Below is a bit of information on people/students in the Wildlife Ecology lab at TSU:

Bill Sutton (Assistant Professor) 


In my natural habitat with an Eastern Hellbender (Cryptobranchus alleganiensis) in Tennessee

Bill is originally from the town of Philippi located in north-central West Virginia and is very proud of his mountain-state heritage. He moved to the southeastern United States in 2004 and has made a lifestyle out of moving around the southeast (Hunstville AL -> Sylva NC -> Knoxville TN -> Clemson SC -> Nashville TN).  Tennessee State University is now where he calls home and conducts wildlife ecology research. Bill is a broadly-trained ecologist with interests in global change ecology, wildlife biology, and biometry. His research has its theoretical basis in ecology (e.g., disturbance ecology and niche theory) with strong ties to management and applied conservation of vertebrate populations. He uses these themes to evaluate organismal responses to anthropogenic and stochastic disturbances and attempts to elucidate potential mechanisms (e.g., habitat change, disease transmission, changes in resource availability) responsible for changes in distribution patterns or demographics in a particular population or community.

Educational and Professional Background:

2013 – 2014, Post-Doc, Clemson University (

2011 – 2012, Post-Doc, University of Tennessee (

2005 – 2010, Ph.D., Nat. Resources & Env. Sciences, Alabama A&M University (

2002 – 2004, MS, Biological Sciences, Marshall University (

1998-2002, BS, Biology, Wheeling Jesuit University (

Jeronimo Silva (Master’s Student)


Jeronimo is originally from Sao Paulo, Brazil, but he has called the Eastern United Stated home for the last six years. Jeronimo graduated from Virginia Tech with a B.S in Wildlife Science in 2013, and joined Dr. Sutton’s lab in June 2015 as a master’s student. His interest in salamanders started when he worked as a lead technician in the Southern Appalachian Silviculture and Biodiversity Study at Virginia Tech, which focused on the effects of forest management on different salamander species. After graduation, Jeronimo worked with federally endangered flatwood salamanders at Eglin Air Force base, and participated on multiple projects involving a variety of amphibian and reptile species. Prior to joining Dr. Sutton’s lab, he worked with the Wildlife Ecotoxicology and Physiological Ecology lab at Virginia Tech, where he discovered a passion for Hellbenders and the environments they inhabit. At TSU, Jeronimo will be developing a spatial distribution model for the Eastern Hellbender (Cryptobranchus alleganiensis) throughout the state of Tennessee, and will be using environmental DNA to help evaluate the species status within the state. Additional research interests include anthropogenic impacts on natural resources, amphibian breeding behavior, hellbender larval development and dispersal, and ecotoxicology.

Nicole Witzel (Master’s Student)

Nicole WitzelNicole Witzel is a graduate student working towards her Master’s in Environmental Sciences in Dr. Sutton’s lab beginning in Spring 2016.  Originally from Minnesota, her passion for wildlife began with catching frogs and turtles from a canoe in her backyard pond and her interest only grew when she reached college. Nicole’s undergraduate coursework was done at the University of Wisconsin-River Falls and the University of Wisconsin-Steven’s Point, where she received a double major in Conservation and Field Biology and a major in Wildlife Ecology: Research and Management, respectively.  Before joining Dr. Sutton’s lab, she worked with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, Iowa State University and the United States Fish and Wildlife Service through the Student Conservation Association.  While employed at these organizations, she did mark and recapture studies for the endangered Blanding’s turtle, presence and absence surveys for bullsnakes, invasive species control, auditory bird surveys, habitat assessments and biological inventories of plants and wildlife. Though she has a broad range of experiences, reptile and amphibian conservation and research has always been her main focus, with a special interest in salamanders. At Tennessee State University, Nicole will be doing research on the Streamside Salamander (Ambystoma barbouri) by obtaining and analyzing environmental DNA to determine it’s spatial distribution.

Brent Newman (PhD Student)

Althbrentough Brent is a proud Texan, he is all hat and no cattle.  Raised in Dallas, Texas, Brent managed to discover wildlife and develop a strong interest in the natural world via fishing trips with his dad, collecting insects throughout the city’s green spaces, and books.  Brent graduated from Knox College with a B.A. in Environmental Studies and a double minor in Biology and Spanish in 2010.  While at Knox College, Brent conducted research on tick populations in Illinois, which further developed his interest in wildlife management/conservation for human health and disease ecology.  After graduation, Brent received a U.S. Fulbright grant to Jamaica to conduct a radio-telemetry project on the Federally Endangered Jamaican Boa from 2011-2012.  Using his data from Jamaica, Brent turned his project into a master’s thesis at Texas A&M University-Kingsville where he graduated in 2014 with a M.S. in Wildlife Management.  During his time at TAMUK, Brent also worked on side projects related to American Alligator diet and food habits in Texas as well as surveying Aflatoxin concentrations in wildlife feed.  Prior to joining Dr. Sutton’s lab in 2016, he worked as a research assistant at the Texas A&M University College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences.  At Tennessee State University, Brent will be evaluating the ecological effects of various forest management practices on wildlife and tick populations as well as how these practices influence tick-borne disease prevalence at William B. Bankhead National Forest in northwestern Alabama.

Shawn Snyder (Master’s Student)

shawn-snyderBorn and raised in the foothills of Pennsylvania, Shawn grew up an outdoorsman by the tutelage of his father and has strong roots in the mountains of PA.  Shawn developed his interest in wildlife at an early age by visiting various national parks and by frequent camping trips with his family. Shawn graduated from Pennsylvania State University in 2016 with a B.S. in Wildlife and Fisheries Science. During his time studying at Penn State, he worked for the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection as an Engineering and Scientific Technical Intern doing research on fish communities and water pollution.  Shawn also was a research assistant and undergraduate researcher at Penn State working on a project that studied the effects of prescribed fire on Timber Rattlesnake populations in Pennsylvania. Through this experience, he developed a passion for the conservation of rattlesnakes and other venomous snakes of concern.  Other research Shawn has been a part of includes biodiversity surveys in South Africa, spotted salamander mark-recapture study, and a Wood Frog tadpole development study. At Tennessee State University, Shawn will be working to create a spatial model for the Pygmy Rattlesnake (Sistrurus miliarius) in the state of Tennessee to determine its conservation status.


Laura Horton (Master’s Student)

IMG_1098Laura is originally from Clarksville, Tennessee. Thanks to her military parents, she grew up camping and hiking, and was raised to love and appreciate the outdoors. She graduated from Belmont University in 2016 with a B.S. in Biology. While at Belmont for her undergraduate degree she completed a year-long study that examined above ground-below ground interactions between invasive Privet and Honeysuckle and invasive earthworm species and how they have impacted native earthworm populations. Throughout her project she fell in love with environmental science and conservation work. In her last year at Belmont she began assisting the Tennessee State University Wildlife Ecology lab with a multi-year turtle mark and release study at the TSU wetland, under the guidance of Dr. Sutton. Her work focused on investigating the parasite-host interactions between the leeches found on the turtles captured. She is now very excited to be working towards her Master’s in Environmental Sciences at TSU in Dr. Sutton’s lab. Her research will further investigate the patterns and effects of parasitism on their turtle hosts throughout Tennessee.

Brittaney Hogan (Undergraduate Dean’s Scholar)

new pics 10_12_15 896


Brittaney is a junior at Tennessee State University and is an Agricultural Sciences major focusing on environmental sciences. Brittaney is a full-time student at TSU and has worked with Dr. Sutton over the past year on a variety of research projects. When Brittaney is not working three jobs, she enjoys sleeping and assisting with research on salamanders, turtles, and other wildlife.




Dominique Harris (Undergraduate Dean’s Scholar)

TSU ResearchDominique Harris is a Junior Agricultural Science Major with a concentration in pre-veterinary medicine from Cincinnati, OH. She has been working with Dr. Sutton as an undergraduate research assistant for two years. From a very early age, her love for animals, adventure, and nature has driven her to aspire a career in veterinary medicine. In her free time she loves to read and explore new things. Dominique is also a proud member of Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority Inc.


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