Graduate Students

Vivian Amelia Peralta Santana

Ph.D. in EEB Program (2021-present)

Hello! My name is Vivian, and I am a first year PhD student in the Ecology and Evolutionary Biology Program here at Texas A&M. I will be under the mentorship and guidance of Dr. Song where I will be working on locust and grasshoppers. I received my BA in Biology at Rutgers University-Newark. During my undergraduate years, I worked and volunteered in Dr. Ware’s Lab where I worked on a few things. One project was on population genetics in jewel bugs (Pachycoris stallii) and another one on georeferencing various species of dragonflies from the Philippines. I have loved science since I was little, but it was not until my undergraduate years that I discovered my passion for EEB specifically. In my free time I like reading and learning about other sciences and organisms that pique my interest, I also love drawing and lately I am starting to get into cosplay.

Alyssa Canova

Ph.D. in Entomology (2021-present)

Email: acanova@tamu.edu / canova.alyssa@gmail.com

Hello! My name is Alyssa. I am a first-year PhD student in the Entomology Department here at Texas A&M. I obtained my B.S. in Biology at the University of California Riverside in 2018, where I spent two years performing lab and field-based research on ants, bees, and wasps in the Ecology and Genetics of Social Arthropods Laboratory. While I have always been fond of insects, what solidified my passion for Orthoptera in particular was the time I spent photographing, capturing, identifying, and pinning Orthoptera specimens, mainly grasshoppers, during my internship as a Biology Assistant at Yellowstone National Park in the Summer of 2019. For my PhD studies, I will be examining locust phase polyphenism through ten integrative research activities as part of the Behavioral Plasticity Research Institute (BPRI), a virtual NSF Biology Integration Institute. In addition to researching tissue-specific and time-resolved transcriptomes in locust and grasshopper species belonging to the genus Schistocerca, I will also be examining the role of serotonin in density-dependent phenotypic plasticity for Schistocerca species that exhibit various degrees of this phenomenon. In my free time you can find me hiking, camping, baking, or attending music festivals.

Brandon Woo

Ph.D. in Entomology (2021-present)

Email: bmw95@tamu.edu / magicicadaseptendecim@gmail.com

I received my B.S. from Cornell University in 2020 and joined the Song lab in 2021. I have been fascinated by insects for most of my life, but I consider myself both an entomologist and a naturalist as I am interested in any and all taxonomic groups. For my Ph.D research, I will be working with pygmy mole crickets (Orthoptera: Tridactylidae), an understudied and early-branching lineage of small, burrowing grasshoppers. Most species in this family occur in sandy or muddy areas near water, but in central Florida at least two genera have transitioned to a lifestyle in the unique xeric scrub habitats of the central part of the state that represent ancient Pleistocene dune systems. These rapidly-disappearing habitats are home to many endemic species with unusual adaptations, and the pygmy mole crickets are no exception. I am interested in unraveling their evolutionary history, studying patterns of convergent evolution as well as detecting and analyzing their subterranean calling songs, which have never been formally studied. I am also active as an Orthoptera identifier on several citizen/community science platforms such as BugGuide and iNaturalist, which I consider extremely important for both my own learning and in engaging the public about nature. Outside of the lab, I enjoy rock climbing, birding, photography, and general naturalisting in interesting habitats.

Carla de Loera

M.S. in Entomology (2021-present)

Email: carla_deloera05@tamu.edu

  • Carla's C.V.
  • Greetings! I'm Carla de Loera. I started my educational career at Texas A&M University in the Fall of 2017. I graduated from Texas A&M in the Spring of 2021 with an entomology and horticulture degree. Now I'm working on earning my Master's from Texas A&M. I originally joined the Song lab Summer of 2018 conducting research on a wingless grasshopper genus Eremidium. Now my project concerns studying North American crickets. I study the morphology of their stridulatory file. I will also be collaborating with Dr. David Weissman and Dr. David Gray to conduct a comparative analysis of the songs of the cricket genus Gryllus. I also perform DNA extractions in the lab. I am highly interested in insect systematics and I'm excited for what I can learn from my project. In my spare time, I enjoy time with family and friends. I also enjoy experimenting with new recipes in the kitchen; I'm quite the cook! In the future, I hope to travel and discover various insects along the way. After receiving my Master's and taking a break, I hope to return to school to earn a Ph.D in entomology. I hope to conduct research on a variety of insects and become a professor.  

    Miriel Otero

    Ph.D. in Entomology (2020-present)

    Email: miriel.otero@tamu.edu

  • Miriel's C.V.
  • Howdy! My name is Miriel Otero, I am a Plant Protection and Quarantine Officer with USDA-APHIS-PPQ. I have a bachelor’s degree in agronomy, and master’s degree in entomology, earned from University of Puerto Rico, Mayagüez Campus. I started my PhD in Montana State University in August, 2017. When I got the PHSS position with USDA, I transferred to Texas A&M University (August, 2020) to finish my PhD degree in entomology (taxonomy and systematics) working with Acrididae. My long-term goal is to finish my doctorate, work in the federal government as an identifier or research entomologist and make great contributions to science. Some of my experiences in entomology has been through my PhD program in Montana State University working with Elaterids (mating behavior and pheromones), and with Yucca moth and alfalfa weevil, all this under Dr. Kevin Wanner mentoring. Also I collaborated with several Professors from the University of Puerto Rico. With Dr. Segarra I worked on ID longhorn beetles (Cerambycidae) of Puerto Rico.

    We also worked on Coccinellidae identification in which we found four new Decadiomus spp. endemic of Puerto Rico, Decadiomus martorelli, Decadiomus ramosi, Decadiomus hayuyai and Decadiomus seini, finally we worked on a survey of Fulgoroidea on palm trees around Puerto Rico island and identified potential phytoplasma vectors. With Dr. Payán I did research in avocado, citrus, mango, pineapple, breadfruit and guinep, implementing different treatments to orchards and IPM. And with Dr. Torres I had the opportunity to work on a survey in Gulf Field Club Deportivo del Oeste and determine insect population in the field and IPM. The techniques learned so far have been mounts on slides and staining, genitalia dissection, frames and use of taxonomic keys, manipulation of scientific instrumentation and photomontage programs, electron microscopy and use high-caliber scientific equipment (CamLift). I made molecular studies using gen COX 1 and COX 2 to differentiate between species of Flatidae and identified disease vectors. I collaborated with Dr. Charles Bartlett on the description of a new species of Abbrosoga sp. (Hemiptera; Delphacidae) and with Dr. Brian Bahder on his paper, Establishment of the Sea Grape Flatid Petrusa epilepsies (Hemiptera: Fulgoroidea: Flatidae) in Florida. Also I worked as TA, teaching entomology, fruit culture and floral arrangement labs to undergraduate students. I gained experience in molecular area because of my former job with Ricetec, learning DNA extractions, PCR, RT-PCR using QUANT, Fluidigm using SNP’s and data analysis. Entomology is definitely my passion, I have three kids and a wonderful husband, we go to the field every weekend to collect insects and ID them. My hobbies are collect insects, spend time with family, play the flute and exercise, I am a bodybuilding competitor and everywhere I go people know me as the bug lady or little grasshopper, and now everything make sense because I’ll be working with grasshoppers under Dr. Song's mentorship.

    Jorge Humberto Medina-Durán

    Ph.D. in EEB Program (2019-present)

    Email: jorgemedinad@tamu.edu

  • Jorge's C.V.
  • Hi! I’m Jorge. I started my PhD studies in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at Texas A&M on Fall 2019 under the guidance of Dr. Song. Prior to the starting of my PhD, I completed a bachelor’s degree in Biology and a Master of Biological Sciences, both working with interactions between protists (Apicomplexa: Eugregarinorida) and Orthoptera at the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM). I am broadly interested in macroevolutionary processes, so my PhD dissertation aims to continue the study of parasite-insect interactions combining field work and molecular experiments to understand aspects such as its diversity, parasite effect in the hosts, and its coevolution. In my spare time I like to do a variety of things such as traveling, biking, hiking, drawing and raising cool bugs. Please feel free to contact me or stop by the lab if you are interested in cool parasites or awesome insects!

    Bert Foquet

    Ph.D. in Entomology (2015-2020)

    *Currently, Postdoctoral Fellow at Illinois State University

    Email: bertfoquet@tamu.edu

  • Bert's C.V.
  • Howdy, Bert here. I started my PhD at the Song lab as an international (Belgian) graduate student in January 2016. Prior to my acceptance, I completed a Bachelor and Master in Biochemistry and Biotechnology at the University of Antwerp (Belgium). During this 5 year study, my main focus was on human genetics. Since my childhood, my spare time interest, however, is on insects and Orthoptera in particular. I don’t like confined spaces for too long, so during my free time, it is likely you’ll find me outside, hunting for bugs. Combining the study of Orthoptera, field research and international travel, has always been a dream for me! At the Song lab, I will be studying the density-dependent phase polyphenism in the locust species Schistocerca piceifrons on a molecular level. This will involve using techniques such as RNA sequencing, RNAi-technology, behavioral assays,… I further look forward to travel to Yucatan in Mexico from time to time, to perform field experiments. As such, this PhD offers an interesting mix of both my previous field of study and my hobby. 

    Toan Hoang

    M.S. in EEB Program (2018-2020)

    Email: htoan169@tamu.edu

    Howdy, I started my PhD at Texas A&M on Summer 2018 in the Song lab. Prior to this, I completed my bachelor’s degree at the University of Colorado Colorado Springs (UCCS). During my undergraduate years, my research focused on fertility, detecting male-transferred RNA in seminal fluid and better understanding post-mating protein interactions within the female reproductive tract using the desert flies Dosophila arizonae and D. mojavensis. At the Song lab, I am broadly interested in better understanding locust phase polyphenism from a molecular perspective using Schistocerca grasshoppers. In my spare time, I raise non-Orthopteran insects particularly ants, rhinoceros beetles, and stick insects. 

    Ricardo Mariño-Pérez

    Ph.D. in Entomology (2011-2018)

    *Currently, Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Michigan Museum of Zoology

    Email: pselliopus@yahoo.com.mx

  • Ricardo's C.V.
  • Follow Ricardo's publications
  • I started to study a PhD in Entomology at Texas A&M on Spring 2015 under the guidance of Dr. Song. I have a Bachelor in Biology degree (2006) working on the genus Pselliopus (Hemiptera: Reduviidae) from Mexico and a Master of Sciences degree (2009) studying the relationship of ciliates (Protozoa) attached to aquatic true bugs, both from the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM). Since 2008 I have studied orthopterans. My dissertation deals with the study of the family Pyrgomorphidae (gaudy grasshoppers) covering issues such as morphology, molecular systematics, biogeography and evolutionary aspects of its biology.  

    Derek A. Woller

    Ph.D. in Entomology (2011-2017)

    *Currently, USDA Supervisory Entomologist, Rangeland Grasshopper and Mormon Cricket Management Team, Phoenix, AZ, U.S.A.

    Email: asilid@gmail.com

  • Derek's C.V.
  • Hello! My name is Derek A. Woller and I'm a Ph.D. Candidate in the Song Lab (I joined in 2011). I received a B.S. in Biology with a minor in entomology from the University of Missouri-Columbia and a master’s from San Jose State University. I often refer to myself as an entomologist as that has long been my scientific focus, especially on the taxonomy and systematics side of things, with future aspirations to become a curator or collections manager in an institution containing an insect collection. In the past, I worked on Asilidae (Diptera: assassin flies), which still interest me, and I am now immersed in an entirely different order: Orthoptera. Often-overlooked, orthopterans are amazingly diverse, found worldwide, and very common, all of which make them a great group to work on.

    My research is primarily focused on unraveling the evolutionary history of a group composed of 24 flightless grasshopper species (Acrididae: Melanoplinae: Melanoplus), which are all quite tiny and inhabit scrubby, xeric habitats in the southeastern U.S. My project crosses many fields from biogeography to ecology to systematics (molecular) to geometric morphometrics to sexual selection in my quest to better understand how this group speciated (and the speciation process, in general). My wife (Elizabeth) and I live in Bryan, TX with our three cats and two dogs. If you’re ever in the area, feel free to stop by the lab and I’ll give you a tour and show you some awesome insects! 

    Ryan Selking

    M.S. in Entomology (2016-2018)

    *Currently, Extension Educator at Penn State University

    Email: ryanselking@yahoo.com

  • Ryan's C.V.
  • Hi, my name is Ryan Selking and I am a current senior entomology undergraduate at Texas A&M University. My hobbies include insect collecting and tarantula keeping, and my interest is in is in insect systematics. I am currently working on a project where I generate and analyze transcriptomes of grasshoppers from the United States in order to better elucidate their phylogenetic relationships. 

    Steve Gotham

    M.S. in Biology (2012-2014) @UCF

    *Currently, Environmental Specialist III at Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP).

    Email: sgothamjr@knights.ucf.edu

  • Steve's C.V.
  • I’m a new graduate student, Masters, working under Dr. Song with a Research and Mentoring Program Fellowship at UCF. As I embark in my journey in Biology, I am learning very much about entomology and the science associated in the field. I graduated from Apopka High School in 2003. After that I spent five years in the Marine Corps to the rank of Sergeant working as intelligence specialist so that I can go to college using funding from the generous Montgomery GI Bill. During that time I was stationed in Okinawa, Japan for three years and I have deployed to Pakistan, S. Korea twice, and Iraq.

    The military was a great and empowering experience for me and I am sure it will contribute to my work in Biology. After two years of undergraduate research with Dr. Song, I have helped build his lab from the ground up and have learned to use all the new equipment he has gotten with his start package including thermocyclers, centrifuges, sequencing and statistical software, EthoVision, and the Big Kahuna imaging system. I have also gained a lot of field experience and will continue to collect more Schistocerca samples, which are always an adventure to collect. I have trained other undergraduates in molecular work in colony care and look forward to continue to do so. My undergraduate research incorporated the macro-evolutionary aspects of density-dependent phenotypic plasticity in Schistocerca which is a very interesting phenomenon. As I begin my Masters, I am venturing into RNA work and next generation sequencing of density transcriptome data to understand the molecular processes behind density-dependent phenotypic plasticiy, which is largely unknown. By the end of my Masters I am looking to have four publications. I was lucky to get Dr. Song as my advisor.

    Tyler Raszick

    M.S. in Biology (2011-2014) @UCF

    *Currently, Postdoctoral Fellow at Texas A&M University

    Email: tjraszick@gmail.com

  • Tyler's C.V.
  • I am broadly interested in microevolutionary processes and the short-term effects of ecology on population-level divergence. Although my research program primarily revolves around ecological and genomic divergence in the grasshopper species Schistocerca lineata, I am also involved in DNA-barcoding diet analysis projects in herbivorous insects, including some agriculturally important pest species. Additionally, I am investigating the evolution of the grasshopper genome with regards to genome size and microheteroplasmy in the mitochondria.

    Sandeep Kumar

    Ph.D. in Biology (2010-2016) @UCF

    *Currently, U.S. Army microbiologist

    Email: skumar@knights.ucf.edu