The Clay Lab at Indiana University


In our lab, most research focuses on interspecific interactions, particularly symbiotic interactions. We are interested in how specific symbiotic interactions affect larger scale ecological and evolutionary processes. A variety of systems from vertebrates to bacteria are utilized, with an emphasis on plants and arthropods.

The Clay Lab, Spring 2017. Back Row (left to right): Max Zaret, Philippa Tanford, Megan Dixon, Trevor Gress. Middle Row (left to right): Lekeah Durden, Natalie Christian, Briana Whitaker, Rushvi Desai, Matt Filipek. Front Row (left to right): Yuangzheng Zhao, Keith Clay, Dong Wang

News from the Clay Lab:

July 1, 2018 - Keith begins his new position as professor and chair of the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at Tulane University.

August 2017 - Keith, Natalie, Briana, and Max presented at ESA in Portland, Oregon.

August 2017 - Former lab member Zack Shearin will be starting his PhD at UC Santa Cruz, with Ingrid Parker and Greg Gilbert. Additionally, former undergraduates Katie and Colette are starting medical school this year! Congratulations and best of luck to you all!!

July 2017 - Natalie presented at the Association for Tropical Biology and Conservation annual meeting in Mérida, Mexico!

July 2017 - Briana published “Negative plant-phyllosphere feedbacks in native Asteraceae hosts - a novel extension of the plant-soil feedback framework” in Ecology Letters, and then received the ESA Student Section Award for best paper!!

July 2017 - Natalie published “Exposure to the leaf litter microbiome of healthy adults protects seedlings from pathogen damage” in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B! It has been picked up by several news sources, including CBC Radio’s Quirks and Quarks program. Listen to Natalie talk about her research on the air here.

June 2017 - Keith and former student Dan Johnson contributed to “Plant diversity increases with the strength of negative density dependence at the global scale,” now out in Science! Awesome!

May 2017 - Philippa was promoted to head research technician, and will continue leading the USGS Phragmites projects!

May 2017 - Rushvi graduated and is moving on to a masters program in biochemistry. Congratulations, Rushvi, and good luck!!

May 2107 - Cici defended and passed her PhD defense at her home institution in Lanzhou, China!! Cheers!!

April 2017 - Max has been selected to participate in an NSF Research Experience for Undergraduates program! He will be working this summer with Jenny McLaren at the University of Texas El Paso. Good luck, Max!!

April 2017 - The Clay Lab received many awards from the IU Department of Biology this year - Megan received the Barwe/Rexing Scholarship and a Hutton Honors College Summer Research Grant, former undergraduate Colette received the Avian and Wildlife Research Scholarship, Briana received the Sarah Elizabeth Frey Indiana Daffodil, Inc. Scholarship, and Natalie received the Albert Ruesink Outstanding Associate Instructor Teaching Award, the Fred Seward Award, and the Floyd/Ogg/Cleland Final Year Fellowship. Briana also received the Hanna Kolodziejski from the IU Center for the Integrative Study of Animal Behavior. Good job, Clay Lab!!

April 2017 - Former lab member Zack Shearin is the first author on a seed endophyte paper, now available online!

March 2017 - Keith spent 11 days in Panama collecting morning glory samples with STRI staff scientist Don Windsor.

March 2017 - Briana was awarded both DDIG and GRIP awards from the National Science Foundation!! Congratulations, Briana!

March 2017 - Lekeah, Briana, Max, and Philippa represented the Clay Lab at the Midwest Ecology and Evolution Conference at the University of Illinois. 

March 2017 - Lekeah presented her morning glory and nematode research at the Indiana Academy of Sciences annual meeting, and the Velocity Conference in Silicon Valley. Way to go, Lekeah!

March 2017 - Natalie traveled to Santa Barbara to participate in a fungal traits working group at the National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis.

February 2017 - Keith, along with former lab member Luke Flory and others, have had an NSF EEID grant recommended for full funding! The focus of this grant will be on the emerging fungal pathogens of Japanese stiltgrass. Congratulations, Keith and Luke!!

February 2016 - Yuanzheng and Dong have finished their stay in Bloomington and are on their way back to China for Yuanzheng to finish her PhD. We will miss you both, and hope to visit you in China!

December 2016 - KC was awarded a prestigious McNair Scholarship! Way to go, KC!!!

December 2016 - Former lab member Evie Rynkiewicz and her husband Brian had a baby boy! Welcome to the world, baby Bruce!!

October 2016 - Keith and Natalie traveled to Panama to participate in the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute Microbial Ecology Symposium

May 2016 - Noelle was accepted to the University of Manchester for a master’s program in medical mycology! Congratulations, Noelle!

April 2016 - Keith will be a Guest Professor at the Institute of Integrative of Biology, ETH-Zurich this summer.

April 2016 - Lekeah passed her preliminary exams and Briana passed her qualifying exams! Congratulations both!!

March 2016 - Natalie was awarded an NSF DDIG to continue her work with cacao endophytes!

March 2016 - Keith and former post-doc Luke Flory published “Emergence and accumulation of novel pathogens suppress an invasive species” in Ecology Letters.

Read it here!

January 2016 - CiCi and her husband Johnson gave birth to a beautiful baby boy!! Welcome to the world, baby Jo!!!

October 2015 - We have a new visiting scholar from China, Yuanzheng Zhao. She will be with us for the next year! So happy to have you in Bloomington, Yuanzheng!

August 2015 - We have a new graduate student that will rotate in the Clay Lab. Welcome, Venus!

August 2015 - Keith, Natalie, Briana, and Zack all attended and presented at ESA’s Centennial Meeting in Baltimore, ML.

August 2015 - Natalie, Briana, and Keith had a review paper published in Frontiers in Microbiology!! Check out “Microbiomes: unifying animal and plant systems through the lens of community ecology theory” here.

August 2015 - Natalie was awarded an NSF GRIP (Graduate Research Internship Program) award to continue her research in collaboration with the Smithsonian Tropical Institute.

May 2015 - Former student Evie had one of her dissertation chapters (“Bacterial communities of two tick species and blood of their shared rodent host”) published in Molecular Ecology! Check it out!

May 2015 - Courtney Sullivan successfully defended her senior honors thesis on fungal endophytes in White Snakeroot!! Her work was also recognized with several grants and awards through the Biology Department and the Hutton Honors College. We are so proud of you, Coco! Good luck in Atlanta!!

April 2015 - Natalie successfully defended her dissertation proposal and has advanced to candidacy! Nice work!

April 2015 - Lekeah was awarded an NSF GRFP and Luke received an Honorable Mention. Congratulations on your hard work!

April 2015 - Briana received funding for her work on the fungal endophytes in Switchgrass through the Brackenridge Scholarship, Daffodil Society Scholarship, Fred Seward Award, and McCormick’s Science grant (all through IU), as well as the Prairie Biotic Research grant! Hard work really does pay off!!

March 2015 - Courtney, Noelle, Zack, Briana, and Natalie all presented at the Midwest Ecology and Evolution Conference (MEEC) held right here at IU!

February 2015 - Former student Dan published “Interactive effects of a non-native invasive grass Microstegium vimineum and herbivore exclusion on experimental tree regeneration under differing forest management” in the Journal of Applied Ecology. Nice work, Dan!

November 2014 - Wes successfully defended his dissertation. Congratulations, Dr. Beaulieu!!

August 2014 - We have two new graduate students rotating in the lab. Welcome, Lekeah and Luke!

June 2014 - Wes has accepted a new position with the IU Department of Statistics as a Statistical Consultant and Lecturer. Congratulations Wes!!

May 2014 - Zack graduated from IU and will be starting as a full time research technician in the lab, with funding from USGS!

April 2014 - Briana was awarded an NSF GRFP!! Congratulations, Briana!!

April 2014 - Briana got her first grant! Thank you Indiana Academy of Science!

April 2014 - Angie is leaving her position in the lab to start a graduate program in the IU School of Education! Best of luck on this new experience, Angie!!

April 2014 - Natalie embarked for a three month foray to Barro Colorado Island, Panama, to conduct research on tropical fungal endophytes. She received funding from the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, Garden Club of America, Mycological Society of America, and Indiana University to conduct this research!

March 2014 - Former PhD student Evie Rynkiewicz and Keith had a paper accepted to the journal Experimental and Applied Acarology. It is titled, “Tick community composition in Midwestern US habitats in relation to sampling method and environmental conditions.” Nice work!

February 204 - Wes co-authored a paper titled “Bioactive alkaloids in vertically transmitted fungal endophytes” (Panaccione, Beaulieu, and Cook). It will be in press in April, but you can read it here now!

January 2014 - Wes had  a paper accepted in Nature Communications titled “Bending Rules for Animal Propulsion.” In this paper, Wes conducted phylogenetic comparative analyses of animal propulsors across the entire animal kingdom. All of the data came from YouTube videos! Way to go, Wes!!

December 2013 - Natalie received a fellowship from the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute to investigate endophyte communities in the cacao tree. She will be leaving for Barro Colorado Island in April!

August 2013 - Chai Qing, a visiting student from China, will be conducting research in the Clay lab for the next year. Welcome, Chai Qing!

August 2013 - Nandhini Ashok, a first-year PhD student in the Microbiology program at IU, will be rotating in the Clay Lab for six weeks. Happy to have you here, Nandhini!

August 2013 - First-year PhD student Briana Whitaker joined the Clay Lab. Welcome, Briana!

August 2013 - Five lab members attended ESA in Minneapolis.

August 2013 - Wes Beaulieu and former undergraduate student Michelle McKee published in Journal of Chemical Ecology. Read the article here!

July 2013 - A photographer from Smithsonian Magazine, John Eastcott, visited the Bayles Road IURTP site to photograph prairie voles for an upcoming story on monogamy in this rodent species. For more information click here!

July 2013 - We have yet another newly minted doctor! Congratulations to Evie Rynkiewicz, who just defended her dissertation on “Ecological Interactions Between Ticks, Rodent Hosts, Host Immune Function, and Microbial Communities in Wild Communities." Evie will be starting an NSF Post Doc at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland this fall.

July 2013 - Congratulations to Collin Hobbs, who just defended his PhD dissertation on “The Biogeography and Phylogeography of Disjunct Eastern Hemlock Populations." Collin will be starting as an assistant professor at Huntington University this fall!

June 2013 - Natalie Christian is off to explore the Costa Rican jungle as a participant in the Organization for Tropical Studies’ Tropical Biology course. While there she will also present at the Association for Tropical Biology and Conservation annual conference in San José.

Spring 2013 - Former PhD student Anna Larimer had a baby boy AND a paper from her dissertation accepted by Ecology!

March 2013 - Former post doc and graduate Luke Flory and Keith published a paper on “Pathogen accumulation and long-term dynamics of plant invasions” in Journal of Ecology.

March 2013 - Dan Johnson successfully presented and defended his PhD dissertation, “Patterns and Mechanisms of Tree Recruitment in Eastern Deciduous Forests.” Dan will be starting a Post Doc with Liza Comita at Ohio State this fall. Congratulations, Dan!

February 2013 - Keith was named a Distinguished Professor of Biology! This is the highest professional rank at IU. Way to go, Keith!!

Keith Clay  |  Phone: (812) 855-8158  |  Fax: (812) 855-6705  |