PI: Erica Westerman, PhDEricaPaintingButteflies2009

Erica Westerman is an integrative biologist whose research is driven by a desire to understand how the developmental environment influences adult behavior, social interactions, and community composition.

Research in the Westerman Lab incorporates techniques used in multiple fields, including genomics, behavioral ecology, and neurobiology,  to develop a comprehensive understanding of the role of environment in the development, evolution, and diversification of visual learning and visual communication.


Postdoctoral Fellow: Tim Sullivan, PhD
Tim Sullivan received his PhD in Environmental and Evolutionary Biology from the University of Louisiana, Lafayette, in May 2017. His research to date has focused on molecular ecology and population genetics of biotic and abiotic interactions impacting fish and crustacean populations. As part of the Westerman lab, Tim will be moving onto dry land to investigate genetic variants and patterns of gene expression influencing learned mate preferences, movements, and foraging decisions in the butterfly Bicyclus anynana.



Graduate Student: Deonna “Nikki” Robertson

Nikki is a MSc student in the Westerman lab, studying mate preference development in Bicyclus anynana butterflies.  Her research interests include conservation (particularly tropical and marine), behavioral ecology, and taxonomy. She enjoys teaching and being out in the field, and loves to go snorkeling and caving.



Graduate Student: Grace Hirzel

Grace is a new PhD student in the Westerman lab, interested in phenotypic plasticity, transgenerational effects, and how these two mechanisms affect evolution in insects. After spending the last several years working with invertebrates in entomology and biology labs, she is excited to research butterflies both in the greenhouse and in the local ecosystems of Arkansas.


Graduate Student: Matt Murphy, MSc

Matt is a new PhD student in the Westerman Lab, interested in animal communication, signal integration, and evolution. Matt received his M.Sc. in Applied Biology from Salisbury University in May 2017. His prior research concerned whether green tree frogs (Hyla cinerea) use visual cues to enhance the perception of acoustic signals in noisy (chorus-like) environments. When not in the lab, Matt enjoys hiking and painting.


Undergraduate Student: Peyton Rather

Peyton is an undergraduate biology/pre-med student from Nashville, AR. He enjoys technology and computers, playing the piano, and working as a surgical technician for a cataract and glaucoma surgeon. He also loves to volunteer in his spare time. He one day hopes to go to medical school and to possibly become an ophthalmologist.


Undergraduate Student: Abby Herzog

Abby is an undergraduate biology student from Nashville, AR. She hopes to attend medical school and to someday do medical research. Her interests include neurology and genetics. She enjoys tutoring and volunteering at the local VA, and is excited to be gaining experience in research in the Westerman Lab.


Undergraduate Student: Brandon Allen

Brandon is an undergraduate student from Little Rock, AR majoring in biology and minoring in psychology. His hobbies include playing the guitar, wakeboarding, and drone cinematography. He serves in chair positions for the Red Cross Student Organization and the fraternity Kappa Alpha Order. Brandon also enjoys volunteering at the Full Circle Food Pantry and for the emergency department at the VA Hospital. He has plans to attend medical school after his time at the University of Arkansas.


Former Lab Members

Research Assistant: Dylan Meyer Dylan Meyer admiring the grasshopper diversity at Woolsey Wet Prairie Sanctuary in Fayetteville, AR.

After a year at UARK, Dylan Meyer has returned to Australia’s outback for further study of fairy wrens. He will be missed, but we wish him the best!







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