Elyse Freitas Biography



Elyse Freitas is a first year PhD student in the Siler Lab at the Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History at the University of Oklahoma in Norman. She is broadly interested in the phylogenetics, biogeography, and form and function of reptiles, with a focus on limb-reduced skinks.

Elyse grew up in Oakland, California and was interested in animals from an early age, attending ZooCamp at the Oakland Zoo and taking a summer entomology course that resulted in several years of pet hissing cockroaches. Her love of animals translated into an interest in biology, and she graduated from the University of California, Santa Barbara with a Bachelors of Science in Aquatic Biology. During her time as an undergraduate, she participated in a long-term ecological study of marine invertebrates by monitoring sea urchin and bivalve larval recruitment along the Central California Coast.

After graduation, Elyse worked for two and a half years as a research assistant in the Preparation Lab and Evolutionary Genetics Lab at the University of California Berkeley’s Museum of Vertebrate Zoology. This sparked her interest in evolution, systematics, and morphology. During this time, she went on collecting trips in Northern California and Guatemala to survey bird biodiversity and collect specimens and DNA for phylogenetic studies. Inspired by these experiences, Elyse obtained her Masters of Science at Villanova University in Pennsylvania under Drs. Todd R. Jackman and Aaron M. Bauer where she studied the phylogenetics, biogeography, and morphological evolution of Sub-Sahara African burrowing skinks of the genus Scelotes and of the widespread species Mochlus sundevalli. She presented her research at the 2014 Joint Meeting of Ichthyologists and Herpetologists and won the SSAR Henri Siebert student presentation award. For her dissertation, Elyse is planning on continuing her studies on skink phylogenetics, studying groups in Southeast Asia and the Philippines.