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Lab Members and Their Projects

Ph.D students
Masters/Postgraduate students
Undergraduate researchers
Research Associate



Ph.D. students (Ecology, Evolution, and Behavior, City University of New York)

Elliot Aguilar

Elliot received his BA in Physics from Harvard University in 2004.  Before switching to Biology, he worked in geophysical research at the United States Geological Survey, the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, and the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies.  His interests include population genetics and the use of phylogenetic methods for investigating human language evolution. He is currently developing a coalescent (backwards genealogical) model to chart the course of cultural evolution.

Download Elliot's cv


  • Shindell, D. T., G. Faluvegi, A. Lacis, J. Hansen, R. Ruedy, and E. Aguilar. 2006. Role of tropospheric ozone increases in 20th-century climate change. Journal of Geophysical Research - Atmospheres 111:D08302, doi:10.1029/2005JD006348.
  • Shindell, D. T., G. Faluvegi, N. Unger, E. Aguilar, G. A. Schmidt, D. M. Koch, S. E. Bauer, and R. L. Miller. 2006. Simulations of preindustrial, present-day, and 2100 conditions in the NASA GISS composition and climate model G-PUCCINI. Atmospheric Chemistry & Physics 6: 4427-4459.

M. Aaron Owen

Aaron received a BS in Biology from Northern Illinois University in 2008, where he worked on parasitoid wasp mating behavior in Bethia King's lab. He moved on to his Master's work on mate choice in zebrafish in Rick Howard's lab at Purdue University, receiving his degree in 2010. He is a behavioral ecologist interested in sexual selection, particularly in the evolution of mating preferences. He is currently jumping from field season to field season studying sexual selection and social behavior in the small Indian mongoose (Herpestes auropunctatus).

Download Aaron's cv


Chenghui Ju

House finches exhibit vast geographic variation in song composition and syllable types. Chenghui's major research goal is to design a computational approach to study the song structure of the house finch, in order to facilitate the comparison of patterns of song variation among populations over time and space. Chenghui is broadly interested in cultural evolution and the divergence of learned traits such as bird song and human language. Before coming to the lab she worked on cephalopod behavior and cognition with Jenny Basil at Brooklyn College. Recently Chenghui released the beta version of her acoustic analysis software, FinchCatcher.

Download Chenghui's cv


  • Ju, C. and C. Huang. 2006. Alarm behavior: altruism or egoism. World of Life 198:70-77.
  • Basil, J., G. Barord, C. Ju, L. Travis, T. Vargas. 2012. A synthetic approach to the study of behavior in chambered nautilus. VIE ET MILIEU: Life and Environment 61.4. Part of the series Behaviour in Cephalopods: Underlying Mechanisms and Methodological Approaches. Eds. Michael Kuba, Tamar Gutnick and Sigurd V. Boletzky.
  • Barord, G., C. Ju, L. Travis, T. Vargas and J. Basil. 2012. A successful medical treatment for mucodegeneration in chambered nautilus, a previously fatal condition in this living fossil. Journal of Zoo and Wildlife Medicine 43:636-639.
Franny Geller

Franny Geller

Having graduated with a bachelors degree in Music from QC, Franny is making the transition from human song to birdsong to biology. Since joining the lab, she has developed materials for an Ethiopian Virtual Herbarium and implemented a new method of quantifying the appearance of bird eggs. Her main current research aims at discovering the developmental, demographic, and ecological fractors that underlie house finch song structure and cultural transmission.

See Franny's cv

Go to Franny's website

Masters/Postbaccalaureate researchers

Johanna Navarro

Johanna Navarro

Johanna is studying the ecology and evolution of bird egg color. She is performing a comparative study of the egg color of the ratites (like the ostrich, rhea, and cassowary), the extinct elephantbird, and the tinamous. She is also performing a laboratory test to determine whether the sun changes the color of bird eggs.

Wendy Perez

Wendy Castillo

Wendy is recording geographic variation in house finch songs in California, building on the substantial datasets of Paul Mundinger (1982) and Jackie Song (2012). She also plans to record the birds in Hawaii in order to compare how songs change upon introduction to multiple new locations.

Seema Choudhary

Seema is interested in medical anthropology. Her main current project is investigating original reports of local uses of woody plants in The Gambia in West Africa.  With the aid of photographs and video she is identifying the species to which these reports refer, comparing local uses with previously documented claims and evidence. In the process she has discovered several local medicinal uses of plants that have not yet been documented.

Khaleda Khan

Khaleda studies the behavior of African Ploceus weaverbirds. For her honors undergraduate thesis she compared the degree to which male village weavers (Ploceus cucullatus) spend time on survival vs. reproductive behaviors at a study site in Ethiopia. Her Master's project aims at comparing the pattern of cultural (song) divergence to genetic divergence among species of genus Ploceus. Khaleda is our lab manager.

See Khaleda's poster on sexual selection and daily activity in the African village weaverbird

Download Khaleda's cv

Jacqueline Milander

Jacqueline is studying the song of the Northern Mockingbird (Mimus polyglottos). This bird not only learns from other members of its species but also mimics other sounds. Jacqueline is determining how the ambient sounds in particular local areas influence what a bird learns and sings.

Download Jacqueline's cv

Lizbeth Vazquez

Liz is our lab nurse. She also helps out with various projects in the lab, especially looking for birds and contributing to the Online Bibliography of Environmental Thought.

Eric Roginek

Eric is broadly interested in behavioral mechanisms, and comes to us with a background in psychology. He is currently analyzing house finch song variation in California in order to track cultural evolution.


Sara Paccione

Sara, a Master's student in English, is interested in J. R. R. Tolkien and children's literature. She is performing background research for several classic works of literature covered in the Reflections on Great Literature blog.

Undergraduate researchers

Mark Megerian, Online Bibliography of Environmental Thought (OBET). Mark is our manager of contributions to OBET.

Cheyenne Ganesh, Swamp sparrow vocal development

See Cheyenne's poster on nature and nurture in the development of swamp sparrow songs


Charles Maniego, Within- and between-individual variation in songs of the house finch

See Charles' poster on phonological assessment and variation in the song of the house finch

Anna McPherran, Adjustment of house finch vocalizations in response to human land use and noise

See Anna's poster on land use effects on house finch song

Download Anna's CV

Abudoula Nulumu, House finch cultural evolution. Abudoula is also developing mobile apps for the lab.


Nikki Hanson, software development for OBET

  Teresa Wu, software development for OBET

Postdoctoral researcher

Andrew F. Richards

Andy received his PhD from the University of Michigan for his study of the life history and behavior of female bottlenose dolphins in Shark Bay, Australia. Since then he worked for many years with Richard D. Alexander, focusing on the evolution of human behavior, physiology, psychology and culture. Currently he continues this investigation into evolutionary explanations for human traits, and is also designing new projects in learned vocal communication and cultural change.


The students below have contributed to our research projects in the lab, and most of them have achieved undergraduate or graduate degrees in the process; several other students not included here have worked in the lab over the years as well, as visiting researchers, trainees or assistants.

Gennesis Zuleta (2013-2014), morality of the Mossi and Kpelle people of West Africa.

Genn is now in the Master's Program in Psychology at Hunter College, City University of New York.

Stephanie Kandasami (2009-2014; BA, Biology, 2011)

Stephanie, one of our first three lab members (along with Seema and Khaleda), studied the divergence of moral codes between West African cultures, a daunting project she started and brought nearly to completion.

Steph is now in the Master's of Public Health program at Columbia University.

Alison Bromberg Powell (2012-2014), Swamp sparrow vocal development

Bobby Habig (2011-2012; second BA, Biology, 2012)

Bobby precisely scrutinized a breeding colony of the village weaverbird, and managed to make discoveries about predator avoidance and female nesting behavior that are resulting in multiple publications.

Bobby is now one of our Collaborators, and a PhD student at the University of Notre Dame.

Trisha Guduru (2013), House finch cultural evolution
Simon Lee (2013-2014; BA, Biology, 2013), House finch cultural evolution
Julieana Steiner (2013-2014; BA, Biology, 2014), House finch cultural evolution; former lab comedienne

Maureen Banach (2011-2012; BA, Biology, 2012)

Maureen was one of the pioneers of our lab's foray into the analysis of vocal ontogeny in birds, focusing on the swamp sparrow.

Maureen is now a PhD student at the University of Rochester.

Jackie Song (2011-2013), House finch cultural evolution
Nardai Mootoo, (2010-2012), Moral diversity among West African cultures, Online Bibliography of Environmental Thought
Gianna McArthur (2011-2012), House finch cultural evolution, Online Bibliography of Environmental Thought
Lauren Adragna (2011-2012), Swamp sparrow vocal development
Sharon Slomovich (2009-2010), Swamp sparrow vocal development
Beata Rozbicka (2009-2010), Morality of the Bemba people of Zambia
Rose Chin-Hong (2010-2012), Ethiopian flora
Rita Monfort (2009-2011), Parasite epidemiology in baboons, Wolbachia-host coevolution, cuckoo-host coevolution, human evolution, and sperm competition in baboons.