IMG_2549We are Dr. Sarah Zohdy’s Disease Ecology Lab!

Principle Investigator

Sarah_ZohdyDr. Sarah Zohdy,  is an Assistant Professor of Disease Ecology in the School of Forestry and Wildlife Sciences and College of Veterinary Medicine at Auburn University.

Field Manager
Bernadette Rabaoarivola (Menja ) is our lead medical entomologist in Madagascar. She has worked as a field technician for Centre Val Bio in Ranomafana, Madagascar since 1999 on a wide range of projects. Menja is the heart of our mosquito research, and the local expert in Ranomafana. She began working with us in 2013, and has been managing our field teams and activities since 2015. Menja also plays a very important role in education and outreach, teaching people about the importance of mosquito vector control in and around Malagasy communities. She also trains children in basic biology and what mosquitoes can teach us about the natural world.

 Graduate Students
Kayleigh Chalkowski is a PhD student.  After earning her B.Sc. in Biology from Cornell University, Kayleigh has spent the last four years doing on-the ground conservation work on Kaua’i. Her field experience with the diverse set of avifauna in the Hawaiian islands gave her an appreciation for effective predator control and an interest in diseases that impact endangered species as well as humans. Following this passion, in Fall 2017 she started her PhD in the Cell & Molecular Biosciences program studying population genetics and virulence of Toxoplasma gondii strains in Hawaii. In addition to her research at Auburn, she is a freelance artist and is the co-founder and curator of The Endangered Ark– an annual art exhibit in Honolulu, HI that calls attention to issues surrounding endangered species through art and community action. Visit her portfolio at

Ben McKenzie is a graduate student working towards an M.S in Wildlife Science. Ben earned his B.S in Ecology and Biodiversity from The University of the South in Sewanee, TN. Past research includes geospatial analysis of salamander distributions in the Cumberland Plateau region of Tennessee, the effects of land use on salamander abundance and geospatial analysis of the degradation of vernal pool networks on the Cumberland Plateau. Ben is currently working to model the potential role of shipping in the spread of Aedes mosquitos in the gulf coast region of the US.

shelbyShelby Zikeli is a graduate student working on an M.S in Wildlife Science and hopes to continue at Auburn for a PhD. She received her B.S in Science from California University of Pennsylvania. Past research includes; studying the presence of Toxoplasma gondii in Madagascar’s small rodents as well as aiding in a long -term study of the relationships between native and invasive species in Ronamafana National Park, Madagascar. She is currently working on small mammal research relating to Lyme disease and the abundance and distribution of its small-mammal host species in Alabama.

Veterinary Students
VictoriaCrabtreeVictoria Crabtree is a student at Auburn University’s College of Veterinary Medicine. She graduated summa cum laude from Eastern Kentucky University with her Bachelor of Science. Victoria was recently accepted into the Merial Summer Scholars Research Program through the College of Veterinary Medicine. This summer she will travel to Madagascar with Dr. Sarah Zohdy to study the ecological drivers of diseases in both humans and animals, especially lemurs. They will take a One Health approach to improving wildlife conservation while simultaneously improving human health.
11202119_10204573657160287_8878679247781311011_nAllison Siu received her B.S. in Biology and Exercise Science from the University of Louisville, as well as her Master of Public Health with a concentration in Epidemiology from the University of Louisville School of Public Health and Information Sciences. Her past research includes spinal cord injury locomotor rehabilitation, perception and use of tobacco and tobacco related products in vulnerable populations, and community health and asthma. She is currently working towards a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine at Auburn University College of Veterinary Medicine. Her research interests include zoonotic diseases, field epidemiology, emerging infectious diseases, and the One Health approach to medicine and research. In her spare time she enjoys rock climbing, snowboarding, baking, and traveling. Her future aspiration includes integrating veterinary medicine and public health in the protection of population health and prevention of infectious diseases.

Undergraduate Students
Kayla Krigger is a Junior working towards a double degree in Wildlife Management, Pre-Vet and Natural Resource Management. Upon graduating she hopes to work through veterinary school and join Vets Without Borders. Her interests lie in researching human-wildlife interactions and designing public education programs to facilitate coexistence wherever possible, especially in regards to the effect of urbanization on pest and threatened/endangered species.
Michaela Coleman is currently a Junior studying Wildlife Ecology and Management at Auburn. She is currently conducting research on mosquitoes and their interactions with captive lemurs at the Duke Lemur Center in North Carolina and is involved in two research programs outside of Dr. Zohdy’s lab, Predation on Cottontail Rabbits under Dr. Steury and Dr. Ditchkoff’s DeerLab. She will also serve as Lead Undergraduate for Dr. Steury’s program for the 2017-2018 academic year. She enjoys reading and caring for her rabbit, Otter, in her spare time.
 Victoria Ashby is a freshman at Auburn University working towards a Bachelor of Science in Microbiology with Pre-Vet concentration along with a double minor in Public Health and Natural Resources Ecology. She has a strong interest in exploring infectious disease ecology research, and hopes to pursue a career in veterinary epidemiology surrounding the One Health Initiative.

Shakara McGirt is a senior majoring in Wildlife with a Pre-Vet concentration. With already having her Associates degree in Biology, she plans to keep building on to her degrees by getting her Master’s degree by studying infectious diseases in primates. Then she plans on going to veterinarian school to become a rehabilitation veterinarian or zoo veterinarian. In her free time she loves to fish and go on nature walks with her dog.

22675Jordan Broadhead is a junior in Wildlife Sciences Pre-Vet and is currently Vice President of the Wildlife Society and a School of Forestry and Wildlife Sciences Student Ambassador. After graduation he would like to attend vet school and pursue a career in zoonotic disease research.  His current research interest is rodent-eating snakes and their impact on disease reservoir populations in the eastern rain forests of Madagascar. In his free time he enjoys caring for his eleven snakes and two aquariums, working out, and spending time outdoors.

Seth Rankins is working on his B. S. in Wildlife Ecology and Management.  His current research project focuses on the detection of Ehrlichia spp. and Anaplasma spp. in in white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus).  Additionally, he is interested in identifying what morphological characteristics influence an individual deer’s susceptibility to infection by the previously mentioned bacteria.


IMG_2392Tara Durboraw is a freshman at Auburn University working towards a Bachelor of Science in Wildlife Ecology and Management. Tara joined this lab to pursue her interest in disease ecology. Her research interests include infectious disease reservoirs, conservation in biodiversity hotspots, and the effects of wildlife ecology on the human populations in Madagascar and Central America.


10155857_801981016562901_6594781239571998029_nJanet Roberts studies Natural Resources Management with a minor in Natural Resources Ecology. As part of the Disease Ecology Lab, she will be examining lemur dietary health. She has been in love with these primates for years and hopes to one day apply her experience in research to a classroom environment where she can teach young people the importance of science and lemurs together!

IMG_0376Cullen Anderson is a Wildlife Ecology and Management student. He is an outdoorsy dude and loves just sitting out in the woods for hours, hiking, and generally enjoying nature. He is interested in predator ecology in general, but specifically carnivore genetics in Madagascar. He is also interested in the genetic identity of the mysterious Malagasy black forest cat known as the fitoaty.

IMG_1481Kirsten Rice is an undergraduate in the school of Forestry and Wildlife here at Auburn. Her major is wildlife science pre-vet. She has always had an interest in working and interacting with wildlife, especially elephants. Currently, she is working on a project dealing with the interactions and disease transmission between humans an elephants along with helping out in the lab with Dr. Zohdy’s projects. She loves working with animals and hopes to one day travel to different countries working on progressing elephant conservation and care.

 Micaela Finney is majoring in Microbiology and minoring in Entomology. Her main focus in Dr. Zohdy‘s lab is the taxonomy and molecular work of Madagascar’s Anopheles mosquitoes. In addition to working in Dr. Zohdy‘s lab, she also works for Dr. Held on an entomology project dealing with interactions between native red maples and non-native crepe myrtles and their influence on native herbivores. She aspires to work in the Entomology branch of the CDC in Atlanta or at the CDC vector-borne disease unit in Fort Collins.
 Lab Graduates
Llandess Owens is a senior majoring in Microbial, Cellular, & Molecular Biology and is currently a leader in the College of Sciences and Mathematics. After graduation, Llandess would like to attend graduate school in pursuit of earning her Master’s degree in cellular biology and is considering attaining her Ph.D. in similar studies. She is currently interested in disease ecology, parasitology, and immunology, and would like to eventually obtain a career in any of these fields. Llandess is now assisting Dr. Zohdy’s lab in Malagasy mosquito research in determining locations where malaria is most present, identifying popular species of mosquitoes that most frequently serve as vectors, and identifying risk factors that contribute to infection. In her free time, she enjoys listening to music, watching scary/suspenseful movies, and/or getting a fresh pedicure.