Daniel S. Jones, PhD

Assistant Professor

"I studied Botany at the University of Oklahoma, receiving my B.S., M.S., and Ph.D. there. During my graduate work I became fascinated by sexual reproduction in flowering plants. I studied gamete biology in rice during my master's (with Dr. Scott Russell) and cell-cell communication pathways regulating the final stages of sperm cell delivery, a process called pollen tube reception, in Arabidopsis during my Ph.D. (with Dr. Sharon Kessler). I then joined Dr. Zack Nimchuk's lab at The University of North Carolina where I was an NSF Postdoctoral Fellow funded through the Plant Genome Research Project (PGRP). At UNC, I worked on stem cell signaling during reproductive development in both Arabidopsis and sunflower. This work led to my broad interest in understanding how conserved cell signaling pathways have been modified during evolution to regulate development of distinct inflorescence morphologies."

Plant Developmental Biologist | Husband and Dad | Baseball fan (Chicago Cubs) | Oklahoman (Okie) | loves all things plant 

Email | Twitter | Google Scholar

Vandana Gurung, PhD

Postdoctoral Fellow

“I am a Botanist and a fresh postdoc at the capitulab. I received my undergrad (B.Sc.) and master’s (M.Sc.) degree in Botany from the University of Delhi, India. I then pursued Ph.D. at the University of Connecticut in the labs of Dr. Pamela Diggle and Dr. Yaowu Yuan. My Ph.D. work was focused on identifying the genetic and cellular processes involved in the diversification and formation of corolla tubes in Mimulus, monkeyflowers. As a postdoc at the capitulab, my goal would be to contribute genetic evidence pertaining to the evolution of Capitulum, a key morphological innovation in Asteraceae. Despite the importance of Capitulum in Asteraceae diversification, we know little about the genetic basis of their development. To fill this knowledge gap, my aim would be to elucidate the suite of genes involved in meristem expansion, a crucial process thought to be involved in capitulum evolution and development.”

Botanist | Potter- & Mayerhead | love fiction | Cooking enthusiast (mostly Indian) | Chai-o-holic (not chai tea latte!) | Spirituality and a bit of Quantum physics |

Reid Selby

Graduate Student

“I found my passion for plants at the University of Oklahoma where I received my B.S. in Plant Biology. My first research position focused on light signaling in early plant development using Arabidopsis. Through studying plants, I’ve developed an appreciation for all forms of life and the ways in which they evolve. I even briefly worked in a diabetes lab culturing primary human hepatocytes to study the effects of trauma on the liver. However, plants remain the most fascinating to me. The diversity in Asteraceae capitula is a wonderful example of evolutionary variations on a theme.”

Graduate Research Assistant | Rock Climber | Hiking and Camping Enthusiast | Planted Aquarium Nerd | House Plant Fanatic

Email |

Brannan Cliver

Graduate Student

I graduated from Auburn University with my B.S. in Conservation Biology. Before that I thought that I wanted to study veterinary medicine, and while I love animals, studying plants has become a much greater passion of mine. During undergrad I worked in Dr. Aaron Rashotte’s lab studying Cytokinin Response Factors in Arabidopsis as well as briefly looking at Live Oak senescence. I have realized that part of why I love research so much is being able to apply what I learn to the conservation of different plant species. I am so excited to learn even more about Asteraceae!

PhD Student | Hiker and Kayaker | Very Amateur at both Yoga and Roller skating | Outdoor Lover | Carpenter with Assistance (so I can make more plant shelves)

Email |

Erika Lesperance

Graduate Student

"I began working in the CapituLab during my junior year at Auburn, where I fell deeper in love with plants and molecular biology! My undergraduate research focused on characterizing trait segregation in a heterozygous system and learning cloning techniques. I graduated in 2023 with a B.S. in Biomedical Science and a minor in Anthropology. Currently, I am a Master’s student studying novel adaptations in the Asteraceae family associated with invasiveness."

Graduate Research Assistant | Plant mom | Yoga Aficionado | Optimist | Cincinnatian

Sarita Muñoz-Gómez

Graduate Student

"I grew up in Colombia and received my B.S in Biology at Universidad de Antioquia (UdeA) in 2020. While there, I joined the Plant Evo-Devo lab where I developed my undergraduate thesis on R2R3-MYB genes associated with floral pigment regulation in the Aristolochiaceae family. In 2023 I received my Masters degree in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology from the University of Connecticut. At UConn, I joined the Mimulus lab where I studied the development and regulation of the vein-associated pattern in Mimulus pictus flowers. In the fall of 2023, I joined the Capitulab at Auburn University where I am excited to explore the diversity in morphology and development of Asteraceae capitula!"

PhD Student | Plant enthusiast | Cat lover | Wonky pottery maker | Se habla español

Evie Moellering

Undergraduate Student

“I am a Senior studying Environmental Sciences with a concentration in conservation biology. I have always loved plants and knew I was interested in environmental protection and the research behind studying and protecting endangered species, which led me to the CapituLab. I am excited to become a master of Asters!”

Undergraduate Research Assistant | Ultimate Frisbee Fanatic | Field Frolicker | Silly Goose |

Madeline Gwin

Undergraduate Student

"I am a rising junior studying genetics at Auburn University. I have specific interests in genetically modified organisms used for agricultural purposes. Although I have been in a few labs now, this is the first lab where I will be able to focus on topics so closely suited to my field of study and interests. I am so excited to be working with the Asteraceae genomes with the CapituLab."

Undergraduate Research Assistant | Avid Hiker | Professional Traveler | Gecko Parent

Ashlyn Bazzel

Undergraduate Student

I’m a sophomore at Auburn University studying Organismal Biology: Conservation and Biodiversity. I’ve loved nature my whole life, but I found myself particularly interested in plant biology and genetics during my few years at Auburn. Protecting endangered plant life has become a passion of mine and I’m so thankful for the opportunities I’ve been given in the lab pertaining to my interests. I’ve loved my time in The Capitulab so far and am so excited to see what’s next!

Undergraduate Research Assistant | Hiker | Cat mom | Conservation Advocate

Past Members