Meet the Group

Meet the Group

Matthew Wolak — Principle Investigator

Matthew Wolak bio photo

Fascinated by variance. Don't even get him started on covariance. Investigates the causes of among individual variation and how they affect evolution by natural selection.

Email Instagram Github Interweb

Olivia Brown — Research Assistant

Olivia Brown bio photo

Olivia received a Bachelor of Science in Wildlife Ecology and Management from Auburn University in 2022. Olivia's general interests are in ecology, evolution, and conservation. During her undergraduate career, Olivia developed and executed a research project studying boldness behavior of semi-aquatic freshwater turtles. As a Research Assistant, Olivia hopes to contribute to our growing understanding of ecology and evolution as well as encourage an inclusive and productive lab environment for every member.

Graduate Students

Jacob Botello — Ph.D. Student

Jacob Botello bio photo

Newt enthusiast.

Molly Folkerts Caldwell — Ph.D. Student

Molly Folkerts Caldwell bio photo

Co-advisor: Dan Warner

Molly received a Bachelor of Science in Zoology from Auburn University in 2012 and went on to complete a Master’s degree in Field and Organismal Biology from Louisiana State University in Shreveport. Her Master's thesis research was on variation in Green Heron nesting success in coastal marshes of southwest Louisiana. After finishing her Master's, she worked for over 3 years in coastal bird monitoring and conservation with Audubon Mississippi Coastal Bird Stewardship Program (National Audubon Society), protecting beach-nesting bird species such as the Least Tern and Black Skimmer. Although she has spent the last several years working with birds, Molly has always loved herps and is excited to begin studying yellow-bellied sliders and temperature-dependent sex determination. Molly's general interests are in conservation, reproductive biology, ecology, and evolution. Her ultimate goal is to pursue a career in which she can work to conserve imperiled species of the southeastern US.

Iwo Gross — Ph.D. Student

Iwo Gross bio photo

Iwo’s baccalaureate and master’s work investigated the space-use patterns of diminutive snake species and newborn pit-vipers with respect to road ecology and forest management practices. As a Ph.D. student, Iwo intends to expand his research scope to assess how natural, sexual, and anthropogenic pressures within an ecosystem shape turtle demographics and life-history evolution. In his free time, Iwo practices jiu-jitsu and judo, and enjoys recreational surveys for amphibians and reptiles.

Undergraduate Researchers

Justin Jenkins — NSF-REU

Justin Jenkins bio photo

Justin is an undergraduate student at the University of Miami pursuing a B.S. in Marine Biology and Ecology. Justin has always had a passion for turtles and the marine environment and is excited to study the behavior of semi-aquatic turtles in Alabama. In the future, he intends to go to graduate school to conduct research on sea turtle demographics and behavior, and eventually pursue a career in sea turtle conservation. Throughout his career, he hopes to promote diversity in the field of science and the protection of our natural environment.

Former Lab Members

Sam Weaver — Postdoctoral Researcher (2022–2023)

Currently: Private Industry


Clayton Jowers — NSF-REU (May 2022–August 2022)

Currently: Undergraduate student at the University of West Florida

Jorge Lopez-Perez — NSF-REU (May 2019–August 2019)

Currently: PhD Student in Biology at Utah State University

Matthew Welc — M.Sc. Student (2018–2021)

Currently: PhD student at the University of Kentucky

Github Interweb

Maria Joao Janeiro — Postdoctoral Researcher (2019–2020)