Yi-Ming Weng

wengPostdoctoral Research Associate

I have a general interest in insect evolution and my research background is in population genetics, evolutionary genomics, and adaptation. I am specifically interested in demographic history and molecular adaptation of alpine insects. I studied genome evolution of Lepidoptera in the Kawahara Lab.

Keating Godfrey

keatingPostdoctoral Research Associate

I have a background in ecology and neuroscience and am interested in the roles of genetic variation and neural plasticity in decision-making behaviors in insects. I am specifically interested in host choice and therefore variation in the molecular pathways and neural circuits underlying egg-laying and feeding behaviors. In the Kawahara lab I focus on chemosensory receptor evolution in hawk moths (Lepidoptera, Sphingidae).

Rachit Pratap Singh

Visiting Researcher

I am a moth enthusiast but have always been curious to learn about all forms of biodiversity and insects. Currently, as a visiting researcher in the Kawahara lab, I am working on the genomics of Macrosoma (Hedylidae), which form the bizarre group of American moth-butterflies. Prior to this, I was pursuing my Masters in ecology & evolution at Friedrich Schiller University Jena, Germany, where I worked with Dr. Gunnar Brehm on projects dealing with the light-trapping methodology and ecology of moths. Being part of the www.mothsofindia.org team, I also engage in citizen science and outreach activities to help with documentation and conservation of the moth fauna in India.

Brandon Parker

Boy Standing with StickMolecular Lab Technician

I am the molecular lab technician for the Kawahara Lab. My role involves managing personnel and conducting molecular research as I assist the lab with ongoing projects. In addition to my work in the Kawahara lab, I also maintain an active interest in conservation genetics, disease ecology, and virology. In my free time I enjoy kayaking, hiking, and traveling.

Shashank Pathour

shashankPostdoctoral Fellow

Toshita Barve

toshUniversity Scholars Student Research Assistant
Email: tbarve@ufl.edu


Hailey Dansby

Hailey Profile PicPost-Bacc Research Assistant

I am a research assistant interested in the relationship between humans and the natural world, particularly insects. Currently I assist in research using meta-barcoding methods to detect cryptic species. I also assist with lab outreach and education. I graduated with my B.A. in English from the University of Florida in 2021.

Caroline Storer

Caroline StorerAssistant Scientist

Xuankun Li

Xuankun Li profile photoPostdoctoral Fellow

Laurel Kaminsky

KaminskiDigitization Manager

Emily Ellis

Postdoctoral Fellow

Becky Messcher

Beck E

Student Research Assistant
Twitter: @bio__beck

I’m currently a senior undergraduate student and research assistant in the Kawahara lab at UF. My main duties lie in the molecular lab, where I perform DNA extractions, PCR, DNA quantification & qualification, etc. for moth and butterfly phylogenetic projects. In addition to these projects, I am completing an NSF REU project on conservation of silk genes within Lepidoptera. Although molecular biology is my main love in the lab, I enjoy helping out with the lab’s wing voucher volunteers and engaging in outreach projects such as those with the Thompson Earth Systems Institute when opportunities arise.

Erin Jane Lapasaran

Erin J Profile Photo

Digitization Project Assistant & Volunteer Coordinator
Twitter: @ejvlap

I am a senior undergraduate student pursuing a B.A. in Anthropology. After graduation, I hope to continue my work in natural history collections and their research applications. I currently work in digitizing pinned collections and recruiting/training volunteers for our department. I am also designing a new workflow to digitize fluid-based larval collections.

Chris A. Hamilton

Chris HamiltonNSF PRFB Postdoc Fellow


Hannah Owens

Hannah OwensNSF PRFB Postdoc Fellow

Emmanuel Toussaint

Emmanuel ToussaintPostdoctoral Fellow


Deborah Triant

Deborah Triant
Postdoctoral Fellow


Muhammad Z. Ahmed

Muhammad Z. AhmedPostdoctoral Fellow

I am interested in how species are interacting and how interactions influence the biology, ecology and genomes of interacting species with main focus on Endosymbiosis.

Shigeki Kobayashi

Shigeki KobayashiVisiting Postdoc




Jesse Breinholt

Jesse BreinholtPost Doctoral Associate

The core of my research interests is based in phylogenetics and population genetics. Through the use of phylogenetics and population genetics I address my interests in evolution, conservation biology, and taxonomy. I specialize in working with crustaceans specifically fresh water crayfish. My work in the Kawahara lab will focus on Lepidoptera evolution. My main focus in the Kawahara lab is developing bioinformatic scripts for Lepidoptera Phylotranscriptomic anaylysis. Below Is a link to tip and scripts I have been developing for use on the UF High performance computing cluster.

UF HPC Tips and Scripts

Kelly Dexter

Kelly DexterLab Manager



Samm Epstein

Samm EpsteinVolunteer Manager & Research Assistant

As a lab technician, I assist with and supervise various projects we do here in the Kawahara lab. I also manage an amazing team of dedicated volunteers that help us achieve so many of our research goals. Some of the main projects I am focused on include creating, updating, and organizing the wing voucher and molecular collection and database, rearing luna moth (Actias luna) and Falco (Xylophanes falco) caterpillars for moth & bat interactions, and doing behavioral/mating experiments with adult luna moths. I also work in Jaret Daniel’s lab assisting with fieldwork surveying native milkweed in Florida.

My main interests are in the areas of conservation, and public outreach/education. Some of my past research has involved monitoring endangered shorebirds, and studying the monarch migration, both in southern New Jersey. I am still extremely passionate about monarchs, especially in a time when their migration is threatened by agricultural pesticide use, climate change, and loss of habitat. Please help out by planting some native milkweed! I feel that it’s not only important to study science and conduct research but to share and educate the general public in order to help make an impact in protecting wildlife and our planet.

I also manage my own art business and am usually painting pet portraits and creating animal artwork in my free time. You can check out my website here.

Marianne Espeland

Marianne EspelandPostdoctoral Fellow

Karina Harris

Karina HarrisUndergraduate Student

Geena Hill

Geena HillLab Coordinator & Research Assistant

As the lab coordinator, I manage the social media for the lab, coordinate volunteer work, organize lab outings and travel plans, and maintain greenhouses that hold host plants for caterpillar rearing. I also spend my time as a research assistant and have focused my research on geometric morphometrics in the Saturniidae family. While supervising prior high school student, Minjia Zhong, we were interested in how selection was acting on various wing types and if there is a specific wing type that is being favored and allowing for higher success rates – i.e. evading bat predation. I oversee other various projects in the lab that involve hawkmoth ultrasound experiments and luna moth mating experiments. In the past, I have assisted graduate students with field work in Hawaii and Peru, and have led a student trip in southern Arizona.

Additional past research has been focused on wildflower conservation on roadsides and backyard pollinator studies. More recently, I work as the taxon recovery assistant for a Disney conservation grant, which involves conserving at-risk butterflies in peninsular Florida and southern California. I aspire to continue my studies in the conservation field, and hope to focus on plant-insect interactions.

Stacey Huber

Stacey HuberLepNet coordinator

Qianju Jia

Qianju JiaMaster’s Student

Emily Johns

Emily JohnsHigh School Student

Ga-Eun Lee

Ga-Eun LeeVisiting Researcher

Tatum Norrell

Tatum NorrellUndergraduate Student

Francesca Ponce

Francesca PonceHHMI Undergraduate Fellow

Cassandra Romero

Cassandra RomeroUndergraduate Student

Jillian Sullivan

Jillian SullivanUndergraduate Student

Yuxin Zhang

Yuxin ZhangHigh School Student

Minjia Zhong

Minjia ZhongMu Alpha High School Fellow