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

Heather is an 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.

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

Ben Vernasco, PhD, Postdoctoral scholar

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 is working with the pine siskin system to understand the proximate mechanisms and environmental cues involved in migratory and settlement behaviors.  Google Scholar Profile   email: ben.vernasco [at] wsu [dot] edu

Jessica Tir, PhD student

Jessica joined the lab after completing her B.S. in Ecology & Evolutionary Biology at Tulane University. At Tulane, Jessica participated in research on phylogenetics and vocalization behavior of songbirds in the Derryberry lab. Jessica is particularly interested in behavior and communication.

email: jessica.tir [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

Jon Aguinaga, MS student

(co-advised with Dick Gomulkiewicz)

Jon joins the Watts and Gomulkiewicz labs having completed his BA in Biology from the University of California Santa Cruz. He is interested in investigating the migratory ecology of songbirds as a means of influencing conservation decisions. He is currently using modeling to better understand migratory decision making.

email: jonathan.aguinaga  [at] wsu [dot] edu

Kevin Jones, PhD student

Kevin joined the lab after completing his BS in Organismal Biology, with a minor in Astrobiology, at Montana State University. While at MSU, Kevin worked in the Macroevolution Lab, with a focus on phylogenetic research related to human/primate evolution. Kevin is particularly interested in the effects of environmental cues, experienced during early development, on adult phenotype.

email: j.kevin.jones [at] wsu [dot] edu


Current undergraduate students

Jasmine Ruiz

Lab alumni

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.


Undergraduate students

Jeffrey Rittenhouse, Hilary Zuniga, 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