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 Subject Matter Editor for Ecology.


We are thrilled to have the exceptionally talented Alejandro Pietrek as a postdoc in the lab! Alejandro is working on the landscape-scale impacts of the big headed ant (Pheidole megacephala) invasion on the Acacia drepanolobium - ant mutualism.


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).

In mergers and acquisitions, sometimes you win big. Our newest PhD student is Harry Jones, a talented ecologist and general bird fanatic. Harry is doing his PhD work on the impact of habitat loss and fragmentation on bird communities in Colombia.


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!


Dr. Kirsten Prior is now an Assistant Professor at SUNY Binghamton. She did 2 years hard time in the Palmer lab, and taught us more about ant-plant-scale insect interactions than we thought possible. We miss her much, along with her lovely husband Tom and their cute-as-a-button daughter Morgan.

Gone but not forgotten: Woe betide us, Jake Goheen has moved on to greener pastures, and is now an Associate 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.

All good things must come to an end: Travis did an amazing job on his MS in the lab, working on the effects of megafaunal extinction on pollinator networks in Kenya. Travis now works for the US Government, and is at the McMurdo Station in Antarctica.

Dr. Megan Gittinger did her PhD in the lab on the ecology and evolution of plant defense, with an emphasis on spinescence in African acacias. She was the recipient of an NSF GRF and many other grants while at UF. She is currently the Community Engagement coordinator at the Ecological Research and Education Center 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 Forest Insect Ecologist with the Canadian Forest Service.


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. Our data archive can be found here.

we like elephants, but we are scared of elephants