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Post Doctoral Fellows


Dr. Sarah J. Baker

Dr. Baker received her Bachelor's degree in zoology from North Dakota State University, Fargo.  She has always held a keen interest in pit-vipers and moved to Illinois to receive her Master's in Biology at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign in Dr. Christopher A. Phillips' Herpetology Lab.  She completed her Master's work in 2009 on the "Ecophysiology of the Eastern Massasauga (Sistrurus catenatus catenatus) at Carlyle Lake, Illinois".  She then continued to pursue a doctoral degree in the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental sciences expanding on the long-term demographic data collected on the Eastern Massasauga.  In 2016, she completed her Ph.D. and is now a post-doctoral fellow in the Urban Biotic Assessment Program.  Dr. Baker still maintains close collaboration with Dr. Phillip's Herpetology program and she closely collaborates with Dr. Matthew C. Allender's Wildlife Epidemiology Lab.  Dr. Baker is currently a leading expert on the emerging infectious Snake Fungal Disease.

Doctoral Dissertation

Snake Fungal Disease News Article



Doctoral Students


Ethan J. Kessler

Ethan began work in the herpetology lab aiding with herpetofaunal surveys, a large-scale assessment of ephemeral wetlands quality for amphibians, and aided in the radio-telemetry of the Smooth Softshell Turtle.  He is currently a master’s student in the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Sciences at the University of Illinois.  He began his research under my advisement in the spring of 2014.  His project is part of a multi-state effort to recovery the Alligator Snapping Turtles (Macrochelys temminckii ).  Specifically, he will examine how wildlife health, habitat use, behavior, and thermal ecology affect survival rates in repatriated turtles raised under different conditions.  His project will aid in determining measures of success or failure for the repatriation efforts and hence help guide future recovery efforts of the species in Illinois.

INHS/IDNR Press Release

Environmental Almanac - 11/2/14


Master's Students


Christina Y. Feng

Christina began working in the lab in the Spring of 2015 conducting surveys of potential impacts of construction and urbanization on the Blanding's Turtle and Spotted Turtle within the Des Plaines River Valley.  Her project will be focusing on the Spotted Turtle populations in Illinois and add additional ecological data to the existing base.  Christina's thesis will focus on three major aspects of the Spotted Turtle's ecology.  First, she will use long-term data collected to determine if there are population level trends in size, recruitment rates, survival, and population structure.  Next, she will examine the demography and life history of the species focusing on deterministic forecasting and elasticity/sensitivity analysis.  Finally, these data will be combined with genetic information to construct a population viability analysis and risk assessment.  All three aspects will be used to guide conservation and recovery efforts for this imperiled species in Illinois.


Former Students and Post Docs


Jason P. Ross

Jason worked on several projects for us in the herpetology lab including Eastern Massasauga searches, Illinois Mud Turtle radio-telemetry, and Blanding's Turtle work in the Chicago Region.  He completed his M.Sc. in the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Sciences at the University of Illinois in 2016.  His project examined the population and spatial ecology of the Smooth Softshell Turtle (Apalone mutica) in the Kaskaskia River.  In particular is how high rates of flow affected the spatial biology and behavior of this species.  The project focused on two reaches of the Kaskaskia River, below the Lake Shelbyville Dam and below the Carlyle Lake Dam.  Jason is currently employed as an Associate Herpetologist with the Illinois Natural History Survey in the Urban Biotic Assessment Program.

INHS Reports on the Project

INHS Video on the Project

Link to Thesis PDF

Dr. Jonathan K. Warner

Dr. Warner received his Bachelor's Degree in 2004 from the University of Illinois in the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Science.  After graduation, he worked as a field technician in Dr. Christopher Phillips Herpetology Lab assisting on many different projects.  In 2005, he began his Master's Degree at the University of the Witwatersrand studying the conservation biology and ecology of the Gaboon Adder (Bitis gabonica).  In 2009, he began his Doctoral work at the University of KwaZulu-Natal (Pietermaritzburg) working on a large-scale ecological study of the Nile Crocodile (Crocodylus niloticus).  After completing his doctoral work, Dr. Warner joined the Urban Biotic Assessment Program as a postdoctoral fellow in 2016.  In early 2017, he became the Alligator Program Leader for Texas Parks and Wildlife.  Dr. Warner's research interests are broad and revolve around the conservation and management of crocodilian and snake species.

ResearchGate Profile