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Tonia Schwartz, PhD

Associate Professor

Principal Investigator

Dr. Tonia Schwartz started her research career as an undergraduate at Iowa State University working with Drs. Bonnie Bowen and Carol Vleck using genetic markers to study populations of jays and to determine the sex of penguins. While doing a Masters of Science at University of South Florida with Dr. Steven Karl, she obtained a foundation in Population and Conservation Genetics while deciphering the population structure of gopher tortoises. Before starting her PhD she spent four years in Australia conducting research on diverse topics including fisheries management, speciation and hybridization, molecular evolution of metabolic proteins, and sexual selection. As a genetics PhD student at Iowa State University she was an NSF-IGERT fellow in Computational Molecular Biology, a NSF-GK12 fellow, and was advised by Drs. Anne Bronikowski and Jo Anne Powell-Coffman for her dissertation identifying how molecular stress response networks can diverge between natural populations of garter snakes that are at either end of the pace-of-life continuum. She was awarded a James S. McDonnell post-doctoral fellow in complexity science, which she took to University of Alabama at Birmingham to work in the Office of Energetics with Drs. David Allison and Julia Gohlke. During this time she studied transgenerational affects of stress on metabolism, reproduction, and longevity, and the evolution of molecular networks. In 2015 she was hired as an Assistant Professor at Auburn, and thus the Schwartz lab of Functional and Ecological Genomics was established. 

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PhD Candidate, CMB Fellow,

NSF Graduate Research Fellow

I completed a BS in Molecular Biology at University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) in 2013.  I worked in healthcare, and continued research with Dr. Marek Napierala within the Stem Cell institute where we focused on the trinucleotide repeat disorder, Friedreich's Ataxia. Additionally I took on the role of Camp/Education Director for Fresh Air Family, a Birmingham non-profit organization focused on educating youth and getting families outdoors enjoying and learning about nature. These two experiences guided me to the Schwartz laboratory where I will be completing my goal of becoming a molecular ecologist.  My research interests revolve around investigating the biological pathways and systems responsible for various ecological patterns observed in the field of ecology. I am also interested in the genetic and epigenetic modifications that are involved in phenotypic plasticity and polymorphisms in reptiles. Employing reptilian cell culture and functional genomics, I am excited to investigate the role of the insulin/insulin-like signaling (IIS) network in body size evolution happening to insular reptilian populations found on the California Channel Islands! 

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PhD Candidate,

CMB Fellow

I am fascinated by the coevolutionary relationship between mitochondrial and nuclear genomes. I am interested in the role sexual reproduction plays in maintaining a healthy mitonuclear marriage, and analyzing the effects of parthenogenesis on mitochondrial dysfunction using physiological methods within a phylogenetic context.




Ryan graduated from the University of North Alabama in 2017 with a B.S. degree in Biology. He has always found reptile anatomy and physiology amazing as well as their reproduction. He enjoys every minute that he get to work with them and he always looking to learn more about them.



PhD Candidate

I completed my B.S. in Biology at Alabama Agriculture and Mechanical University in 2016. Now as a graduate student at Auburn University, I am interested in how organisms respond to stress in ecologically relevant environments. Specifically, I look at responses at a transcriptomic level in Sceloporus undulatus, the eastern fence lizard, when exposed to heat and fire ant envenomation. I am also intrigued by Daphnia pulicaria, a microscopic water crustacean, and their selective pressures that enable populations to survive in toxic algae. 

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Undergraduate Research Fellow

Taylor has and independent project studying the development of the microbiome in baby brown anole lizards. Additionally, Taylor has been collecting data on the Aging Anoles Project

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Undergraduate Researcher

Kimberley is a junior who has been helping manage and care for our brown anole colony and longevity experiments along with doing experimental procedures with the animals.



Undergraduate Researcher

Alexis is a junior from Huntsville, AL, majoring in Ecology/Evolution/

Behavior, and is a member of the AU Chamber Choir. She is helping with the care of a brown anole colony and gathering data for the Aging Anoles project.  She is aiming for a career in herpetology, and is especially intrigued by regenerative abilities in salamanders, as well as snake ecotoxicology. 



Undergraduate Research

Megan is a senior from Madison, Alabama majoring in Biomedical Sciences with a Pre-Medicine concentration. She is a member of the Auburn University Danceline and is the Greeksing chair for her sorority. She is very excited for the opportunity to be working in the Schwartz Lab and looks forward to studying the role of growth factors in the brown anole lizard.

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Undergraduate Research Fellow

Kelly has been collecting data on the Aging Anoles project, doing image analysis of color variation and tail regeneration. Currently she is studying the gene expression of IGF1 Receptor and Insulin Receptor in anole lizards



Undergraduate Researcher

Jay has been collecting data on the Aging Anoles project. Over the past year  he has been isolating RNA from brown anole lizards and conducting gene expression of IGF hormones and receptors. 



Undergraduate Researcher

Maggie is a a junior that has been collecting data on the Aging Anoles Project. She will be assisting with Bite Force analysis of our Brown Anoles.

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Emmet Matthews

Undergraduate Research

Emmet is a junior exploring sequencing variation in the Insulin Receptor and the Insulin-like Growth Factors 1 Receptor within and among an anolis lizard species.


Postdoctoral Fellows

Graduate Students

Undergraduate Researchers

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The Molecular Lab contains 6 graduate student desks spaces, animal processing area, and 4 bench spaces.  Equipment includes standard centrifuges, PCR machines, refrigerators, -80°C and -20°C freezers, agarose gel electrophoresis, PAGE and Western Blotting set-up, power supplies, gel imager, water bath, incubator, stir plates, rotators, shakers, balances, lab pH meter and portable environmental (pH, salinity, an dissolved oxygen) meter, standard pipettes and electronic multichannel pipettes, a refrigerated centrifuge including a rotor for 96 well plates and a bucket rotor (Heraeus Megafuge), a Tissue Lyser II (Qiagen) for high through-put DNA, RNA, and protein isolations, and two Percival Incubators for organismal experiments.

Our colleagues in our department and neighboring labs are very generous with sharing equipment. We have access to a CFX96 Real-time PCR detection system (BioRAD), ImageQuant LAS 4010 imaging system (GE Health Sciences), and a BioTeK Synergy HTX Multi-mode Plate Reader (BioTek) for fluorimetric ROS assays, colorimetric enzyme assays, and ELISAs for protein quantification; a Nanodrop and QuBit for DNA, RNA and protein concentration, a Covaris Sonicator and BluePippen for DNA size selection for DNA library preps.  Schwartz also has access to equipment for mitochondrial isolation and measurements of oxygen consumption including the following equipment: Oxytherm System (Hansatech Instruments) for mitochondrial respiration measurements, Potter-Elvhjem PTFE pestle and glass tube for mitochondrial isolation.

We have an anti-room to the molecular lab that we use as a meeting room, lunch room, and coffee chats.


The Cell Culture room has a laminar flow hood, two water-jacketed CO2 incubators, liquid nitrogen Dewar for cell storage, Eve automatic cell counter, EVOS XL Core Digital Imaging System for cell and tissue culture applications, water bath, refrigerator, and pipets.

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This indoor facility is a room (650 ft2) that houses a live reptile and amphibian collection used for outreach via the Auburn University Museum of Natural History (AUMNH), and is used for experimental research. This animal room contains space and racks for an 400 individual lizard cages. This room is equipped with work counter space and a sink.

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Our outdoor facility is referred to as “The Aviary” (historical reasons) and is an outdoor facility for set up of semi-natural environments. It is at a locked and secure location about 1 mile from the Department of Biological Sciences (DBS) on Auburn University’s Main Campus. The Aviary is a Department of Biological Sciences facility used by many organismal biologists in the department. This facility has been completely renovated (financially supported by DBS and the College of Sciences and Mathematics) with adjustable cages over a 32 x 82 ft area that can be arranged into replicate enclosures for short term and long term experiments.