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Graduate Students

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Clay Bliznick, M.S. Student

My graduate research in the Darracq Lab uses modeling to assess biodiversity trends in birds, particularly in urban and wetland ecosystems. Understanding the drivers of biodiversity within these systems has practical implications on restoration and management efforts in the future. I also work on quantifying Odonate and butterfly biodiversity across numerous wetlands in Western Kentucky. Besides my work in the lab, I exceedingly enjoy birding (bird-watching), but I also like to engage in a wide variety of nature photography and outdoor activities.

Phil Kavouriaris, M.S. Student

I'm interested in raptor ecology and conservation with a particular emphasis on research with wildlife management applications. My current research is attempting to answer basic ecological questions about a local widespread raptor that will help inform more effective management strategies in the future. Additionally, I'm attempting to quantify the importance of vertebrate scavengers here in Kentucky. My hobbies include cooking, reading, playing guitar, watching live music, and doing just about anything outdoors.

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Evan Barr, M.S. Student 

I am broadly interested in the effects of land management practices on wildlife in our region. Currently, I am involved with a large-scale camera trapping project looking at the effects of flooding on mammalian and avian biodiversity in bottomland hardwood and xero-hydric flatwood systems. In my spare time I enjoy hunting, fishing, kayaking, and anything else that allows me to enjoy the outdoors. I am involved with Murray State's chapters of The Wildlife Society, Backcountry Hunters and Anglers, and Ducks Unlimited.

Michelle Weaver, M.S. Student 

I am interested in the topic of invasion and behavioral ecology. Currently, I'm assessing the health and behavioral effects of turtle racing on eastern box turtles (Terrapene carolina) as part of my thesis. In my free time I enjoy hiking, tennis, photography, and walking my dog. I am involved with the Murray State's chapter of The Wildlife Society.

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Cord Lemons M.S. Student (SUPERB scholarship student and McNair Scholar)

I am currently researching the landscape of fear concept using raccoons and an extirpated predator, the red wolf (Canis rufus), as study species. This study will determine if raccoons still possess an instinctual fear of red wolves, although the latter has been extirpated from the Southeastern United States (their historic range) for over a hundred years. The overall goal of this research is to elucidate the ecosystem services provided by red wolves as an apex predator, and help strengthen their recovery efforts. Aside from my research, my hobbies include trail running, hiking, and rock climbing.

Jillian Murphy M.S. Student (4+1)

I am both an undergraduate and a graduate student in the 4+1 program. I enjoy a variety of outdoor activities, painting, wildlife photography, and I love birds! My research is assessing the influence of habitat characteristics and brood parasitism on wood duck (Aix sponsa) nest box use and success. My career goals are to work a state wildlife agency working with both non-game and game birds. 


Megan Causey 
I am broadly interested in the anthropogenic threats that endangered species face and their subsequent survival and recovery plans. I am currently taking over the research project assessing the effects of turtle racing on eastern box turtles. My long term career goal is to work in endangered species conservation and management. In my free time I enjoy hiking, reading, crocheting, going to concerts, and spending time with my dog.  


Nathan Waltmon

My primary interests are in wildlife and forest management, as well as prescribed fire and fire ecology. I will be working on a camera trapping project at Clarks River National Wildlife Refuge, and assessing the response of the mammalian communities to timber management practices. I am an avid hunter and outdoorsman. I also enjoy hiking and camping, rock climbing, running, or anything that gets me outside and active!

Undergraduate Researchers

Morgan Hurley

I am a Junior working towards my undergraduate degree in Zoological Conservation, and I am very interested in animal behavior and the ecological systems that make up our natural world. I'm currently helping Cord Lemons determine if raccoons will have any noticeable differences in foraging behavior based on the introduction of auditory cues from American Red Wolves. I'm also hoping to study the ecological effects of the nine-banded armadillo range expansion into Kentucky. I would like to work for the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency after graduating.


Tayler Hilton
I am extremely interested in the ways our schools are teaching the next generation about the great outdoors. Currently, I am taking over an older research project and revamping it. I am looking at private and public school districts and how much their 8th graders know about simple terms like invasive and native. In my spare time I love to go hiking and help out the local rehabbers with animal pickup and transportation. My career goals are to work in an urban setting to do outdoor education with kids.

Laurel Head 

I am a junior majoring in Wildlife and Conservation Biology, specifically Zoological Conservation. I am very interested in raptors and I will be using data from an older Vulture research project to specifically look at Vulture behavior. After graduating, I would like to either further study raptors as a grad student out West or start working in a zoo. In my free time I am either running or out on Kentucky Lake with the Murray State Rowing Team.

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Undergraduate Research Assistants 

Coming soon ....
Julia Brandstette 
- Green Heart 

Michaela Garske - Green Heart 

Ly Myre - Green Heart 

Chasity Allsop - box turtle  

Jarah Arnold  - box turtle 


Ally Criss 
I am an undergraduate student currently helping with Eastern box turtle research in Dr. Darracq's lab. I love being involved in outdoor field research, especially when it involves handling animals. I’m most passionate about work with greater conservation implications, such as when findings can advise for better management or care of animals. In my free time, I enjoy hiking, crocheting, horseback riding, dog training, and volunteering with The Wildlife Society.

MSU Amphibian & Reptile Collection (MSU ARC) Interns

Bailey Jorgensen (Undergraduate) 
I am a pre-vet major here at Murray State University. I am from Lexington Kentucky and love to travel and observe the different ecosystems across our amazing planet. I am currently working towards the goal of becoming a wildlife conservation veterinarian. I enjoy getting to be a part of the MSU ARC team in Dr Darracq's lab. As Ray Bradbury says "love what you do and do what you love'' I am taking my passion for conservation, the outdoors, and wildlife using them to create my career in benefiting the world around us.


Elijah Winebrenner (Undergraduate) 

I'm currently working toward a degree in the Zoological Conservation track, and I'm specifically interested in the ecology of animals' with regard to human expansion, restoration of endangered species and their habitats, and the improvement of wildlife education. I work in the Amphibian and Reptile Collection and help coordinate outreach events with Adam Mason. In the future, I would hopefully like to work at a zoo or wildlife center as an educator.

 Adam Mason - Undergraduate 

Liv Lothamer - Undergraduate 

James Beck - Undergraduate 

Morgan Hurley - Undergraduate (see above)

Jazmyn Lapasinski - Undergraduate 

Summer Mitchell - Undergraduate 

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