Principal Investigator

Dr. Marie Strader

B.Sc University of Oregon (2010)
Ph.D. the University of Texas at Austin (2012-2017)
Postdoctoral Researcher, University of California Santa Barbara (2017-2019)
Research Assistant Professor, Auburn University (2019-2022)
Assistant Professor, Texas A&M University (2022-present)

I am a marine molecular ecologist interested in mechanisms of organismal responses to the environment. I investigate how marine invertebrates respond to predicted changes in ocean environments from the level of genes to populations in an evolutionary ecology context. The overarching theme of my research program is to investigate how our changing climate influences ecological and evolutionary responses of marine invertebrates.

Ph.D. Students

Megan Maloney, M.Sc.

B.Sc. Coastal Carolina University (2016)
M.Sc. University of West Florida (2019)
Megan is a first year PhD student interested in how the invasive jellyfish Cassiopea responds to environmental change. She received a bachelor’s degree in Marine Science from Coastal Carolina University, focusing her research and interests in marine invertebrates. She moved to Pensacola to persue a master’s degree in biology at the University of West Florida, where she studied the effects of light and salinity on bleaching recovery in the upside–down jellyfish, Cassiopea. She is broadly interested in how these long-lived creatures have adapted to environmental changes over time and hopes to use molecular, physiological and ecological tools to determine what might be driving their success. Megan loves to teach undergraduates random things about science and non–science and has a small obsession with paint by number and puzzles.

Masters Students

Emily Wilkins

My name is Emily started as a Master’s student in the Fall of 2021. I am primarily interested in how anthropogenic stressors are impacting coral physiology. My interest in coral physiology stems from a study abroad to the Little Cayman Island in 2018 where I resided and studied at the Central Caribbean Marine Institute (CCMI). While there I received training in AAUS scientific diving and gained experience in conserving and researching coral reef ecosystems. In addition, I used transects and photo quadrats to map coral coverage across the various reefs surrounding the island. This experience fueled my desire to pursue a career in coral research. I graduated from the University of Delaware in 2019 with a B.S in Marine Science with a concentration in Marine Biology. During my free time I enjoy SCUBA diving, hiking, watching Marvel movies, and baking.  


Kiley Ekert

Kiley Eckert

Hi my name is Kiley Eckert! I am from Dallas, Texas and I am going to be a sophomore at Auburn University. I am majoring in marine biology, and planning on obtaining a minor in photography!


Chelsea Lawrence

Hi! My name is Chelsea Lawrence, and I am an undergraduate Senior at Auburn University. My interest in marine organisms began when I joined the microbiology club. Participating in a research lab has been one of the best parts of my college career. With the help of Dr. Strader, Megan, and Sarah, I have been able to cultivate my lab skills. I have also enjoyed taking part in several research topics based on epigenetics. To fully understand epigenetics, we must know how particular environments can affect the genetic makeup of an organism. I have been able to study this interaction with an experiment I am currently working on. In this experiment, I have worked on determining how the environment of Stronglyocentrus purpuratus (Purple Sea Urchins) can affect their immune response genes. I am also hoping to find the microbial community responsible for the “Bald Sea Urchin” disease. Typically, when S.purpuratus is exposed to this disease, you can see signs such as an increase in their immune cells (coelomycetes) localized around their gut. This immune response localized around the gut shows the importance of the interactions between the immune system and the stomach itself. At Auburn University, I have also had the pleasure of working for AUourSTEMstory. This organization is a seminar series that educates both current and future scientists and the public on research ethics. Each semester, OurSTEMstory hosts a keynote speaker that connects the audience with true science stories illustrating how research and social ethics have been violated. “OurSTEMstory,” raises awareness about the contributions of underrepresented groups in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics). Modern medicine and society have benefitted from the consensual and nonconsensual contributions of underrepresented groups to STEM, and our goal is to highlight their stories while also acknowledging any unethical missteps taken in the name of advancing research and knowledge.

Misha Miller

Misha Miller

I am an undergraduate microbiology major on a pre-veterinary track with a soft spot for invertebrates! I am currently planning on attending Auburn’s Veterinary school and then pursing my dream of owning my own small animal clinic. Even though I eventually want to settle with small animal, I am interested in doing exotic animal care particularly with marine animal rescue and rehabilitation. I absolutely love working with Dr. Strader’s lab and all of her marine critters!

Previous Lab Members

Avery Von Eiff

B.Sc. Auburn University (2022)
Avery was an undergraduate in the Strader lab from 2020-2022. She won an undergraduate research fellowship to work on a project, “Effects of climate change on coral reefs: Factors affecting recovery from thermal stress in Florida false corals Ricordea florida“, but also assisted in many other projects in the lab. Avery is now a biologist at the Moody Gardens Aquarium.

Sarah Leinbach

M.Sc. Auburn University (2022)
B.Sc. University of Maryland, College Park (2019)
Sarah graduated from the Strader Lab (Auburn University) in May 2022 with a M.Sc. in Biology. Sarah’s thesis focused on understanding intraspecific variation in coral reproductive output and symbiont community structure following a thermal bleaching event in the reef-building coral Acropora hyacinthus. Sarah currently works as a restoration technician at the Florida Department of Environmental Protection.