Lab Members

Principal Investigator

Mercedes Burns (B.A. Biology, Macalester College; Ph. D. Evolutionary Biology, UMCP) began her faculty appointment at UMBC in 2017.





Ph.D. Students

Tyler Brown (B.S. UMCP) is studying sexual conflict and reproductive assurance and their roles in the maintenance of geographic parthenogenesis in Leiobunum manubriatum and L. globosum. Tyler is passionate about science communication and can be found at @NotASpider_ on Twitter.



Ryan Bacon (B.S. Biology, West Chester University, PA) is studying the geography of sexual conflict. He recently conducted a meta-analysis of publications on reproduction in temperate and tropical species to identify correlations between seasonality and sexual conflict intensity.




Masters’ Students

Lian Jackson (B.A. UMBC) is interested in dietary effects on glycosylation in orb-weaving spider aggregate silk.




Undergraduate Researchers

Dr. Burns takes a selfie with the BAELab undergraduates at URCAD 2024. From left: Sarah Ruotolo, Nadja Bloetner, Sophia Nawaz, and Megan Ramirez Cuenca.

Nadja Bloetner (UMBC ’25)

Megan Ramirez Cuenca holding fish trading cards from the lab of Stanford geneticist Molly Schumer.

Megan Ramirez Cuenca (UMBC ’26)

Sophia Nawaz (UMBC ’26)

Sarah Ruotolo (UMBC ’25)






Dr. Sarah Stellwagen (M.S. Clemson, Ph.D. Virginia Tech) is currently a research assistant professor at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. She continues to collaborate with Mercedes on the evolution and function of prey capture adhesives.




Lab alumni

Jessica Diaz (B.S. Michigan State University, M.S. ICARE) studied biotic and abiotic correlates of oyster growth, including salinity and phytoplankton community diversity, in the Baltimore Harbor as part of the new UMBC ICARE program (




Emily Marinko (’23) is a current M.S. student at UNLV.

Dante Washington (’22) helped Ryan conduct a systematic review of research on reproduction of organisms in temperate and tropical biomes.





Hamed Hudhud (’21) is helping to prepare a proteomic protocol for measuring glycosylation in arachnid glues.




Heather Mayberry (’21) prepared an annotated bibliography of topics relating to the evolution of sex, and contributed to study of post-translational modifications in spider silks.




Marina Fahim (’21) used flow cytometry to identify polyploid Japanese harvesters.





Ryan Gunnison (’21, below) is fascinated by Hymenoptera and parasitism and is studied social behavior in harvesters.










Fleurine Amouzou Guiffo (’20) studied early-developing harvester species Leiobunum flavum and L. ventricosum using morphological keys.


Harper Montgomery (’20) studied population incidence of bacterial endosymbionts in North American harvesters.



Zulekha Karachiwalla (’21) studied spermathecal morphology in Leiobunum using a variety of imaging and 3D modeling methods.





Shea Walsh (’20) studied the effects of humidity on harvester clustering and currently works for MD State Parks.


Mayukha Pakala (’19; M.S. Applied Molecular Biology ’20) used 3RAD sequencing to reconstruct the phylogeny of the L. vittatum group.






Genevieve Ahearn (’19) studied geographic patterns of body size and fecundity in facultative parthenogens. She currently works for USFWS.




Frederick Flanagan (MS ’18, Applied Molecular Biology) is in dental school at the UMSOD, where he received a 2021 Dean’s Scholarship for Leadership and Excellence.



Daniel DeWaters (BS ’18) studied harvester ploidy, and wrote handy code for GBS2Ploidy and COLONY (