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Lauren Ballou
Dr. Lauren Ballou
Assistant Professor|Biology
Lauren Ballou
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Office Location
MAC 120

Some of the most difficult questions to answer in biology are often the seemingly simplest in nature. My research has largely driven me to ask: Who lives within a given environment and how did they get there? These questions can be addressed using a variety of morphological and molecular methodologies across nearly any species and study system.

I am particularly interested in the remarkable field of biospeleology, i.e., the study of life within subterranean environments (caves!). Many cave species are difficult to tell apart, often leading to misidentification and misinterpretation of their biological distributions (biogeography). This can be extremely problematic for conservation measures, especially regarding isolated and vulnerable populations such as cave fauna (animals). The central focus of my research is to develop a better understanding of the systematics, evolution, and biogeography of cave fauna using an integration of morphological (via microscopy) and molecular (genetic/genomic) approaches.

From this focus, I can ask questions such as:

  • What species are found within subterranean habitats?
  • What is the distribution range and dispersal capabilities of these taxa?
  • How have these taxa adapted to the extreme conditions within subterranean systems?

The geology of Kentucky is renowned for its vast and complex subterranean networks, making Berea College the perfect place to explore these exciting research ideas.

I strongly believe that summer undergraduate research experiences provide essential foundations for future graduate/medical studies because they allow students to critically assess and apply scientific methodologies outside of the classroom setting. When participating in summer cave research, Berea students will develop skills in advanced microscopy, bioinformatics, field-work, and molecular laboratory techniques.

  • Ph.D. – Texas A&M University at Galveston
  • B.A. – Berea College
Publications & Works
  • Wolfe JM, Ballou L, Luque J, Watson-Zink VM, Ahyong ST, Barido-Sottani J, Chan TY, Chu KH, Crandall KA, Daniels SR, Felder DL, Mancke H, Martin JW, Ng PKL, Ortega-Hernandez J, Theil EP, Pentcheff ND, Thoma BP, Tsang LM, Wetzer R, Windsor AM, Bracken-Grissom HD. 2023. Convergent adaptation of true crabs (Decapoda: Brachyura) to a gradient of terrestrial environments. Systematic Biology, syad066.

    Ballou L, Brankovits D, Chávez-Solís EM, Chávez Díaz JM, Gonzalez BC, Rohret S, Salinas L, Liu A, Simões N, Álvarez F, Miglietta MP, Iliffe TM, and Borda E. 2022. An integrative re-evaluation of Typhlatya shrimp within the karst aquifer of the Yucatan Peninsula, Mexico. Scientific Reports 12(1): 5302.

    Ballou L, Iliffe TM, Kakuk B, Gonzalez BC, Osborn KJ, Worsaae K, Meland K, Broad K, Bracken-Grissom H, and Olesen J. 2021. Monsters of the dark: systematics and biogeography of the stygobitic genus Godzillius (Crustacea: Remipedia) from the Lucayan Archipelago. European Journal of Taxonomy 751(1): 115-139.

    Gonzalez BC, Martínez A; Olesen J, Truskey SB, Ballou L, Allentoft-Larsen M, Daniels J; Heinerth P, Parrish M, Manco N, Ward J, Iliffe TM, Osborn KJ, and Worsaae K. 2019. Anchialine biodiversity in the Turks and Caicos Islands: New discoveries and current faunal composition. International Journal of Speleology 49: 71-86.

    Rosen R, Abe H, Adejumo O, Ashami K, Ballou L, Montgomery K, Toe S, Berg E, and Peng L. 2016. Mean intensity and prevalence of Cotylaspis insignis (Trematoda: Aspidogastridae) infections in the fat mucket, Lampsilis radiata luteola (Bivalvia: Unionidae), from North Elkhorn Creek, a tributary of the Kentucky River in central Kentucky, U.S.A.  Comparative Parasitology 83(1): 1-5.


    Rosen R, Abe H, Adejumo O, Ashami K, Ballou L, Montgomery K, and Toe S. 2016. Cotylaspis insignis (Trematoda: Aspidogastridae): Effect of osmolality on adult worm survival and egg production. Comparative Parasitology 83(1): 102-104.


    Rosen R, Berg E, Peng L, Abe H, Adejumo O, Ashami K, Ballou L, Montgomery K, Toe S, and

    Reasoner K. 2016.  Location and development of the Cotylocidium within the egg of Cotylaspis insignis

    (Trematoda: Aspidogastridae). Comparative Parasitology 83(1): 6-10