and conservation led him to pursue a Master’s in Conservation Ecology and Sustainable Development in the Odum School of Ecology at UGA. Andrew’s thesis documented life history characteristics of fishes in the Upper Coosa River system and investigated the influence of traits on fish community change in long-term monitoring datasets. Andrew hopes to find a conservation career focused on preserving aquatic biodiversity in human-altered systems.

Former Wenger Lab Personnel:

Madeline Martinez, Research Technician. Madeline earned a BS in Marine and Atmospheric Science from the University of Miami in 2020. She was part of the Wenger Lab in 2021-2022 in a technician position that was shared with the Capps Lab.

Maxwell Kleinhans, former Research Technician. Max contributed to numerous projects and led the construction of an integrated database of aquatic species collections for Georgia. He is now pursuing a master’s degree at the Warnell School.

Jace Nelson, former Research Professional. Jace coordinated a very large research project with the Georgia Department of Transportation to examine and improve special provisions placed on stream crossing construction projects for the protection of imperiled aquatic species. He now works as a freshwater mussel propagation biologist at the Virginia Fisheries and Aquatic Wildlife Center in Charles City, VA

Kelly Petersen, former Research Technician. Kelly worked on numerous projects, including leading the writing of a paper on homogenization of Southern Appalachian fish communties. She’s now a PhD student in Ecology with John Wares.

Megan Hagler, former Lab Coordinator. Megan pretty much ran the fish ecology side of the River Basin Center for a decade and a half. She’s now doing amazing things in Portland.

Former Undergraduate Assistants and Interns:

Michael Bell, Andrew Bennett, Dinah Carlton, Carter Coleman, Maggie England-Johns, Isabel Evelyn, Noah Felsberg, Gabby Gravel, Mary Hunt, Chaya James, Callee Manna, Madeline McDonald, Karissa McFadden, Andres Santana, Samantha Siragusa, Emma Spiegel, Jenny Sycamore, Marisa ValeCruz, Sydney Williams and Hannah Yarbrough.