Ginni Mulder

Ginni Mulder

Ginni is a native of Denver, Colorado and is an undergraduate student at CU Boulder studying Ecology and Evolutionary Biology.  In the Tripp Lab, Ginni used UROP funds to conduct phylogenetic research on an impressive and apparently very rapid radiation of plants: the genus Petalidium (Acanthaceae). Species of Petalidium represent some of the most ecologically important plants in the ‘ultra-arid’ deserts of Namibia and adjacent southern Angola. She built datasets to answer the overarching question: How and why has Petalidium speciated to such a degree, in such a narrow corner of the Earth (biotically driven, abiotically driven, or some combination thereof)? She used fresh field collections of Petalidium in order to begin to reconstruct the evolutionary history of this fascinating radiation. Ginni also works (and has a lot of fun!) at the 30th Street Biology Greenhouses on campus. In her free time, she loves to garden, hike, bake, and spend quality time with her friends and family.

Michael Lawson

Michael Lawson

Michael is a native of Durham, North Carolina and an undergraduate student at CU Boulder. He is undecided in his major, but is interested in a biology route. In the Tripp Lab, he conducted phylogenetic research on the previously understudied genus Arthonia. With ~600 species, the genus Arthonia is one of the most diverse lineages of lichens on the planet. In North America, Arthonia is represented by ~150 species, making it the fourth most diverse genus in this region after Lecanora, Cladonia, and Caloplaca. What drives high diversification in this important biological radiation? Is it the fact that most species are sexually reproducing, or that they grow mostly on bark? Alternatively, is high diversification related to the rampant switching of modes of nutrition present in the genus (lichenized, parasymbiotic, parasitic, saprophytic)? The impressive ecological amplitude demonstrated by species of Arthonia demands an evolutionary context for understanding this radiation. Yet, at present, sequence data are available for less than 30 species (GenBank). The goal of this study is to build a phylogeny of North American members of Arthonia, to facilitate downstream comparative investigation. To accomplish this, he extracted DNA from fruiting bodies and then used PCR and sequencing to build molecular data. Once enough data are collected, a phylogeny will be reconstructed to study evolutionary features of this understudied genus. In his free time, Michael likes to play soccer, fly fish, ski, spend time with friends and family, and watch Duke Basketball!

Joseph Kleinkopf

Joseph Kleinkopf
Joseph, a Boulder native, is an undergraduate in the Department of Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology with a flair for active pursuits and the arts. In the Tripp Lab, he is currently working on a project in collaboration with the COLO Herbarium (co-advised by Collections Manager Dina Clark) regarding phenotypic variation within the Amorpha nana species complex. This “species” has been treated as a single entity in western North America, but populations in southern Colorado are morphologically divergent from other populations elsewhere in Colorado. Joseph is using his MCDB skills to test whether these phenotypic differences are underlain by molecular differences or can instead be explained by environmental / other influences. Joseph’s academic interests include bio- and organic chemistries, genetics, and medicine, and he hopes to continue furthering his education in the life sciences after graduation. In his free time, he likes to hike, play/watch hockey, and discover tasty new micro brews.

Heather Stone

Heather (2)

Heather is not technically a grad student. (No one is 100% sure exactly what she is, but she does work as a research assistant and is definitely a mammal.)

She a Colorado native and graduate of CU Boulder with a BA in Spanish. In the summer of 2012, she traveled to Costa Rica with the aid of a UROP grant to augment her Spanish and work as a research assistant at La Selva Biological Station. The stunning biodiversity of Costa Rica and exciting atmosphere of the research station galvanized an intense curiosity and interest in science. This enthusiasm, coupled with a lifelong love of plants, made working with Erin Tripp a great fit. Among other projects, Heather is currently doing a large-scale reproductive isolation experiment on 16 Ruellia species, which will enhance understanding of what factors prevent or facilitate speciation within the genus. Her research interests include anthocyanins, pollination biology, and a little bit of lichens thrown in too. In her free time, Heather maintains an art and science website and co-hosts a podcast. She also likes to travel, enjoy the outdoors, make ceramics, bicycle, and draw.

Mathew Sharples


Mathew is a Massachusetts native with a B.A. in English Literature (German minor) from the University of Massachusetts. He moved to Colorado after being inspired by some of the West’s extensive wildlands. Now, he studies Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, with a particular interest in Kingdom Plantae. His main research interests are floristics, phylogenomics of the Caryophyllaceae and other lineages, biogeography and evolution of Stellaria, and phylogeography. In his spare time he enjoys scaling some of the country’s—indeed, the world’s—highest peaks, and applying that literature degree to his own writings.

Mat recently returned from fieldwork and herbarium work in the Himalaya and other mountainous regions of eastern Asia. There, he completed sampling for a more or less full phylogenomic analysis of the genus Stellaria.

Mat’s floristic inventory of the South San Juan Mountains was recently published:
Sharples Floristic Inventory.

His website can be visited here:

An updated C.V. can be located here: Curriculum Vitae – Mathew Sharples_Spring18

Melinda Markin


Raised in the Rocky Mountains of Idaho, Melinda Markin developed a love for plants at an early age. Melinda received a B.S. in Environmental Studies with a focus in conservation biology and botany. After graduating college, Melinda moved to Durango, Colorado where she worked at the Fort Lewis College Environmental Center. She spent three years in Durango enjoying the flora of the San Juan Mountains before moving to Boulder. Melinda is now a PhD student in the Ecology & Evolutionary Biology Department at the University of Colorado Boulder and is interested in studying the impacts of climate change on high-elevation plant communities, including population genetics, phylogeography, and field experiments. In her precious spare time, Melinda enjoys gardening, orchid hunting, climbing, and befriending the local pika population.

Her CV is available here.

Vanessa Diaz


Vanessa (on the left!) is from Tucson, AZ and got her BS in microbiology form the University of Arizona. She moved to Colorado for the natural beauty and new opportunities the state had to offer. Over the years she has developed a special interest in mycology and is currently researching lichen development in the Museum and Field Studies program as a graduate student. Playing viola in the university orchestra, cooking, hiking, and trail running are among other activities Vanessa enjoys.