Rachael Kramp, Research technician

Rachael was an undergraduate in Dr. Kat’s lab for almost 2 years before becoming a research technician. Rachael developed and implemented assays to isolate and characterize anaerobic microbes from stickleback and environmental samples and fluorescently labeling anaerobic microbes for localization assays. She was funded by INBRE Undergraduate Research Assistantship while she was an undergraduate. She now prepares and sequences gut microbes using our miseq, and collects fish that are undergoing rapid evolution in a nearby lake for both gut microbial analysis and SNP analysis for our collaborators at Stony Brook University in New York and UC-Berkley. She will be a graduate student at the University of Pittsburgh starting in fall of 2019.

Jace Cussins, Fish technician

Graduate Students
Kelly Ireland, Masters Student
KellyIreland2018Kelly is identifying and characterizing PAH degrading microbes within the threespine stickleback gut microbiota and how they may help the fish respond to crude oil exposure. As an undergraduate, Kelly worked on developing qRT-PCR assays for innate and adaptive immune genes in stickleback. Kelly earned an Undergraduate Research Scholarship through the UAA Honors College, a Molly Ahlgren scholarship through the American Fisheries Society, and a Summer 2017 Alaska INBRE Undergraduate Research Assistantship (URA). She graduated with a double major in biology and journalism, with honors in each department, academic honors, and leadership honors from the University of Alaska Anchorage. She is currently funded by the Arctic Domain Awareness Center.

Levi Wegner, Masters Student

Levi is examining the diversity of MHCII genes and the correlation to the diversity of stickleback gut microbiota. Levi earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Biological Sciences with a minor in Russian from the University of Alaska Fairbanks. As an undergrad, he studied freeze tolerance in poplar trees. His research career includes working with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game to tag and sample salmon species, quantifying gold in ore samples, analyzing criminal report data, and assisting in analysis of autopsy and pathology samples. He is currently funded through the Sloan Foundation and is active in ANSEP.

Ryan Lucas, Masters Student
imag0699Ryan focuses on understanding how host genetic background influences microbial community composition and immune response after exposure to clinically relevant levels of antibiotics, and whether stickleback from different genetic backgrounds select for different gut microbes. His work has been funded by an INBRE Graduate Research Fellowship. His teaching experience includes 2 years as a teaching assistant for  Introduction to Microbiology for Health Science Majors, BIOL A240.


Abigail Nathlich: Fish care and assistant to research technician. 2019-present

Christopher Barahona: Fish care 2019-present

Destiny Ropati: Fish care 2019-present

Katherine Lessard: Creating fluorescent gut microbes for analysis of host-microbe interactions. 2018-present

Nadia Sherman: Fish care 2019-present

Sherrine Bustista: Creating fluorescent gut microbes for analysis of host-microbe interactions. 2018-present


Patrice Timmons: Patrice started as an undergraduate, and has continued with the lab as a volunteer after getting her undergraduate degree in Biology. She has focused on learning many techniques, including DNA isolation, image analysis, and tagging microbes with fluorescent tags with Dr. Emily Lescak and Katie D’Amelio. She is now developing protocols to identify microbes that can degrade plastic. 2018-2019

About Dr. Kat: 

UAA 2015 by Rachel1 cropped

Dr. Kat has broad expertise in microbiology, including both pathogenic and symbiotic microbes. As an undergrad and as a lab technician, she helped describe environmental and genetic factors that regulate toxin production in Staphylococcus aureus. For her PhD thesis she identified and characterized genes and their products necessary for an obligate intracellular parasite, Toxoplasma gondii, to establish infections in host brains. She expanded her exploration of host-microbe interactions during her postdoctoral training at the University of Oregon, where, working with a team of talented research associates, undergraduate students, and fellow postdoctoral fellows, she established stickleback as a model to examine how host genetic background contributes to host immune responses to intestinal microbiota. She was trained in host immune response to microbes, and examined how the host genetic background contributes to the ability of the host to shape the intestinal microbiota. During these studies, she built collaborations across two institutions and three universities, and mentored ten undergraduate and graduate students.

Dr. Kat’s long term mentoring goal is to combine the experiences she had as an Inupiaq earning a PhD and the expertise she gained in multiple research fields into a flourishing career as a mentor and professor to microbiologists. Kat was raised in a remote community above the Arctic Circle that was 80% Alaskan Native. She was the first person in her village to earn a PhD in biological sciences. While in school, she was struck by the scarcity of females and minorities in science. As a result, she is committed to making the academic research field a welcoming environment for minorities.

Dr. Kat is an active member in both scientific and native communities. She taught Alaskan Native games to students and community members at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the University of Oregon. At UW-Madison she was active in the American Indian Science and Engineering Society (AISES) and Wunk Sheek. At UO she was active in the Native American Strategies group, a group of faculty, staff and students that shaped Indigenous issues on campus. She worked extensively with the Diversity Director and the UO Native American community, staff, students and faculty to develop a new program for recruiting Alaska Natives and Native Americans (AN/NA) into science (Alaska Oregon Research Training Alliance, AORTA). She collaborated with Lane Community College in Eugene, Oregon to support an intense college preparation summer program (Bridge of the Gods Summer Academy, BOGSA). As an instructor for BOSGA, she taught Native American high school students Introduction to Microbiology for two weeks every summer to prepare them for the rigors of college and to show them that they can be successful in science classes. Dr. Kat continues to build relationships between the University of Oregon and the University of Alaska Anchorage, and between the UAA and the Alaskan Native/Native American community to recruit and support AN/NA students in science, technology, engineering and mathematical fields through ANSEP, Della Keats Health Sciences Summer Program, and UAA STEM day.

Dr. Kat’s Researchgate

Dr. Kat’s SciENcv

Dr. Kat on twitter: @napaaqtuk and @uaamicro