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Dr. Claire Sanderson

Research Associate, Wildlife Disease and Conservation

Claire Sanderson joined Dr. Alexander’s lab in September 2011 as a postdoctoral research fellow. She earned her PhD in Veterinary Science at the University of Sydney. Her work focused on the intersection of infectious disease, genomics, and immune gene diversity in the study of marsupials and monotremes. She has worked on diverse host-pathogen systems from DFTD in the Tasmanian devil to Mucormycosis in the platypus. Following her PhD, she moved to South Africa where she was a senior research assistant for the University of Zurich studying the behavioural ecology of slender mongooses and meerkats in the Kalahari Desert.


Her current research in Dr. Alexander's lab is directed at exploring behavior influences on host-pathogen interactions using the banded mongoose and the emergence of Mycobacterium mungi, a novel strain of tuberculosis. Dr. Sanderson also studies the role of Allee effects in social carnivore populations, the role of group size on functional gene diversity in African wild dogs and is currently working on Dr. Alexander’s NSF-funded project exploring the transmission dynamics of microorganisms between human and wildlife populations, and how this influences water quality in the Chobe region of Botswana.Her research interests broadly encompass behavioural ecology, disease ecology, conservation biology and population genetics. 

Lena C. Patiño

Wildlife Ecologist/Veterinarian Researcher

Lena C. Patiño W. joined Dr. Alexander's lab in March 2017 as a wildlife ecologist/veterinarian researcher. She earned her DVM from Universidad Autónoma Gabriel René Moreno (Santa Cruz, Bolivia) in 2006 and received a Master's in Conservation Medicine with an emphasis in ecosystemic health from the Universidad Nacional (Heredia, Costa Rica) in 2016. Her Master's researched focused on detection of avian tuberculosis and psittacid herpesvirus in endangered free-living scarlet macaws (Ara macao) in Costa Rica. She worked in small animal and no conventional pet praxis and supported different wildlife projects, referring conflict in the human-wildlife interface, training of indigenous communities for wildlife research and wildlife health in Bolivia.


Lena's primary role with Dr. Alexander's lab is coordinating the banded mongoose project, which is aimed at understanding how various environmental, social, and behavioral factors may influence infectious disease transmission pathways and infection probabilities in social carnivores, using banded mongoose and Mycobacterium mungi as a model study system. Lena will also collaborate with the data collection on the Chobe River water quality research project and participate in a number of other wildlife projects for CARACAL.

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Lipa G. T. Nkwalale

Master's Student, Wildlife Conservation

Lipa Nkwalale earned his BSc. in Soil and Water Engineering from the University of Botswana in 2017 before starting his Master’s degree with the Alexander Lab in the Fall of the same year. During his undergraduate years he volunteered with various environmental grassroots Non-Governmental Organizations, spanning the research field and policy.

His current project investigates the linkages of environmental factors to the decline of water quality in Northern Botswana, an area with scarce surface water resources under threat from growing competing needs. He hopes his research can promote better water management practices and influence policy to improve the livelihoods of all inhabitants, humans and wildlife.

Amo Barungwi

Master's Student, Wildlife Conservation

Amo Barungwi worked for the Ministry of Environment, Natural Resource Conservation and Tourism, Department of Wildlife and National Parks. She coordinated aerial surveys for large mammals to establish wildlife population distribution (spatial), estimates, densities and trends. The data informs wildlife managers and policy makers. The elephant data contributes to the IUCN African Elephant database. She also assists the CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) Management Authority as a CITES Scientific Authority for Botswana.

She is interested in bridging the gap between science data and policy makers. She explores the Shifting Baseline Syndrome phenomena using aerial survey historic data (spatial and temporal trends). The findings will be used to advise conservation policy makers within Botswana.

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Madalyn Fox

Master's Student, Public Health

Madalyn joined Dr. Alexander’s lab as an undergraduate in the spring of 2016. Following that semester, she received the opportunity to travel to the Chobe Research Institute. She worked closely with the after school environmental education club students. She also immersed herself in community wellness work by attending kgotlas (town meetings), science in society series, and working on diarrheal disease research within the poorer communities of Kasane. It was this community work that really sparked her interest in public health.

Her research interest is focused on understanding how  varying severities of a particular disease can effect the communities of the infected individuals. Continuing with our staple research subject, Madalyn is working with the virulence of E.coli found in the feces of banded mongoose as well as comparing the antibiotic resistance across variables. Her research will help us to understand how this disease is moving and maturing.

Nick Sybertz

Master's Student, Wildlife Conservation

Nick joined Dr. Alexander’s lab in the fall of 2017 as a volunteer and will continue in the fall of 2018 to pursue a master’s degree in fish and wildlife conservation at Virginia Tech. He was also an undergraduate at Virginia Tech, earning two B.S. degrees in wildlife conservation and biological sciences in the spring of 2018. 


Nick is interested in wildlife disease ecology and comparative transcriptomics. For his master’s project, Nick will develop genetic and protein-based biomarkers in banded mongooses (Mungos mungo) to detect early infection of Mycobacterium mungi, a novel strain of tuberculosis known only to infect the banded mongoose.


Not Pictured: Jack Leitch (PhD Student, Wildlife Conservation), Gabrielle Smith (PhD Student, Wildlife Conservation), and Riham Abu-Saymeh (PhD Student, Wildlife Conservation)



Rasha Aridi

Wildlife Conservation and 

Multimedia Journalism

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Sam Flett

Wildlife Conservation

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Emma Fralin


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