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Three graduate students and four undergraduate student worked in the parasitology lab during 2012 and 2013. Crystal Wiles defended this summer and will be graduating during the fall semester. Heather Rhoden graduated in the summer of 2010 and is now in her fourth year of veterinary school at OSU. Suhail Vhora and Cleo Szmygie are now employed, Cleo as a lab manager at Northeastern University in Massachusetts and Suhail is teaching biology courses at Santiago Canyon College in California.  As for the undergraduate students, Ryan Shannon defended his honors thesis on the development of cysts of gordian worms and is joing our laboratory as a MS student. He will be working on protozoa of amphibians. As usual most of my student projects are based on parasites of insects, snails, and amphibians however the questions they ask using these systems vary greatly. 


Kyle Gustafson

Kyle Gustafson PhD Student

Kyle came to us from the University of North Dakota where he received his parasitology training from Dr. Vasy Tkach.  For his MS degree Kyle examined landscape ecology of amphibian helminths in the Sheyenne National Grasslands, ND and population genetics of Rhabdias spp.  He is interested in how environmental conditions determine the abundance and distribution of parasite species and their populations. For his PhD degree Kyle will be examining trematode community structure in freshwater gastropods.  He will combine field studies and laboratory experiments to understand the effects of anthropogenic disturbances on parasites transmission in wetland ecosystems.  His field component is designed to test the effects of pesticides and human land use on the distribution and prevalence of parasites in snails, which are the primary transmitters of cercarial stages of trematodes. His laboratory component is designed to test the effects of pesticides on cercariae production (i.e., abundance and biomass).  By integrating these approaches, he will be able to model the effects of pesticides on parasite production in aquatic environments.  Kyle has been at OSU for only a year but has received a number of small research and travel grants to conduct and present his work at SWAP and ASP.

Heather Robinson

Heather (Robinson) Stigge PhD Student

Heather Stigge joined our laboratory in the fall of 2010 for her PhD.  During her BS degree, Heather worked on post-cyclic transmission and microhabitat use of Paulisentis missouriensis in Semotilus atromaculatus under Dr. Mike Barger at Peru State. Heather completed her MS degree at Sam Houston State University on fish helminth community structure under Dr. Tami Cook. As a result of her numerous publications and presentation Heather was awarded the OSU Zoology Department 5K PhD incentive for the next 3 years.Way to go Heather!  For her PhD Heather is working on comparative life cycle strategies in amphibian hemiurids. She is examining site specificity and host specificity of Helipegus occidualis and H. eccentricus in numerous amphibian, odonate, microcrustacean, and snail hosts. Over the last two years, Heather has presented her work at the Rocky Mountain Conference of Parasitologists (RMCP), the Southwester Association of Parasitologists (SWAP), the Annual Midwestern Conference of Parasitologists (AMCOP) and the the American Society of Parasitologists (ASP).  In 2012 Heather received the Becker Award from SWAP, George R. LaRue Award from AMCOP and the Honorable Mention from the ASP for her talks on site fidelity of hemiurid flukes in anurans. Additionally, Heather received research grants to support her work from SWAP and AMCOP and a recent travel grant from ASP to present her work at the annual meeting of the American Society of Parasitologists.   



Crystal Wiles

Crystal Wiles MS Student

Crystal Wiles joined our program in parasitology to pursue a MS degree in the fall of 2010.  Crystal comes to us from Dr. Florian Reyda’s laboratory at the State University of New York, College at Oneonta, where she spend time working on fish parasites, and odonate parasites particularly gregarines.  Crystal received a grant for her work as an undergraduate and has presented a number of posters on her work at regional undergraduate conferences and the American Society of Parasitologists meeting in Colorado Springs, Co.  Crystal is examining the parasite community structure in 5 species of damselflies (Odonata: Zygoptera) from Oklahoma. During her time working on this project she has discovered a number of new parsite relationships including a new discovery of damselflies serving as paratenic hosts for a turtle nematode. Crystal has been awarded a research grant from SWAP for her work on damselfly gregarines and she has presented her work at SWAP, RMCP and ASP in 2012.  She won the Datus M. Hammond Award for the Best Poster presented by a Graduate Studentat at the Rocky Mountain Conference of Parasitologists held at Cedar Point Biological Station, Ogallala Nebraska (see Poster).


Ryan Shannon

Ryan Shannon BS Student Laura Marie Hodges BS Student

Ryan Shannon took my Animal Biology course in the spring of 2010.  For his honors contract in that course Ryan examined host specificity and cyst morphology of Gordius robustus in 5 species of freshwater snails.  He also worked on nematomorph infections in snails by examining naturally infected snails from various locations in the United States.  Ryan compleated his honors thesis on the morphological and developmental changes of the pseudo-intestine in gordiid larvae during cyst formation. Ryan presented his work at the Rocky Mountain Conference of Parasitologists at Cedar Point Biological Station in Ogallala Nebraska on September 7 2012 and he won the William C. Marquardt Award for Best Poster Presentation by an Undergraduate Student (see Poster). He is currently working on his MS degree in our laboratory and he will be working on amphibian protozoa.



Kristen Enyart

Kristen Enyart BS Student


Kristen Enyaart is a Microbiology major and was recriuted to our laboratory from the OK-LSAMP program.   Kristen is currently working on host specificity of hairwomrs in freshwater snails. She is also examining resistance of hairworm cysts to drying. She has presented her work as a poster presentation on numerous occasions at regional and national undergraduate research symposia.



Chelcie Piercie BS Student



Chelcie is a Zoology major at OSU. She took my parasitology course last fall and decided to work in our laboratory. Chelcie is currently examining the distribution of hairworms by sampling for their cysts in Payne County Oklahoma.

Fomer OSU Students


Suhail Vhora

Mohammed S. Vhora MS Student

Mohammed (Suhail) decided to pursue graduate work on frog parasites in our laboratory at OSU.  Suhail arived at our door step from John Janovy’s laboratory. At UNL Suhail enroled in field parasitology and general parasitology and worked with Gabe Langford on the co-occurrence of Haematoloechus complexus and Rhabdias joaquinensis in the lungs of the plains leopard frog (Rana blairi).  Mohammed presented his undergraduate research at the Southwestern Association of Parsitologists meeting on April 17, 2009 and won the undergraduate student competition.  His talk was entitled Co-occurrence of Haematoloechus complexus (Trematoda: Haematoloechidae) and Rhabdias joaquinensis (Nematoda: Rhabdiasidae) in the plains leopard frog (Rana blairi).  For his MS project Suhail examine anuran helminth community structure in local anurans from a seasonal and comparative perspective. During his stay at OSU suhail presented three talks at SWAP, one talk at RMCP and two talks at ASP. Suhail succesfuly defended his MS thesis on May 20, 2012 and graduated in July 2012. He is currently working on his manuscripts from his thesis.


Cleo and Ryan

Cleo Szmygiel MS Student collecting snails with Ryan Shannon BS Student

Cleo Szmygiel joining our laboratory as a MS student in parasitology in the fall of 2010.  Cleo came to us from Dr. Janine Caira’s laboratory at University of Connecticut where she fell in love with parasitology.  Cleo worked on museum parasitology specimen curation while at the University of Connecticut. rCleo also spent time in Dr. Florian Reyda’s laboratory at the State University of New York, College at Oneonta, where she worked on fish parasites. For her MS thesis Cleo examined non adult characteristics of 9 species of hairworms from North America and Africa using DIC and SEM techniques. Additionally, she examined the distribution of hairworms in Payne Co., Oklahoma by using the cyst stages for hairworm detections. During her work Cleo developed Ecological Niche Models to predict horsehair worm distribution on our recently funded NSF proposal. During her MS degree, Cleo presented two talks at SWAP and two talks at the ASP meeting including an invited talk at the International Nematomorph Symposium. Cle recieved the Mark Dresden travel grant from ASP to support her travel to the meeting. Cleo defended her thesis on May 4th, 2012. Cleo is now employed and is working on the genetics of Caenorhabditis elegans at Northeastern University ! We are awaiting on her publications from her thesis.


H. Tracy

Heather (Tracy) Rhoden, MS student

Heather received her B.S. in Biology and minor in Chemistry from the University of Nebraska at Kearney.  For her MS degree Heather examined helminth community structure and reproductive strategies of pinworms Gyrinicola batrachiensis in larval anurans and caudatans from Nebraska. Heather presented her data at the 39th Rocky Mountain Conference of Parasitologists held at Cedar Point Biological Station September 18-20th and received the Datus M. Hammond Award for the Best Poster presented by a Graduate Student (see poster).  She also received honorable mention for her talk entitled "Helminth and leech community structure in two species of sympatric larval amphibians from western Nebraska" at the Southwestern Association of Parasitologists April 16th 2010.  Way to go Heather!

Heather defended her theses successfully on July 2nd 2010 and is now attending veterinary school at Oklahoma State University.  Congratulations.  Currently two papers have been published from Heather’s thesis and these include Rhoden, R. H. and M. G. Bolek. 2012. Helminth and leech community structure in tadpoles and caudatan larvae of two amphibian species from western Nebraska. Journal of Parasitology 98: 236-244. and Rhoden, H. R. and M. G. Bolek. 2011. Distribution and reproductive strategies of Gyrinicola batrachiensis (Oxyuroidea: Pharyngodonidae) in larvae of eight species of amphibians from Nebraska. Journal of Parasitology 97: 629-63.


Austin Kubata

Austin Kubat, BS student


Austin is pursuing a BS in Microbiology at OSU.  He took the General Parasitology course (Zoo 4103) in the fall of 2008 and got hooked on parasites.  Now he is working on the host specificity of two nematomorph species (African and North American) in six species of freshwater snails.  Just in the last six weeks, Austin has collected a large data set, and is now working on, data analysis and numerous hypotheses to test some of his observations. Austin presented his research at the 42nd annual meeting of the Southwestern Association of Parasitologists on April 17, 2009. See poster.

Erin Rogers

Erin Rogers BS Student


Erin Rogers was an Animal Science BS major working in our laboratory on the survivability of horsehair worm larvae and cysts to freezing.  Erin’s honors thesis address differences in the survivability of North American and African horsehair worm life stages to low temperature freezing.  Erin’s work was recently presented as a poster presentation at the Southwestern Association of Parasitologists in April 16 2010. (see poster). Her work is currently being submitted for publications.



Melissa Gorbet BS Student






Melissa Gorbet took my Animal Biology course in 2010 and approached me about doing research in the laboratory.  Melissa worked closely with Crystal on measurements of gregarine oocysts from numerous species of damselflies.











Laura Marie

Laura Marie Hodges BS Student

Laura Marie Hodges is a zoology and biochemistry major and recently won the outstanding zoology sophomore of the year award in the department.  Laura Marie is currently taking general parasitology and working on a histological study examining ram horn snails, Planorbella trivolvis, infected with a Neoechinorhynchus sp. which we think goes into turtles.  As you can imagine Laura Marie spends a lot of time at the microtome. Laura Marie is taking some time off from school this semester.


Fomer UNK Students

Ashlee Hartman, BS student


Because of Ashlee’s experience working at the vet clinic, she decided to take me up on her 420 project looking at dog parasites from humane society dogs across Nebraska.  Ashlee just ran her first sample of a puppy from Kearney and he was infected with Toxocara canis and Cystoisospora canis.  Way to go Ash!  Every since that sample, Ashlee has been braving falling rocks from the sealing in the lab (Bruner Hall of Science is being remodeled), while she is spinning fecal samples. Ashlee presented some of her data at the 39th Rocky Mountain Conference of Parasitologists held at Cedar Point Biological Station September 18-20th and received the William C. Marquardt Award for Best Poster presented by an Undergraduate Student.  See Ashlee’s poster.

Katie Langenfeld, BS student 



Katie Langenfeld is one of the BRIN scholars on campus!  The BRIN program was created to expose students to serious biomedical research, build a statewide biomedical research infrastructure between undergraduate and graduate institutions and to strengthen undergraduate institution's infrastructure and increase its capacity to conduct cutting-edge biomedical and behavioral research.   Last year Katie spent some time working on plant cell biology in Dr. Paul Twigg’s lab (UNK), and is now joining the parasitology lab to work on the innate immunity of larval damselflies to frog lung fluke metacercariae.  



Andrew Prososki, BS student


Andrew took Biology I as a freshman and received an A in the course!   Andrew, or Drew as he likes to be called, then decided that he wanted to try his hands at research.  His project will involve looking at three different families of damselflies for parasites and comparing their body condition. Andrew wrote his first grant for $3,000 to the UNK Summer Student Research Program for his study and got funded.  Way to go Drew!  Because of his interest in the outdoors we think that Drew will make a superb field biologist.



Morgan Kellogg, BS student


For her 420 project, Morgan decided to examine host specificity of tadpoles in three different families of anurans to the trematode Glypthelmins pennsylvaniensisGlypthelmins pennsylvaniensis is an intestinal fluke of treefrogs in the genus Pseudacris and cercariae infect tadpoles where they form metacercariae.  Frogs become infected with adult worms when they metamorphose and ingest their skin.  Her work will involve infecting snails, and tadpoles, and doing quite a bit of histological work to see what happens to the metacercariae? 




Thora, the lab mascot!

Subaru, Thora and Lilly Bell

Collecting in Southeastern Oklahoma; Thora and Lilly Bell (the other lab mascot) after a long day of collecing resting on their camping pillows:)


Thora in Action!

Thora in Action!!



Although Thora has only been the lab mascot for a few weeks she has managed to collect the following parasites for our collections: Dermacentor variabilis the American Dog Tick, Amblyomma americanum The Lone Star Tick; Female Ctenocephalides felis.  Way to go Thora!  Unfortunately, Mrs. Bolek will not let us keep cultures of these critters on Thora.


“One must be able to identify the different kinds of organisms encountered and know their habits and habitats; the more one knows about the food and life of these animals…. the more success one is likely to have…..Exceptional physical endurance is an asset for one must follow the maxim…..Above all, one must have command of his or her time for twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week.” Wendell Krull (Letter to Miriam Rothschild, 1953)