Principal Investigator

Brian Aukema conducts research in forest insect ecology and spatial and temporal dynamics from a landscape perspective. Last spring, Gayla Marty in the research office penned this brief on Brian and the work in the lab. After work and on weekends, Brian enjoys hockey, planted aquaria, grillin and chillin (2013 Dakota County Fair Barbeque Pork Grand Champion), being a dad to two boys, and spelling words on the back lawn with the lab (photo above). Brian is married to Kelly, a researcher in the Biotechnology Institute when not being the top part of an 'E'.

Lab Manager

Aubree Wilke joined us in July 2013 from the University of North Dakota where she conducted research to identify key genes in Populus defense against insect herbivory using white-marked tussock moth in Steve Ralph's shop. After graduating, she worked for a year as lab manager in a grassland conservation ecology lab and helped to create a database of the UND campus tree population using ArcGIS. Outside of research, Aubree enjoys hiking in the woods, watching and collecting insects, and kayaking.

Gradute Students

Fraser McKee is conducting his Ph.D. on links between plant defenses and insect performance, using larch and friends as a model system. His interests are broad, including agricultural pest management, forest entomology, insect physiology/ behaviour and community/population ecology, as well as the biology of large mammals and carnivores such as grizzly bears and sasquatch. A repository of knowledge about the biomechanics of cheetah spines and other random facts, he also hikes, snowboards, snowshoes, camps, plays hockey, boxes, squashes, runs, and grows ratty facial hair.

Andrea Hefty joined us Sept 2011 on a project co-advised by Dr. Rob Venette with the USDA Forest Service. She likes cutting down trees (and planting them occasionally), hiking, biking, rollerblading, swimming in lakes, apline skiing, yoga, topographic maps, badminton, bugs, local music (mostly bluegrass and hip-hop) and wearing fun boots with butterflies on them.

Derek Rosenberger joined us Sept 2012 from Belize, Central America, where he served as Director of an off-campus field program focused in tropical ecology and sustainable development. While completing his M.A. in Higher Education (Taylor University, 2009) with research in environmental service learning, Derek also snuck in some forest entomology work on Emerald Ash Borer with the Indiana DNR and was hooked! Derek has a B.S. in Biology and is an avid birder, insect collector, and composter. Adjusting with Derek to the shocking change in temperature after their years in Belize are his wife Ashley and Belizean-born son Isaac.

Samuel Fahrner joined us May of 2011 to work on the biological control of emerald ash borer. Sam completed his B.S. in Evolution, Ecology, and Biodiversity at the University of California, Davis before spending a few months with Americorps serving underprivileged kids in inner-city New York. In addition to forest entomology, Sam enjoys watching and playing a variety of sports, being outdoors, traveling, looking for burritos, and working on his Spanish.

Marissa Streifel joined the lab in July 2013 to study the distribution of European gypsy moth that has become established in Minnesota. Marissa received her BS from the University of Florida in 2010 and worked on a variety of projects as a field technician in some very harsh conditions. During a final sampling expedition in Biscayne National Park, Marissa caught a female Schaus Swallowtail which will be used to start a captive breeding program for this endangered butterfly. An outdoor recreation enthusiast, Marissa enjoys hiking, biking, rock climbing, canoeing, trail running, camping, and snowboarding. She anxiously anticipates the new adventures that living in snow will bring!

Rachael Nicoll joined us November 2013 to study the interface between forest entomology and natural resources policy with a focus on the European gypsy moth. She is co-advised by Dr. Dennis Becker in the Department of Forest Resources. With a BS in Forest Resources, Rachael currently works as Information Specialist at the Minnesota Forest Resources Council, where she supports the MFRC's forest policy and landscape-level management initiatives. In addition to work and school, Rachael likes to bike, oil paint, bake, work on her fungal identification chops, hike, fish, and last but not least, add to her insect collection (a prized souvenir of Brian's first U of MN entomology course in 2010!)


Jim Walker joined us April 2014 from NDSU, where he graduated with his M.S. in Entomology. He is primarily interested in insect systematics, and still can't decided if he likes beetles or spiders best. Jim's pretty talented, with a BS in graphic design from SDSU. In addition to 'bugs' and design, Jim enjoys brewing beer, tinkering with electronic devices, and regularly attending rock and/or roll concerts with his wife, Kirsten.


Jonah Widmer began working with us in the spring of 2014 and has his sights set on graduate work, eventually. Before joining us, Jonah worked in a microbiology lab, where he gathered data with a bioinformaticist and coauthored a paper; no small feat! Jonah likes being outside so much that he often brings some outside inside with him, puts it in a pot, and grows it. He enjoys growing plants and is looking to take up the hobby of bonsai.

James-Scott Lock is an undergrad at Wheaton college and joined the Black Hills in the summer of 2014. He plans on majoring in environmental science with an emphasis in the social sciences. As a San Diego local, he enjoys surfing and incredible Mexican food as well as both urban and desert exploration.

Micah Edelblut joined the Black Hills team for the summer of 2014 in order to gain experience with field research. He is entering his senior year of undergraduate studies (Wheaton College) as an environmental science major with an emphasis in chemistry. He has completed water quality research at Wheaton and intensive field studies in the Black Hills of South Dakota.




Kishan Sambaraju joined us in summer of 2008 and left in the spring of 2011 to accept a permanent position as a research scientist in epidemiological modeling of forest disturbance agents with the Laurentian Forestry Center, Natural Resources Canada. With B.Sc. and MS degrees in Agriculture (A.N.G.R. Agricultural University, 2000; West Texas A&M, 2003) and a Ph.D. in Entomology (Oklahoma State University, 2007), Kishan augmented his expertise in insect ecology, biology, population dynamics, and pest management with work in landscape modeling and climate change in our lab. To date, Kishan remains the only lab member who had an appreciation for both types of cricket.

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Laura Machial (M.Sc. July 2011) originally joined us from Greg Henry's tundra ecology lab at UBC. Laura continued research started by Matthew Klingenberg, working on dispersal and mechanisms of host-orientation by Warren root collar weevil. Last seen, she was cheerfully tracking her little friends with a harmonic radar unit. After graduating, she took a position in IPM consulting in the Okanagan Valley of British Columbia.

Ewing Teen (M.Sc. Apr 2012) came from the University of Wisconsin-Madison with a biochemistry degree and stellar undergraduate research work on encephalomyocarditis (EMCV) virus, cloning recombinant DNA, and protein purification. Forest entomology was a completely new venture, but, in his words, he "likes to participate in the adventure rather than watch others have all the fun." We loved the Malaysian culture Ewing brought to the lab after his jaunts to Kuala Lampur. Last Ewing sighting was back in British Columbia.

Jordan Koopmans (M.Sc. January 2011) joined us fresh off a bachelors degree in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology. His MSc thesis involved integrating spatial and temporal components into models of mountain pine beetle population dynamics at stand and landscape scales. Jordan garnered several awards, from university, regional, and national sources, including a President's Prize presenting his research at the national meeting. He remains the most imposing lefty on the pitcher's mound we have ever graduated. With a passion for community development fostered by a number of service and learning trips abroad, Jordan is now in medical school.

Fraser McKee (M.Sc. May 2010) joined us from Rebecca Hallet's lab at the University of Guelph, where he graduated in 2005 with an honours degree in wildlife biology. Prior to joining our lab, Fraser was involved in habitat studies with waterfowl in Alberta and worked on pests of vegetable crops. He conducted his research on host selection of mountain pine beetle in spruce, and was recognized with an IUFRO international conference travel award in the fall of 2009. He snuck on the truck during the lab relocation from UNBC, and is now pursuing a Ph.D. with us.

Honey-Marie de la Giroday (M.Sc. Sept 2009) completed her M.Sc. thesis on the landscape ecology of range expansion of mountain pine beetle, focusing on the breach of the historic geoclimatic barrier in northeastern British Columbia. Truly multi-talented (GIS, spatial statistics, landscape ecology, mountain biking...), she landed a job before even graduating, as a research technician with the Canadian Forest Service.

Matthew Klingenberg (M.Sc., Sept 2008) was our first M.Sc. graduate. His thesis work demonstrated that Warren root collar weevil may become an emerging concern on the landscape following the epidemic of mountain pine beetle. Matt's mark-recapture work with hundreds of individually etched weevils has become lab legend. After graduating, Matt took a forest health technician job with the British Columbia Ministry of Forests and Range in Williams Lake, British Columbia.

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Collin Smith joined us in the summer of 2013 after his third year at the University of Minnesota Twin Cities studying environmental and ecological engineering. Besides investigating the world of beetles, Collin enjoyed anything outdoors including backpacking, cycling, all sorts of fishing, and wearing Hawaiian shirts on Fridays.


Audrey Zahradka (2011) finished her Bachelor of Science in Forest Resource Management with a minor in Urban Forestry. She spent a summer with us after two years with the Minnesota Conservation Corps and a year with the University of Minnesota Extension Service. Audrey was known for knitting socks, identifying woody and herbaceous plants, beating people at Scrabble, and playing the bass drum in an all-foresters polka band! She is now gainfully employed with Branch and Bough Tree Service.

Gareth Hopkins (2007-2010) first joined us as a co-op student in the summer of 2007 and left after dual undergrad majors in Biology and Natural Resources Management. Along the way, published his independent study and won the Canadian national undergraduate research poster competition and an undergraduate achievement award from the Entomological Society of America. He is now a Ph.D. student with Edmund Brodie at Utah State University.

Kathryn Berry (2009-2010) is finishing her fifth year at UNBC. She loves working both in the lab and out in the field. Some of her passions include horseback riding, exercising at the gym, and laughing it up with friends. Another passion of hers is research! Working alongside professors and graduates at UNBC is one of her most rewarding experiences.

Genny Michiel (2009-2010) spent her summers with us while completing a degree in Environmental Science. She enjoyed working in the field where there is more opportunity to actually see the world, as opposed to sitting in the office and googling it. Between bear encounters, the occasional helicopter ride, and adventures in four-wheel-drive, she thinks there's no better way to spend a field season than traipsing around the wilds of northern British Columbia.

Rurik Muenter (2009) completed an undergraduate degree in forestry at UNBC. He worked with us in the summer of 2009, spending the summer months wandering around the forest of northern BC in search of the next research plot. He came highly recommended from Kathy Lewis' dendro-ecoloy lab, and didn't disappoint. When not completing degree requirements, you could find him on the rugby pitch, although he admitted that the finer points of the rules eluded him.

Talya Truant (2008-2009) worked with is while completing her Natural Resource Management degree at UNBC. No matter whether she was digging around a root collar or entering bibliographic data on the computer for hours on end, she was always smiling. After graduating, Talya took a museum technician position at the Peace River Peace Region Palaeontology Research Centre in Tumbler Ridge before returning to Prince George to work with children at Exploration Place.

Jeff Selesnic (2008) conducted an undergraduate thesis on spatial aspects of mountain pine beetle colonization dynamics in post-outbreak situations, co-supervised with Dr. Dezene Huber, in the winter semester of 2008. Jeff is now working for CanFor Forest Products when not biking or watching the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Hollie Moore (2006-2007) worked with us studying landscape dynamics of Warren root collar weevil for the summers of 2006 and 2007. Hollie remains one of the best naturalists with whom we've ever worked: she could ID a herbacious plant at 50m in the rain, around a corner.

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Erica Nystrom, a native of St. Paul, joined us from the University of Madison - Wisconsin where she graduated with degrees in Entomology, Zoology and Spanish Literature. Erica was the queen of embarassing herself in the lab and should stay away from Cummings at all times. Now pursuing a MS with Profs. Venette and Koch, she also likes to bake bread, listen to music, and attempt to keep up with her toddler, Bibi.

Michelle Cummings grew up in Lexington, Minnesota and graduated from the U of M with a Bachelor of Science in Forest Resources Management and Planning, and is now pursuing a teaching degree9:29 AM 9/12/2014. Michelle enjoys camping, playing disc golf, watching Twins games. The April Fool's blimp prank and the fake dog poo gag will go down in lab lore.

Honey-Marie de la Giroday (2009-2010) kept the lab groovin' after completing her M.Sc. She kept track of field equipment, troubleshot computers, tracked vehicle maintenance, greased GIS processes, sorted the mail, filed driver authorization forms, coordinated field help, and remembered birthdays. When the Canadian Forest Service inexplicably cut her position, she moved to Ottawa, Ontario, where Health Canada pounced on her.

Originally from la belle province, Sandy Allen (2006-2007) migrated west to find the mountains. After several seasons of skiing and treeplanting, she decided to get serious and study dendroglaciology (i.e. study of glacial landforms and movement through tree-ring analysis). While completing her Masters through the University of Victoria, Sandy spent two years coordinating the field components of our program at UNBC. She is now a technician with the Pacific Forestry Centre branch of the Canadian Forest Service in Victoria, British Columbia.

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High School Volunteer

Elgin Lee spent weekday mornings throughout the summer of 2014 splitting his time between the rearing room and helping Marissa with an experiment on overwintering biology. Elgin was truly a Renaissance man; a gifted and passionate pianist who loved to explore all things related to art and technology, ranging from nature itself to building and tinkering with computers.

Mascot / Cannine Field Support

When not industriously locating shade, Muddy (2006-2008) coordinated all aspects of the field program that involved keeping track of red squirrels (Tamiasciurus hudsonicus), even if red squirrels were never a part of the program. Muddy could smell a red squirrel at 250 paces and was an effective communicator of transect boundaries that would be off-limits to squirrels. Muddy never could fathom why the rest of the crew tolerated or even enjoyed the critters.

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