Principal Investigator

Possible Profile Pic 2Dr. Katherine Waselkov, Assistant Professor

I am a plant systematist and population geneticist, with broad training in evolution, ecology, and population biology. During graduate school, my research interests crystallized around the idea that very common plants are both intriguing theoretically and understudied by evolutionary biologists. In particular, I developed a fondness for the genus Amaranthus (pigweeds) that continues to the present day. The tractability of such weedy systems has been an additional benefit for involving undergraduate students in research.

See my CV and my ResearchGate profile.

Graduate Students

Alex LopezAlex Lopez

I am beginning a masters of Biotechnology project on waterhemp (Amaranthus tuberculatus), an important Midwestern agricultural weed that has recently begun to show up in the Central Valley.  Post-graduation, my career goals are to obtain a job in the broad field of biotechnology.



Reece RileyReece Riley

My master’s project is a revision of the phylogeny of the genus Helianthella, the little sunflower. I’m using genetic sequencing and morphological comparisons to assess the relations within the genus, which has been mostly ignored since the 1950s.  I have also been working in the Fresno State Herbarium since my undergrad, first digitizing herbarium specimens, but more recently aiding in the transfer of entries and images to the new database and intake of new physical specimens.  I received my B.S. in Biology from Fresno State in Spring 2019, and am now pursuing my M.S. in Biology starting Fall 2019.

Chris Bivins Lab photoChris Bivins

I am studying the ecological interactions between plants and fungi in forest ecosystems using mycoheterotrophic (MH) plants as a model system. MH plants are plants that have evolved to completely lose the ability to photosynthesize. Instead, their roots are colonized by particular species of fungi that create a network of connections to other plant roots throughout the soil. Sugars produced by nearby photosynthetic plants travel through roots into the fungal network, and these sugars are then given to MH plants by their fungal symbiotic partners. My project specifically focuses on whether MH plants are beneficial or detrimental to the species involved in forest fungal networks. After finishing my Master’s, I plan to pursue a Ph.D. and continue studying ecological interactions between plants and fungi.

kfn7Romy Lum

I am researching the genomics of Palmer amaranth and using genotyping-by-sequencing (GBS) to determine where agriculturally invasive populations of Palmer amaranth originated.  I’m especially interested in testing southwestern and Central California populations for resistance to different chemical classes of herbicides.  I’m pursuing an M.S. in Biology.


20170623_110258Adam Avila

I am currently working on a project comparing the composition of endophytes between a parasitic plant (Cuscuta campestris) and one of its host plants (Helianthus annuus) in the Central Valley. This project is coadvised by Dr. John Constable. I received my B.S. in Biology from Fresno State in Spring 2017, and was accepted into the M.S. in Biology program at Fresno State in Spring 2018.  After the completion of this degree, my goal is medical school, in the pursuit of becoming a doctor.

Undergraduate Students

Pawanpreet GillPawanpreet Gill

I, along with my partner Savneesh Athwal, are currently working on a project regarding the native California species Phlox speciosa. I am testing out microsatellite markers to better understand the genetics and taxonomy of this species. The purpose of this project is to analyze the different populations across a geographic range of Phlox speciosa and determine whether there are subspecies and genetic differences. I am also imaging Fresno State Herbarium specimens and learning how to process them to upload to the online database. After earning my B.S. in Biology from Fresno State, my goal is to go to medical school to pursue a career in medicine.

lab-pic2-e1563248902816.pngSavneesh Athwal

I am currently working alongside Pawanpreet Gill with help from Monique Cantu on our project regarding Phlox speciosa. I am working on PCR and gel electrophoresis for 3 different microsatellite markers which will help interpret the genetic differences in the populations of Phlox. I am also working on analyzing data we have completed and sent to the genomics company Laragen. Once I have received my B.S. in Biology with a minor in Chemistry, I plan on applying to medical school to eventually return to the Central Valley as a physician!


Monique CantuMonique Cantu

I am currently contributing to a project on Phlox population genetics by performing PCR and gel electrophoresis. I have also been entering data into the Fresno State Herbarium online database. I am pursuing a B.S. in Biology with a minor in Physical Science. After graduating, I plan on attending medical school and returning to the Valley as a physician with a specialty in skin cancer.


Harneet KaurHarneet Kaur

I am currently contributing specimen data from the Fresno State Herbarium to a large online database of herbarium records, the CCH2, as part of the California Phenology Thematic Collections Network (CAP-TCN) called Capturing California’s Flowers.  After obtaining my B.S. in Biology, I plan to pursue a medical career in either pharmacy or physical therapy.



Lab Alumni