Graduate Students

Robert Cooper’s research seeks to understand how organisms will adapt to increasingly altered habitats caused by anthropogenic activities. Although trained as a lizard behavioral ecologist, his current research uses both functional genomics and experimental whole-pond manipulative experiments to manage, and reduce the continuing spread of non-native genes that are sweeping though endangered California tiger salamander populations in central California. All of his research has an underlying theme of informing management practices and targeting conservation efforts.


Natalia Gallego García is a graduate student at Universidad de los Andes. She uses landscape genomics to determine mechanisms affecting the functional connectivity in two endangered and endemic turtles in Colombia. As a 2015-16 Fulbright scholar, Natalia conducted research in the Shaffer lab, and she continues to be co-mentored by Brad Shaffer.


Kevin Neal’s current research entails a conservation-focused examination of the western spadefoot toad, Spea hammondii, a species of special concern in California. Using genomic techniques and detailed field sampling, his work examines spatial and environmental patterns of genetic variation within and among spadefoot localities and populations with a strong focus on endangered populations in Southern California. Kevin has previously worked on conservation genetics of geckos and skinks in New Caledonia.


Erin Toffelmier uses genomic tools to understand how the environment and landscape features interact and lead to species distributional patterns and the process of speciation in natural systems. Her primary study system is the alligator lizard genus Elgaria, where she is studying diversification at levels from recent speciation through phylogeography to local, population-level analyses. Erin is also dedicated to conservation-based research, and her work on metapopulation dynamics in critically endangered Santa Barbara tiger salamanders and isolated populations of threatened Panamint alligator lizards is helping manage both.