Jinelle Sperry


Adjunct Assistant Professor

P.O. Box 9005
Champaign, IL 61826
Phone: 217-373-4543 

Ph.D. 2008 - University of Illinois; Champaign, IL
M.S. 2004 - Humboldt State University; Arcata, CA
B.S. 1999 - University of Montana; Missoula, MT

Research Interests: My research has addressed a wide array of topics clustered around the core theme of community ecology and the effects of human-caused and natural disturbances on multi-species interactions.  Most of my recent work has focused on the ecological factors that influence predator-prey interactions between snakes and birds.


Patrick Wolff


Wildlife Biologist

2902 Newmark Dr.
Champaign, IL 61822
Phone: 217-373-5847
Patrick's Webpage

M.S. 2013 - University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, IL
B.S. 2010 - University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, IL

Research Interests: My work focuses on the conservation and management of wildlife on military lands, with an emphasis on threatened and endangered species. Using innovative technologies to survey, evaluate, and manage wildlife populations, I seek to reconcile potential conflicts between conservation measures and military activities.


Sasha Tetzlaff


Research Biologist

2902 Newmark Dr.
Champaign, IL 61822
Phone: (217) 373-4474
Sasha's Website

Ph.D. 2019 - University of Illinois; Urbana-Champaign, IL
M.S. 2015 - Purdue University; Fort Wayne, IN
B.A. 2011 - Florida Gulf Coast University; Fort Myers, FL

Research Interests: My general research interests encompass behavior, ecology, conservation, and management of free-ranging and captive animals. This had led to laboratory and field studies of movement and space use, habitat selection, physiology, foraging, wildlife diseases, animal personality, and predator-prey interactions. As a biologist for the US Army Corps of Engineers, I work with threatened, endangered, and at-risk species inhabiting Department of Defense lands.


Libby Sternhagen


Research Biologist
Laboratory Manager

2902 Newmark Dr.
Champaign, IL 61822
Phone: (217) 373-3426

M.S. 2018 - North Dakota State University, Fargo, ND
B.A. 2015 - Concordia College, Moorhead, MN

Research Interests: Mycology, plant-fungal interactions, soil biogeochemistry, community ecology, and conservation biology. In 2019, I began work for Dr. Sperry as a research biologist through the US Army Corps of Engineers. In this capacity, I apply my background in molecular biology and metagenomics to research of wildlife conservation on federal lands.


Jeferson Vizentin-Bugoni


Post-Doctoral Researcher

Jef's Website

Ph.D. 2017 - Universidade Estadual de Campinas, UNICAMP, Brasil
M.S. 2013 - Universidade Estadual de Campinas, UNICAMP, Brasil
B.S. 2010 - Universidade Federal de Pelotas, UFPEL, Brasil

Research Interests: Research Interests: My research aims to understand the structure and dynamic of species interactions across space and time scales. My main focus is on how ecological networks in communities are determined by traits, abundances and species phylogenetic relationship and in which extent the variation within and between species influences their interactions, distributions and abundances in nature. Mutualisms among plants and their pollinators and seed dispersers have been my main study systems. Currently, I am investigating patterns and processes structuring seed dispersal networks in highly invaded ecosystems in Hawaii, with focus on conservation and restoration.


Aron Katz


Post-Doctoral Researcher

Aron's Website

Ph.D. 2018 - University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, IL
M.S. 2013 - University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, IL
B.S. 2007 - Universty of New Hampshire, NH

Research Interests: My research combines molecular, genetic, and ecological data to address questions concerning biodiversity and evolution that can ultimately be used to inform adaptive management initiatives for at risk ecosystems. As part of the Sperry Lab, I will be working on projects related to chemosensory perception in monarchs, molecular and chemical divergence in glass lizard populations, and using environmental DNA to detect at risk biological communities.


Jason Gleditsch


Ph.D. Student

Jason's Webpage

M.S. 2012 - Pennsylvania State University; University Park, PA
B.S. 2009 - Pennsylvania State University; University Park, PA

Research Interests: I am interested in the evolutionary ecology of communities and the processes that influence species interactions and ultimately community stability and functioning. Most of my research has focused on the relationships between bird and plant communities using experimental, observational, and theoretical techniques to better understand their interplay. Specifically, I am interested in examining how these two communities influence each other through seed dispersal networks and what this means for community assembly and conservation. Currently, I am working on a project taking place on the Hawaiian island of O’ahu trying to answer some of these questions with the exotic bird community there. This project includes collaborators from three other institutions and is a part of the DoD’s environmental science and technology program, SERDP.


Ellery Ruther


Ph.D. Student
   - Currently at University of Arkansas
         with Dr. Brett DeGregorio's Lab

Ellery's Website

B.A. 2013 - Longwood University; Farmville, VA

Research Interests: herpetology, ecology, spatial/movement ecology, and conservation biology. More specifically, I am studying a population of spotted turtles isolated in a highly urbanized landscape in northern Virginia. I’m interested in understanding the status and distribution of spotted turtles on the Fort Belvoir army installation and surrounding properties, and how turtles move and utilize fragmented landscapes. This study will help provide conservation and management recommendations to support healthy metapopulations of spotted turtles across a human-use landscape.


Dylan O'Hearn


M.S. Student

(217) 373-3346

Dylan's Website

B.S. 2017 - University of Illinois; Urbana-Champaign, IL

Research Interests:  I am interested in chemically-mediated ecological interactions, and my research includes studies of chemical signalling in amphibians, reptiles, and insect-plant systems.  In 2017 I began work as a biologist for the US Army Corps of Engineers, where I work closely with Dr. Sperry on research related to wildlife conservation on military lands.  I began my graduate work in 2018, studying chemical communication in slender glass lizards.


Gabriella Jukkala


M.S. Student

Gabriella's Website

B.S. 2013 - Northland College, WI

Research Interests: I am broadly interested in the applied ecology, demography, and conservation of birds, but especially of declining, threatened, and endangered species. My research focuses on the endangered Golden-cheeked Warbler (Setophaga chrysoparia) at the Fort Hood Military Installation in central Texas. For my master’s project, I am investigating mechanisms of nest success across different age groups and habitats using demographic, spatial, and behavioral data. The goal of this study is to inform the species’ conservation plan and identify additional areas where management strategies could be used to aid in recovery. 


Former Lab Members

Dr. Patrick J. Weatherhead - Former Principal Investigator;
         Retired - Google Scholar
Dr. Brett DeGregorio - Former PhD Student and Principal Investigator;
         Currently a Wildlife Biologist with the USGS and Leader of University of Arkansas Fish and Wildlife
                 Cooperative Research Unit - Website
Dr. Than Boves - Former Postdoc;
         Currently an Associate Professor of Ecology at Arkansas Sate University - Website
Dr. Valerie Buxton - Former Postdoc and PhD Student;
         Currently a Postdoc at Virginia Tech University with Dr. Meryl Mims - Website
Stephen Tyndel - Former M. S. Student;
         Currently a Ph.D. Student at the Max Plank Institute of Animal Behavior
Sean MacDonald - Former M. S. Student;
         Currently a Natural Heritage Resident with the Illinois DNR
Erika Dittmar - Former M. S. Student;
         Currently a Biologist for Pacific Rim Conservation
Daniel Kovar - Former M. S. Student;
         Currently a Conservation Biologist at Great Parks of Hamilton County, Ohio
Brittney Graham - Former M. S. Student;
         Currently a PhD Sudent at the University of Cincinnati


Contact us

If you are interested in joining the Sperry lab
as an undergraduate or graduate student
please email
Jinelle Sperry at: Jinelle.Sperry@usace.army.mil

We are located in S-506 Turner Hall on the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign campus.