Current Lab Members

Post Docs

Hidetoshi Inamine

Hidetoshi InamineI am a theoretical ecologist interested in how population processes at various scales generate and maintain biodiversity. Currently I am studying the effects of disturbance on the structure of ecological communities. Disturbances are ubiquitous in nature, and how different species in a community react ecologically and evolutionarily to disturbances affects the interactions between species and the overall community. I have a penchant for experiments, and collaborate with Angus Buckling at U Exeter (UK) to test theoretical predictions in bacterial microcosm. Before starting my postdoc at Penn State, I obtained my BA (Biological Sciences with specialization in Neuroscience) from U. Chicago, and my PhD (Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Minor in Applied Mathematics) from Cornell with Steve Ellner.

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Rebecca Borchering

1Rebecca is a postdoctoral researcher in the Department of Biology and joined the Shea lab in June 2020. She earned a PhD in Mathematics from the University of Florida in May 2017, focusing on stochastic processes of invasion and extinction, with particular applications for seasonal rabies virus dynamics. She previously held postdoctoral positions at the Emerging Pathogens Institute and Department of Biology at the University of Florida and at the Odum School of Ecology at the University of Georgia. Her research interests center around infectious disease modeling and public health applications. She is interested in the dynamics of co-circulating pathogens and her previous work includes investigating the effects of the 2015/2016 Zika epidemic in Latin America on endemic dengue dynamics and the emergence of novel influenza B viruses in the United States. In the Shea lab, she helps lead multiple modeling efforts to inform decision support in the face of uncertainty during the COVID-19 pandemic. She works on both the Multiple Models for Outbreak Decision Support (MMODS) and COVID-19 Scenario Modeling Hub projects.

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Graduate Students

Emily Howerton


I am a Ph.D student in the Department of Biology studying the management of infectious diseases and invasive species. My research focuses on how we can combine biotic and abiotic forces, varying in space and time, to design more efficient and effective control strategies. For example, I study the interaction between diagnostic testing and non-pharmaceutical interventions in COVID-19 management, as well as the combined effects of pesticide application and native competition on fire ant invasion success. Further, my research includes the effects of scientific uncertainty on our ability to design such effective control strategies and explores how we might design robust control strategies in the face of this uncertainty.

Trevor Dress


I am an ecology PhD candidate in the Department of Biology and have a wide variety of interests at the intersection of ecology, statistics, and data science. My work primarily involves quantifying movement, namely plant dispersal, in ecological systems and seeking answers to questions regarding (a) modelling dispersal processes, (b) the probabilistic nature of dispersal, (c) relative contributions of multiple dispersal vectors in series and parallel, and (d) how current dispersal patterns may be affected by climate change. Dispersal and movement in ecological systems can be quite challenging to understand, and I use a variety of mechanistic and statistical models to help unravel the mysteries behind these processes. I am also interested in applications of machine learning to problems of classification and prediction, especially in the realms of science, engineering, medicine, and business.

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Undergraduate Researchers

Elyse Johnson


I am an undergraduate student majoring in Wildlife and Fisheries Sciences and double-minoring in Biology and Astrobiology. I have studied how disturbance events, particularly early life stress, impact plant life-history traits in the context of climate change. I joined the Shea lab in 2018 as a Women in STEM and Engineering Research (WISER) PA NASA Space Grant Intern studying the early life drought stress and resource competition for garden cress (L. sativum). In 2020, I received NSF REU funding to study the effects of extreme precipitation events on the life history of thistle species C. nutans and C. acanthoides. Over the past 3 years, I have also collaborated on Multi-Model for Outbreak Decision Support (MMODS) and designed virtual biology experiments for elementary students in response to the COIVD-19 pandemic.  I currently manage lab administration and enjoy collaborating with the other members of our lab! 

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LaKeisha Wade

1I am an undergraduate student majoring in Human Development and Family Studies and triple minoring in African American Studies, Biology and Woman Studies. I am a new member of the Shea lab joining in the summer of 2021 under REU. I have done previous work at the University of the Virgin Islands, researching environmental health issues such as food waste, waste disposal and disaster preparedness specifically for at risk groups like mothers, children and the homeless. I have a passion for researching women’s health especially in inner-city and low income neighborhoods. This will lead me to gaining a dual MPH/MD with a speciality in obstetrics and gynecology.


Jacob Janssen 

1I am an undergraduate student majoring in Immunology and Infectious Disease. I am a new member of the Shea lab, with plans to assist in research during the summer of 2021. I have obtained prior research/medical experience at the Penn State College of Medicine at Hershey Medical Center. I was able to observe over 27 healthcare fields, and gained knowledge on the following activities: trauma care, hematology/oncology, autopsies, and even neurosurgery. Two quarter rotations in radiology and pathology were also completed during my internship/co-op. Lastly, I was able to conduct some assisted research regarding Lyme disease, thyroid cancer, and concussions. I am ecstatic to explore more STEM topics during my remaining academic years and further on into the future. During the fall of 2021, I am planning to aid Penn State with a new research project regarding epidemiology and small cell variants. After receiving my Bachelor’s degree, I intend to pursue more experimentation and progress towards a PhD (possibly in endocrinology, rare diseases, or wherever life takes me). My biggest dream is to help as many people as I can through medicine, technology, and travel.