DR. LEIGH ANNE HARDEN is an assistant professor of biology at Benedictine University (BenU), Lisle, IL. She is an integrative ecologist and has been involved in the research and conservation of reptiles and amphibians since 2005. She received her B.S. in Biology from Davidson College, NC in 2007 and received her Ph.D. in Marine Biology from UNC-Wilmington in 2013 with Dr. Amanda Southwood Williard. Before coming to BenU in 2015, she was a Postdoctoral Research and Teaching Associate position at Loyola University Chicago in the Milanovich Lab. The Harden Lab continues to collaborate with The Milanovich Lab @ LUC studying amphibians and reptiles.

REBECCA WEBER is a senior studying environmental science at Benedictine University. She is a Jurica Scholar and the president of the campus environmental club, Students for Ecological and Environmental Development (SEEDs). Rebecca began researching with the Harden Lab in Fall 2017. Her research is focused on evaluating the hematological health and stress levels of captive-reared Blanding’s turtles following their release into DuPage County wetlands. She is currently applying for graduate school!

ELENA GARZA is a junior at Benedictine and is studying health science with the goal becoming a veterinarian. She is the public relations officer for the Students for Ecological and Environmental Development (SEEDs). Elena began research with the Harden Lab in the Summer of 2019. Her research focus is developing a method for measuring stress hormones in freshwater turtles that can be applied to future studies on turtle conservation.

MACY ANDLINGER is a senior pre-vet biology major at Benedictine University. Macy is president of the PAW Club (People for Animal Welfare). She began her research with Dr. Harden in the summer of 2018. Her research focuses on assessing the population dynamics of a variety of freshwater turtle species as well as how these organisms are influenced by their ecosystems.

ALEX KARWOWSKA is a senior Jurica Scholar student at Benedictine University studying biology and music, and involved in Polish Club. Alex was a summer 2017 research student in the Harden Lab and has continued research into the school year. Her research project is a collaborative effort aiming to assess the hematological health of augmented Blanding’s turtle populations, an endangered wetland species historically distributed throughout the Midwest.

ELIZABETH KVITEK is a junior studying Biology, Spanish, and Chemistry at Benedictine University. Elizabeth began research with the Harden Lab in the Fall of 2018. Her research involves monitoring the health and population of freshwater turtles on campus. She is also working extensively on the development of Blanding’s turtle-related educational materials as part of the Jurica Suchy Nature Museum’s free loan discovery box program.


MARY KEENAN is a 2019 biochemistry/molecular biology graduate of Benedictine University. She was a member of the Benedictine University soccer team and the Tri-Beta Biology Honor Society. Mary began her research with the Harden Lab in the fall of 2018. She conducted research on the captive-reared Blanding’s turtles program focusing on evaluating the health of turtles caught and released through the program. Mary is currently applying to graduate programs!

SUMAIYA SHAHJAHAN is a 2018 graduate of Benedictine University with a major in Medical Humanities along with a minor in Medical Spanish. Sumaiya began her work with the Harden Lab in Spring of 2017 and was also a 2017 NSSRP summer research student. Along with Alex and Rebecca, Sumaiya worked on research to assess the hematological health and immune response of captive-reared, re-released augmented Blanding’s turtle populations.

TIM BENJAMIN is 2018 environmental science graduate of Benedictine University. Tim began working with the Harden Lab in the summer of 2017 as NSSRP research student and continued with research his senior year. His research project focused on utilizing non-destructive techniques to measure mercury (Hg) concentrations in endangered, adult Blanding’s turtles, which was published in Bulletin of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology in Summer 2018! (see publications page for PDF). Tim is currently employed as a Natural Areas Maintenance Technician with Integrated Lakes Management (ILM) in West Chicago.