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Samuel Silknetter

IGC FELLOW    |   Global Change Center

Ph.D. Student  •   Biological Sciences  

Research Interests: Stream ecology and biodiversity, landscape genetics, traits-based approaches, species interactions

Advisor: Dr. Meryl Mims


Sam is a PhD student in Dr. Meryl Mims‘s lab in the Department of Biological Sciences at Virginia Tech. His research at VT focuses on the relationships between species traits and population genetic structure within the framework of hydrologically variable stream networks.

Sam is a graduate of Susquehanna University, where he received a B.S. in Ecology in 2014. His senior thesis was a culmination of three years of undergraduate research examining the response of benthic macroinvertebrates to catastrophic flooding. Other undergraduate research experiences included extensive sampling of Pennsylvania salmonid populations and a project examining the role of climate on habitat preferences of a cosmopolitan plethodontid salamander.

Upon graduation, Sam worked as a biologist and environmental consultant at Aqua-Terra Environmental Ltd. Duties included telemetry tracking, endangered species habitat and presence/absence (presumed) surveys, wetland delineations, wetland water level monitoring, project mapping using ArcGIS, and technical report writing. The broad range of responsibilities from his time in consulting helped Sam to secure a graduate assistantship to attend Clemson University in the Spring of 2017.

At Clemson, Sam studied under Dr. Brandon Peoples, a Virginia Tech alumnus (M.S., PhD Fisheries and Wildlife Conservation). His research has included an ambitious field experiment, published in 2018 in Freshwater Biology, and has a manuscript in preparation synthesizing positive interactions in freshwaters. Throughout his time at Susquehanna and Clemson, Sam has presented original research at numerous conferences, and has been honored multiple times as a student presenter at both regional and national meetings.

Sam started his PhD in the Mims Lab in January 2019. He will be examining landscape genetic/genomic relationships of aquatic insects as part of an NSF-funded macrosystems ecology team, StreamCLIMES. The goal of this collaborative research project is to understand how intermittent stream hydrology affects biodiversity across the aridity gradient that exists in the southern United States. He believes the collaborative nature of his research project aligns well with the goals of the IGC fellowship program, and looks forward to additional interdisciplinary partnerships here at Tech.