Lora L. Smith, Ph.D.


My research interests are centered around the ecology of amphibians and reptiles of the Southeastern Coastal Plain, and in particular on wildlife linkages between aquatic and terrestrial systems and keystone species in these systems. I am also interested in interactions between natural and human disturbance legacies in longleaf pine forests and herpetofaunal communities. Aspects of my research have been incorporated into training workshops and field courses for working professionals and university students.

Jennifer M. Howze, M.S.

Senior Research Associate II

My primary research interests focus on the management and conservation of reptiles and amphibians in the longleaf pine ecosystem. Current projects center on upland snake and gopher tortoise ecology and monitoring rare pond-breeding amphibians. I obtained my B.S. and M.S. degrees in Wildlife Ecology and Management from the University of Georgia, during which, I researched a broad range of mammal species, with a particular emphasis on forest bats and small mammals. I currently serve on the Executive Board of the Gopher Tortoise Council. I live in Albany with my husband, Brent, and three dogs, Goose, Charlie, Pepper, and kitty, Rosie.

McKayla Susen, B.S.

Graduate Student

I am currently a Master’s student in the Warnell School of Forestry at the University of Georgia. After obtaining an undergraduate degree in Biology from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, I worked as technician on large river systems in Illinois and have spent the last two years working in longleaf pine forests at the Jones Center. My Master’s research examines the relationship between gopher tortoise population densities and fine-scale habitat structure in longleaf pine forests. Specifically, I am interested in how soil texture and vegetation structure effect gopher tortoise abundance, and distribution and the effect that increased tortoise population densities have on vegetation structure. My overall research interests involve the integration of multiple scientific disciplines to answer community ecology questions.

Nikki Yetke, B.S.

Graduate Student

I am a Master’s student in Zoology at the University of Florida and conducting my field work at the Jones Center. Prior to beginning my Master’s degree, I received my B.S. in Conservation Biology and Ecology from Boston University and worked as a field technician in the Wildlife and Herpetology Labs at Ichauway. My primary research interests focus on the role of animals as “ecosystem engineers.” I am interested in the effects that animals, primarily predators, have on ecosystem functions. For my Master’s research, I am investigating the ecological role of American alligator burrows in geographically isolated wetlands (GIWs). I am looking specifically at alligator use and movement between burrows, commensal species use of alligator burrows, burrow distribution across the landscape, and the microhabitat provided by alligator burrows.