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University of Central Oklahoma


Allyson Fenwick, Ph.D., is currently an associate professor of biology. Fenwick is a member of the Center for Wildlife Forensic Science and Conservation Studies (C-FACS). Fenwick grew up in Milwaukee, Wisconsin as the oldest of three girls. Fenwick fell in love with snakes in high school and earned her B.S. in zoology focusing on zoo and aquarium science and a B.A. in theatre from Michigan State University. After deciding zookeeping wasn’t for her, she earned an M.S. from the University of Texas at Tyler studying phylogenetics of South American pitvipers. In other words, Fenwick figures out the evolutionary relationships of snake species. Realizing she loved research and teaching, Fenwick earned a Ph.D. from the University of Central Florida in conservation biology, studying phylogenetics and the evolution of all pitvipers. She shares a home with her husband, son and daughter, and two nonvenomous snakes.

Education and Certifications

  • 2003 B.S. Michigan State University, Zoology
  • 2003 B.A. Michigan State University, Theatre
  • 2006 M.S. University of Texas at Tyler, Biology
  • 2012 Ph.D. University of Central Florida, Conservation Biology

Research, Published Work, and Scholarly Activities

I am first and foremost a herpetologist and evolutionary biologist. My graduate work and ongoing interests focus on phylogenetics (evolutionary relationships of species) of pitvipers using DNA and phenotypic data. By understanding these relationships I and others can investigate interesting evolutionary patterns, such as why there are so many species in South America or if a complex character like bearing live young can evolve only in one direction or if it can reverse to an ancestral character like egg-laying.

The major focus of my lab is on population genetics of the Mediterranean gecko, Hemidactylus turcicus. This nocturnal lizard is exotic but not damaging to the environment because it is easily spread by humans and lives on building walls, eating insects. We have found that geckos at UCO show genetic differences across just a few decades and a few hundred meters. We continue to survey campus and study other independent invasions such as at the University of Oklahoma and the Oklahoma City Zoo. Several students are involved in the lab side of the project, genotyping microsatellites to analyze genetic diversity and genetic structure. Students present at Oklahoma Research Day as well as regional and national/international meetings.

Students and I have also studied the evolution of other groups, such as population genetics of fire ants at UCO and Lake Arcadia or stoneflies in the sky islands of Nevada.


Note underline denotes student mentee.

  • Marnioni, H. M., A. M. Fenwick, S. Laverty, and P. A. Stone. 2021. Anthropogenic heat facilitates winter activity in Mediterranean geckos (Hemidactylus turcicus) in central Oklahoma. Herpetological Conservation and Biology: 16(2).
  • Lauffenburger, J. M., L. B. Kimmel, A. M. Fenwick, and P. A. Stone. 2020. Hemidactylus turcicus (Mediterranean Gecko) communal nesting. Herpetological Review: 51(2): 333.
  • Matheny, A. M., L. B. Kimmel, P. A. Stone and A. M. Fenwick. 2018. Comparative population genetics of red imported fire ants (Solenopsis invicta) at the University of Central Oklahoma and Lake Arcadia, Edmond, Oklahoma. American Midland Naturalist: 180(2): 246–257.
  • Arnaldi, K. G., A. M. Fenwick, A. L. Sheldon and A. S. Slater. 2015. Contrasting patterns of population genetic structure in two Great Basin stoneflies. Papers and Publications: Interdisciplinary Journal of Undergraduate Research: 4: 18.
  • Wittenberg, R. D., R. C. Jadin, A. M. Fenwick, and R. L. Gutberlet, Jr. 2015. Recovering the evolutionary history of Africa's most diverse viper genus: Morphological and molecular phylogeny of Bitis (Reptilia: Squamata: Viperidae). Organisms Diversity and Evolution 15(1): 115–125.
  • Schultheis, A. S., N. Davis, J. T. Page, A. M. Fenwick, J. E. Bond and D. K. Shiozawa. 2014. Comparative transcriptomics allows for rapid development of population-level nuclear markers in Hesperoperla pacifica (Plecoptera: Perlidae). Freshwater Science 33: 364–373.
  • Fenwick, A. M., H. W. Greene, and C. L. Parkinson. 2012. The serpent and the egg: Dollo’s Law and the evolution of reproductive mode in vipers. Journal of Zoological Systematics and Evolutionary Research 50:59–66.
  • Fenwick, A. M., R. L. Gutberlet, Jr., J. A. Evans, and C. L. Parkinson. 2009. Morphological and molecular evidence for phylogeny and classification of South American pitvipers, genera Bothrops, Bothriopsis, and Bothrocophias (Serpentes: Viperidae). Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society 156:617–640.

Classes Taught

  • BIO 1204: Biology I for Majors
  • BIO 3254: Comparative Vertebrate Anatomy and Lab
  • BIO 3303: Genetics
  • BIO 3703: Evolution

Professional and Community Involvement

I am the co-director of the state tournament for the Oklahoma Science Olympiad.

I am an active member of the international Society for the Study of Amphibians and Reptiles (SSAR). I'm a member of the Board of Directors 2019-2022, as well as chairing the Student Poster Award committee and representing SSAR on the Meeting Management and Planning Committee. I will be a member of the Board of Governors of the Southwest Association of Naturalists 2023-2025.

The views expressed by UCO faculty and staff on their personal websites and social media pages do not necessarily reflect the positions of the University of Central Oklahoma. UCO faculty and staff are advised to follow the university’s social media guidelines and are expected to conduct themselves in accordance with policies outlined in UCO’s Employee Handbook and/or Faculty Handbook.