Interested in joining the Lucky Lab?

Contact me to find out more about undergrad, MS, PhD and postdoctoral positions. If you are motivated, independent, have research experience and are interested in pursuing a degree with a focus on ants, invasion, systematics, population genetics, biodiversity, citizen science or science education send an email with your CV, a description of your interests, and for prospective grad students – two references. I’m looking forward to hearing from you!

Diversity & Inclusion

The Lucky Lab position on diversity and inclusion: The Lucky lab values and fosters a diverse and inclusive community and we are proud to welcome members with a broad range of backgrounds, perspectives and ideas. Because of our strong commitment to promoting fact- and reason-based objective inquiry in this this lab environment, we unconditionally reject and denounce discrimination, bigotry and hateful rhetoric.

Lucky Lab members

Welcome to the Lucky Lab! Here’s a brief tour of who we are!

Lucky Lab members 2019

Lucky Lab 2022: (Back row from left) Leo Ohyama, Jason Williams, Aswaj Punnath, Kayla Stalcup, Miles Maxcer.

(Front row from left) Nikita Patel, Ariel Berrean, Andrea Lucky, Maya Saar, VR Seagal.

Lucky Lab members 2019

PI

Andrea Lucky
Andrea Lucky, PhD

Email: alucky@ufl.edu | Follow: @Aluckymyrmex

I am an evolutionary biologist and biodiversity scientist with a focus on insects and invasion, and my training is specifically in the evolution of ants. The tools I use range from insect morphology to molecular genetics to phylogenetic statistics to micro-CT scanning. These tools allow me to answer questions about the relationships among different species of ants and the timing of diversification that have led to the distribution patterns we see today. In addition to my research interests, a major goal of my work is to make science accessible and available to the general public, particularly to make the process of ‘doing’ science accessible to non-scientists.

Postdocs

Jason Williams
Jason Williams, PhD

Email: jwilli81@ufl.edu | Follow: @JLWilliAnts

My research focus is ant systematics, biogeography, and taxonomy. I am currently resolving difficult taxonomic and evolutionary questions involving the global radiation of the ant genus Nylanderia, which includes over 123 described species across the globe and hundreds more unknown to science. Nylanderia are among the most common ants worldwide and more than a dozen species may threaten biodiversity, human productivity, and health as exotic or invasive pests. My training began with alpha taxonomy, museum collections-based research, and analysis of morphological data. I have since integrated other tools into my skillset, including genome-scale molecular phylogenetics, bioinformatics, and nano-computed tomography (nano-CT) to build three-dimensional models of specimens for geometric morphometric analysis.

Jason Williams
Maya Saar, PhD

Email: m.baharalsaar@ufl.edu | Personal website: www.saarmaya.weebly.com | Follow: @SaarMaya

I am a TAU President postdoctoral fellow (2021-2023), and a formally BARD postdoctoral fellow (2020-2022).

​My current project is funded by USDA: Social structures of invasive ant species are often associated with supercoloniality but characterizing it is adamant and often requires complementing methods. Behavior and genetic assessments are common in order to decipher social structures of invasive ant species. Our main goal is to investigate the social structure of Wasmannia auropunctata (little fire ant, e.g., LFA) in Florida, and to map its spread. LFA is an environmental and agricultural global pest. Although it is long-established (1924), it has been poorly studied in Florida. By collecting LFA populations in Florida, we documented a significant expand from previous reports. Currently we conduct behavioral assays to detect acceptance/non-acceptance by introducing dyads from different populations, and of nestmates as control. In addition, molecular work is underway to characterize the genetic makeup of LFA’s social structures. Understanding the invasion status of LFA now may be our most powerful tool in preventing future introductions into USA.

Graduate students

Leo Ohyama
Leo Ohyama (PhD candidate)

Email: leo.ohyama@ufl.edu | Follow: @OhyamaLeo

I am an ecologist and ecoinformatician with a variety of research interests focusing across the themes of trait-based ecology, global biodiversity gradients, and the scaling properties of biodiversity. While I apply these themes to ants, I also work with a variety of taxa such as the world’s top 100 invasive species. I’m currently synthesizing and building a global traits database of all ant species to identify previously unknown hotspots of biodiversity and to identify the patterns and processes associated with global ant diversity gradients. I’m also interested in developing a more scalable conceptual framework in which to apply traits-based approaches in ant ecology (from species to assemblages).  On the side, I enjoy developing, teaching, and practicing data science and statistical methods.

Leo Ohyama
Miles Maxcer (PhD student)

Email: m.maxcer@ufl.edu | Personal websites: www.milesmaxcer.com, www.theantnetwork.com | Follow: @MilesMaxcer

I study the little things that run the world! As an ecologist, science communicator, and public policy optimist, I aim to uncover strategies and solutions to tackle the scientific challenges that define our time — particularly, the erosion of trust in institutions, climate change, and biodiversity loss.

For my PhD in the Lucky Lab, I am beginning to investigate the ecology of non-native twig ants (Pseudomyrmex spp.) in Florida and beyond, while incorporating science communication and education into my work. I also lead an organization that is dedicated to showcasing the hidden world of ants through online media and public exhibits, as well as fostering collaboration between hobbyists and scientists.

Jason Williams
Aswaj Punnath (PhD student)

Email: aswajpunnath@ufl.edu 

I am an ant taxonomist with a keen interest in understanding their diversity, evolutionary relationship and behaviour. I was working on a research project exploring the Eastern Himalayan biodiversity hotspot in India and monitoring the diversity of ants across an elevational gradient. Currently, I’m doing my doctoral studies on the systematic revision of Nylanderia – an invasive ant genus. My research focuses on species delimitation of this cryptic ant genus using molecular tools and nano CT scanning.

VR Seagal
Virginia-Rose (VR) Seagal (Recently MSc graduated!)

Email: vseagal@ufl.edu | Follow: @SeagalVr

My research is driven by an interest in ants and the effects of global change on biodiversity. For my thesis I used ecological niche modeling techniques to predict the potential distribution and future range shifts of the invasive little fire ant (Wasmannia auropunctata) in the southeastern US. In addition to looking at the effects of climate change, I also incorporated human disturbance represented by human population density and distance to roads. In future work I am interested in using modeling and field work techniques to look at the impacts of various global change stressors on ant species interactions and distributions and guide management and conservation efforts.

Lab manager

Andrea Lucky
Ariel Berrean, BA

Email: ariel.berrean@gmail.com

I’m a recent physics and math graduate returning to my old passions of ecology and entomology. My interests include ecological applications of data analysis and science outreach/communication. Currently, I am working with Leo Ohyama on a project concerning ant biodiversity in the southeastern US, along with planning future outreach projects and managing the Lucky Lab.

Undergraduate students

VR Seagal
Kayla Stalcup

Email: kaylastalcup@ufl.edu

I am a current UF undergraduate student studying Zoology and Entomology. My interests include insect & arachnid behavior, ecology, and insect vector biology. I plan to continue my education in the field of Entomology and I am in the process of determining a research focus.

VR Seagal
Nikita Patel

Email: nikita.patel2@ufl.edu

I am an undergraduate student majoring in Entomology and Nematology. My interests and focuses include ecological and global changes in Entomology. I am looking to pursue graduate school with a focus in environmental science and climate change.

Former Lucky Lab members

Postdocs and Graduate Students
  • Miles Zhang (Postdoc, 2018-2020)
  • Rachel Atchison (MS 2020)
  • Marian Lyman (MS 2018, Online)
  • Sedonia Steininger (MS 2015)
  • Tyler Vitone (MS 2015)
Undergraduates
  • Lexie Nielsen
  • Ave Baurle
  • Jacob Hornfeldt
  • Brandon Mai
  • Kathy Arguez
  • Andrew Nisip
  • Michelle Dunbar
  • Evan Waite
  • Sage Thompson
  • Wes Inman
  • Sam Hagman
  • Kerrie Durham
  • Amanda Anderson
  • Ashley Egelie
  • Genevieve Comeau
  • Walter Winn
  • Nathan Duerr
  • Constance Darrisaw
  • Emily Cabán
  • Cassandra Doll
  • Gabe Somarriba
  • Katie Carroll
  • Sara Alvarez
  • James Pinkney
  • Keara Clancy
Artists-In-Residence
  • Madeline Job (2014-2015)
  • Brielle Jenkins (2015-2016)
The Insects Alive 3-D Insects-in-Art team (2016-2017)
  • Shimul Chowdhry
  • Jason Cochran
  • Ediel Dominguez
  • Annie Gormaley
Joshua Hildebrandt

IN MEMORIUM

Joshua Hildebrandt

Anthropology Major & Entomology Minor

We lost Josh in September, 2016. He was a friend, a mentor, and a bright light to all of us. He is missed and remembered.