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Watts Lab People
Heather E. Watts, PhD, Principal Investigator

Heather is a Herbert L. Eastlick Distinguished Associate Professor in the School of Biological Sciences. After receiving her BS from Duke University, she completed her PhD at Michigan State University with Kay Holekamp. She was as NIH NRSA postdoctoral fellow in the lab of Tom Hahn at the University of California, Davis.

Google Scholar Profile

email: heather.watts [at] wsu [dot] edu


Adam Becker, PhD student

Adam received his B.A. in Biology from Coe College. He completed an M.S. in Biology at Portland State University with Michael Murphy. His thesis investigated “Survivorship and Breeding Dispersal Patterns of a Migratory, Socially Monogamous Passerine; the Scissor-tailed Flycatcher (Tyrannus forficatus).” In the Watts Lab his research is focusing on the endocrine regulation of seasonal events, particularly migration.

email: adam.becker  [at] wsu [dot] edu

Rachel Woods , PhD student

Rachel joined the lab after completing her B.S. in Biology at the University of Florida. She also worked as a collections and research assistant at the Florida Museum of Natural History. Her work there focused on natural history collection curation, display, and public engagement through science education and communication. Rachel is interested in utilizing museum collections to understand bird migration and the impact of human-induced alterations of the environment.

email: rachel.woods  [at] wsu [dot] edu

Current undergraduate students


Lab alumni

Jessica Tir, MS (graduated 2023)

Jessica joined the lab after completing her B.S. in Ecology & Evolutionary Biology at Tulane. Her thesis examined the potential for vocalizations to be a source of information about declining food availability in pine siskins. She is also interested in the curation and display of natural history collections.




Ben Vernasco, PhD, Postdoctoral scholar (2019-2022)

Ben received his PhD in 2019 from Virginia Tech and was co-advised by Drs. Ignacio Moore (Virginia Tech) and Brandt Ryder (Smithsonian). For his PhD research, Ben studied the cooperative courtship behavior of male wire-tailed manakins at Tiputini Biodiversity Station in the Amazon Rainforest of Northeastern Ecuador. Ben’s PhD work focused on understanding the proximate mechanisms related to individual variation in male cooperative behavior as well as male courtship behavior more broadly. During his PhD, Ben was also a Global Change Fellow in the Interfaces of Global Change Program at Virginia Tech. In the Watts lab, Ben worked with both pine siskin and red crossbills to understand the proximate mechanisms and environmental cues involved in migratory and settlement behaviors. Google Scholar Profile   Personal website

Jon Aguiñaga, MS (graduated 2020)

(co-advised with Dick Gomulkiewicz)

Jon completed his BA in Biology from the University of California Santa Cruz. His MS research in the Watts and Gomulkiewicz labs used modeling to better understand how social information influences individual assessments of their environment. Jon started his PhD in the Population Biology Graduate Group at UC Davis in Fall 2020.



Ashley Robart, PhD, Postdoctoral scholar (2015-2018)

Ashley received her BA in Biology from Reed College and her PhD at the University of California, Santa Cruz in the lab of Barry Sinervo. Ashley’s research focuses on the factors that influence the investment decisions within and the transitions between life history stages. She has worked with a variety of study systems, including freshwater fish and songbirds. Her research on the Watts lab investigated how facultative migrants time their migrations, examining the use of environmental cues and potential underlying endocrine mechanisms. Ashley is currently an Assistant Professor in the Biology Program at Southern Oregon University.


Undergraduate students

Alex Brown, Gianna Bratcher, Allie Pratt, Kendall Barton, Jasmine Ruiz, Jeffrey Rittenhouse, Hilary Zuñiga, Guillermo (Willy) Navarro, Paige Campbell, Ella Cowan de Wolf, Samantha Dohrman, Amy Nigro, Maddie O’Connor, Michelle Laiolo, Melissa Morado, Mali McGuire, John Waggoner, Veronica Pacheco, Daniela Jimenez, Katherine Boyd, Mariele Courtois, Katherine Fu, Jasmine Chopra, Tauras Vilgalys, Carmela Asinas, Okensama (Kensie) La-Anyane, Jordan Rudack, Bruce Edley, Sarah (Nikki) Javier, Heather Garcia, Michael Lenihan, Amanda Wavrin