Graduate Students

Eric Sodja

Eric Sodja

Fall 2017 - Fall 2019

M.S. Student in Ecology

For his thesis, Eric used a modeling approach to investigate how plant spatial distributions and diversity influence interactions plants have with other organisms, such as insects, fungi, and mammals, and how these interactions in turn influence the distribution and diversity of plant species. Understanding these interactions is useful to predict the changes that may occur given disturbances to the system, such as species invasions, shifts in resource availability, or other environmental changes. Eric received a B.S in Conservation & Restoration Ecology, a B.S. in Economics with a minor in Geographic Information Science, and a M.S. in Ecology from Utah State University.

Interview with Eric: New Lab MemberEric(2018).

Interview with Eric: Graduation (2020)

Current: PhD student at the University of Utah

Undergraduate Students

Mac Havens

Alynne "Mac" Havens


Summer 2021

Undergraduate Researcher

I am a senior undergraduate pursuing a degree in Applied Mathematics and a minor in Statistics. Growing up in Virginia, I always loved exploring the forests around my home and observing how dynamic those systems were. My childhood experiences fostered a love of ecology in me and led to many experiences in high school working with the Virginia Save Our Streams program and the Chesapeake Bay Foundation. I am interested in studying ecosystem dynamics, particularly the rapid migration of certain plant species, as well as statistical visualization, plant-animal interactions, watershed science, and public outreach about climate change. At Utah State, I have worked on several computational research projects with a focus on modeling adaptive dispersal with integrodifference equations, and plan to pursue a master’s degree in math with a focus on biomathematics.

Cole Carlson

Cole Carlson

Spring 2018 - Summer 2021

USU Honors Program

Undergraduate Teaching Fellow

Lab Technician

I graduated with a B.S. in Biology with Honors and minors in chemistry and psychology. I am pursuing a career in medicine but would also like to explore research opportunities that I am interested in order to gain more knowledge about the world around me as well as how research is conducted. I have been a research assistant in Dr. Maddens behavioral analysis lab for a 2 semesters working with research involving delayed discounting. Recently I have found an interest in ecology and would like to explore research in this area and learn more about ecological processes along the way.

Honors thesis: Intra- and interspecific secondary metabolite variation between fruit and leaf tissues in the hyperdiverse Psychotria genus

Interview with Justin: Graduation (2020)

Current: Medical student


Marcus Hayden


Fall 2020 - Spring 2021

Undergraduate Researcher

I am excited to be studying biochemistry as an undergraduate at Utah State. My first experience with ecology was cataloguing various invasive species to Utah in high school. I’m also interested in mathematics. This past year, I used statistics to analyze partisan gerrymandering in Utah. I also worked as an intern for the hydroponic garden at Utah State University Botanical Center-Kaysville. With the Beckman Research Group, I help with chemical ecology and the study of secondary metabolites in plants. Through this lab experience, I hope to learn a bit more about the chemical nuts and bolts of how life functions.


Lyndey Higham


Spring 2021

Undergraduate Researcher

I am currently an undergraduate student studying Biochemistry with a minor in Behavioral Health. From a young age, I have been interested in many parts of the broad field of biology. I have had the opportunity to work as a supplemental instructor for the Human Physiology course at USU for the last year. I also work as a certified nurse’s assistant and spend every summer volunteering at Camp Hodia, a wilderness camp for children and teens with Type 1 Diabetes. I plan to pursue a career in medicine after graduating. I am excited to be a part of the Beckman Research Team and to develop skills in chemical ecology research.

McKenna Smith

McKenna Peel

Spring 2020, Spring 2021

Undergraduate Researcher

I am a current sophomore studying a dual major of Biochemistry and Spanish. I am pursuing a Phd in Biochemistry and getting involved in research opportunities now, in order to prepare myself for a future career of a lecturer and researcher. My interest in chemistry and medicine sparks from my desire to contribute to scientific advancements in the medical field. Recently, I have joined Dr. Beckman's research group to learn and discover more about plant chemistry. My goal is to gain the necessary skills to think critically and develop my own research and studies.


Andy Anderson

Fall 2020

Undergraduate Researcher


I am currently an undergraduate student at Utah State University pursuing a Bachelor of Science degree with a major in biology and a minor in chemistry. Previously, I have attended South Puget Sound Community College in Washington State where I have earned my Associate in Biology degree. While I am currently planning on going to medical school in the near future, ever since taking my first biology courses in high school, I have developed a huge interest in the topics of ecology and climate change, as well as how they impact the future of human civilization. I look forward to growing my understanding and experience in these fields while working with the Beckman Research Group, as well as contributing to the advancement of collective human knowledge through scientific discovery


Brais Marchena


Fall 2020

Undergraduate Researcher


I am a third-year undergraduate biology (ecology and biodiversity emphasis) student. I am broadly interested in water quality and access, land-use/resource management, climate change, sustainability, and the impact of anthropogenic activities in the ecology and diversity of the Neotropics. I have previously worked as a research assistant at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute’s Barro Colorado Field Station in Panama and as a volunteer at the Galeta Point Marine Laboratory, where I was involved in the laboratory’s environmental education and public outreach program. In the Beckman Research Group, my work focuses on contributing writings and creating content for the Seedscape Blog and Verde Elemental, a digital publication in Spanish dedicated to promoting and disseminating knowledge in ecology and conservation in Latin America. Once I graduate, I plan to pursue graduate studies in environmental sustainability and sustainable development. Ultimately, I aim to work bridging the gap between scientists and the general public, between knowledge creation and decision making.

Camilla Moses

Camilla Moses


Fall 2020

Undergraduate Researcher


I am an undergraduate studying Ecology/Evolutionary Biology with a minor in Bio-Mathematics. I have a general interest in math, sustainability, climate change, and agriculture. My experience at a Utah State Park, a conservation corps, and an organic farm made me wonder how scientific research can help us manage the interactions between humans and the environment. My goal is to understand how quantitative methods provide insight about our natural resources for the purposes of decision and policy making. With the Beckman Research Group, I am working to build simulation models of how seed dispersal is affected by animal movement due to climate change. After this, my plan is to explore more research questions in ecology.

Justin Tirrell

Justin Tirrell

Spring 2018 - Spring 2020

USU Honors Program Researcher

Undergraduate Teaching Fellow

Lab Manager

Justin received a B.S. in Biology with Honors and minors in Philosophy and Chemistry. While working in the Beckman Research Group, Justin created simulation models for biological processes. Justin was drawn to this particular focus because he desires to participate in research that informs policy makers and the public about how human behavior affects local ecosystems. By creating well-researched predictive models, Justin plans to contribute insight into how biological systems may change their behavior as human behavior continues to alter natural ecosystems.

Honors thesis: Emergent seedling spatial patterns following insect seed predation in a simulated population

Reflection on my time in Panama

Current: Jr. LIMS Admin at Sera Prognostics

Daniela Cala, Universidad del Rosario Undergraduate Volunteer, Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, Panama (Summer 2018)

Kaylynn Ashby, Undergraduate Teaching Fellow (BIOL 2220/WATS 2220: General Ecology), Utah State University (Spring 2018)

Nathan Moos, University of Michigan Undergraduate Researcher, University of Utah (Summer 2014)

Rebeca Acosta, University of Panama Undergraduate Volunteer, Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, Panama (Spring 2009)

Julio Batista, University of Panama Undergraduate Volunteer, Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, Panama (Fall 2008)

Sophia Christoforides, UMN Undergraduate Intern, Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, Panama (Fall 2008)

Reina Heinz, UC-Santa Cruz Undergraduate Volunteer, Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, Panama

Sonja Riddle-Ford, Undergraduate Directed Research in Panama, University of Minnesota (Summer 2006)

Volunteers & Interns

Matt Certo, Western Washington University M.S. Student Intern, Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, Panama (Summer 2008)

Christopher Moore, CSU-Fullerton M.S. Student Intern, Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, Panama (Summer 2008)

Amy Dickson, Volunteer, Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, Panama (Spring 2008)

Serica Zwack, Volunteer, Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, Panama (Spring 2008)

Bernardo Lopez, Volunteer, Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, Panama (Fall 2007)

Michelle Stein, UMN M.A. Student Intern, Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, Panama (Summer 2005)