COSAM News Articles 2021 January SEPEEG virtual conference engages faculty and students across the nation

SEPEEG virtual conference engages faculty and students across the nation

Published: 01/25/2021

By: Maria Gebhardt

“I am so appreciative that Dr. Stevison and Dr. Wolak invited us to help with the conference,” explained Taylor Papstein-Novak, a graduate research assistant in the Department of Biological Sciences. “SEPEEG always has great science, but has also been one of the best networking platforms. I was glad we were able to still provide a sense of community by having breakout sessions between the talks and posters.”

Laurie Stevison and Matt Wolak, assistant professors in Auburn University’s Department of Biological Sciences, organized the annual Southeastern Populations Ecology & Evolutionary Genetics (SEPEEG) conference. Although SEPEEG has been gathering since 1973, this was the first year the entire event was virtual.

“As a graduate student meeting-organizer, I helped develop ‘ice-breaker’ materials to facilitate both informal and professional discussion among attendees during multiple networking breaks. I was also tasked with moderating talk sessions. Drs. Stevison and Wolak did an incredible job of emulating the atmosphere of previous SEPPEG meetings despite the remote nature of things,” said Iwo Gross, secretary for the Biological Sciences Graduate Student Association in the Department of Biological Sciences.

The conference included two sessions for talks and two sessions for poster presentations. Attendees from across the nation participated in this year’s virtual conference as seen in the map below.


Map of the US showing the locations of participants

After the completion of the conference, awards were given for speakers and posters. Two of the winners are first-year Auburn graduate students. John Ogilvie tied for first place for top graduate student speakers, and Katie Eaton placed first for a poster award.

SEPEEG 2020 Winners

Top graduate student speakers:

  • Tie:
    • Amanda Smith – “Host-produced antimicrobial peptides and reactive oxygen species cause genomic perturbations”
    • James Ogilvie – “The selective pressures maintaining polymorphic mimicry in a mulllerian mimic”


Top postdoc speaker:

  • Rohan Mehta – “The relationship between haplotype-based FST and haplotype length”


Top poster awards:

Graduate student presenter

  • Katie Eaton – “Nanopore amplicon sequencing reveals molecular convergence and local adaptation of rhodopsin in Great Lakes salmonids”

Undergraduate student presenter:

  • Isabella Childers – “Computational Analysis of Deletions in the Rhesus Macaque Genome by Recombination of Alu Elements”


The University of Georgia at Atlanta will host the 2021 conference.

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