the palmer lab

Recent press from work in the lab is here!   |  Check out the Blog at the Huffington Post here!

Todd Palmer’s research interests include the community ecology of mutualism, and the effects of anthropogenic change (extinction, climate change) on savanna communities. A summary of ongoing research projects can be found on the research page of this website. See also cv and publications pages. Inspiration and heroes are here. Some fun pictures from Africa and elsewhere are here. Todd also serves as an Editor for Ecology.


We’re really excited to welcome Dr. Kirsten Prior to the lab! Kirsten has a fantastic track record of doing really cool science on a variety of different systems, and is interested in the effects of anthropogenic change on species interactions. She will be working on the acacia-ant project in Kenya over the coming months.


We are delighted that Patrick Milligan, former UF undergrad, field school attendee, and field school RA and TA, joined the lab in the Fall of 2015!
Pat is working on the impact of big headed ant invasion on patterns of carbon storage and allocation in Acacia drepanolobium. We expect great things from young Patrick (no pressure, Pat).

A big welcome to Travis Guy, who joined the lab in the Fall of 2013 as our first masters student! When he’s not eating baked rodents, Travis has been working on the effects of large mammal extinction on plant-pollinator networks in Kenya.


While the Palmer Lab generally frowns upon the caging of undergraduate assistants, extraordinary circumstances demand extraordinary measures. Here, Natalya “Cap’n” Morgan and Rachel “Pound Cake Rodent” do hard time in 1m3 herbivore exclusion cages to reflect on their crimes against the Infinity Caterpillar. Warden Dr. Megan Gittinger looks on from cage right.


John Surumai Lemboi has been a research associate on the acacia-ant project for the past decade, and is a phenom when it comes to East African natural history, research design, land rover driving, and generally being an amazing guy. He is married (sorry ladies), and has 4 amazingly lovely children, Rose, Veronica, Sally and James.

James Lengingiro has been with us since 2010, and has quickly earned a place among the lab’s MVPs. James keeps us on track with his mad field skilz and easy laugh, while keeping us safe with his uncanny elephant- and buffalo-spotting abilities. We are lucky to work with this guy!


Vitrell McNair is the mastermind behind the logistical coordination of the Palmer Lab, and saves our sorry butts time and time again. She is also one of our very favorite people around.


Gone but not forgotten: Woe betide us, Jake Goheen has moved on to greener pastures, and is now an Assistant Professor at the University of Wyoming. Jake’s personal website can be found here. We miss him profoundly, but his spirit lives on in our lab (not in a creepy-spooky way, but in a really good way).

In yet another awesome merger, John Poulsen was a post-doc in our lab in 2010. John is now an Assistant Professor at Duke University, and his lab page is here.

Dr. Megan Gittinger works on the ecology and evolution of plant defense, with an emphasis on spinescence in African acacias. Upon arriving at UF, she immediately bagged an NSF GRF. Zoinks! Megan has some really cool research interests and background, all of which can be found here on her personal page. She is currently a post-doc in David Weisrock’s lab at the University of Kentucky.

We were lucky to capture the butt-kicking, super-hero-style Dr. Kathleen Rudolph in the lab as The Inaugural Graduate Student. Kathleen did her Ph.D. on the ecology, energetics and biogeography of African ants. She was the recipient of an NSF GRF, as well as numerous grants, including funds from The National Geographic society. Kathleen is currently continuing her work in Kenya, studying the ecological genetics of acacia ants.

Michael Stastny did a post-doc with us, working on plant-insect interactions in Kenya. He is currently a post-doc in the lab of Dr. Risa Sargent at the University of Ottawa.


Research in our lab is primarily focused on questions in community ecology and the ecology and evolution of species interactions. We do our fieldwork both in Africa and the U.S., with a particular focus on East African savannas and bushlands. If you are an interested potential graduate student, click here. Our amazing outside collaborators are here

we like elephants, but we are scared of elephants