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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)

Mason Youngblood

Mason joins the Psychology PhD program, and our lab, this coming Fall. He is interested in social learning, vocal development, and cultural evolution. He also plans to work with Ofer Tchernichovski at Hunter College, CUNY.


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

Go to Aaron's website

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

Wendy Perez

Wendy Castillo

Wendy is recording and analyzing geographic variation in house finch songs in Hawaii, building on the mainland datasets of Paul Mundinger (1982) and Jackie Song (2012), and comparing how songs change upon introduction to multiple new locations.

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 analyzing house finch song variation in California in order to track cultural evolution.

Ronveer Chakraborty

Ronveer now leads the West African moral diversity project, which aims to characterize and explain cultural variation in moral taboos among several peoples. He is currently researching the Tiv people.


Charles Maniego

Charles has painstakingly aligned (in an analogous way to genetic aligment by hand) songs of house finches to assess the nature and extent of cultural "mutation". He received his BA in Biology and defended his Honors thesis in 2015, and remains with us as a postbaccalaureate continuing his study of within- and between-individual variation in house finch songs.

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


Natasza Fontaine

Natasza, who comes to us from A&E where she has been a producer, is contributing artwork and text for a new lab project on birds in human culture. She is also helping with the mockingbird project by recording birds and making behavioral observations.


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.

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

Sandy (Harsangeet) Gill, Interaction of learning and inheritance in the maintenance of rhythm in swamp sparrow song.

Giulietta Coppola, Relationship between genetic relatedness and song similarity in swamp sparrows

  Teresa Wu, software development for OBET

Postdoctoral researchers

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.

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. In July 2015 she defended her dissertation, and she is remaining in our lab for this year finishing and applying her original acoustic analysis software package, FinchCatcher.

Download Chenghui's cv


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.

Cheyenne Ganesh (2013-2015; BA in Biology and Honors thesis).

Cheyenne traced vocal development in several swamp sparrows, detailing implications for learned vs. inherited song features.

Elliot Aguilar (2009-2015; PhD., Ecology, Evolution and Behavior, 2015)

Elliot was our lab's first doctoral student. He defended his dissertation, Models and Methods in Social and Cultural Evolution, in June 2015. He is now has a postdoctoral research fellowship at the University of Pennsylvania, where he is working in the laboratory of Erol Akçay.

Abudoula Nulumu (2014-2015), House finch cultural evolution. Abudoula also developed a mobile quiz game app for the lab and continues to collaborate with us on its development.

Johanna NavarroJohanna Navarro (2009-2015; MA, Biology, 2015)

Johanna was our lab's first Master's student. She performed and published experimental tests on the effect of light on bird egg color, and also conducted a comparative study of the evolution of egg color in ratites.


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.

Seema Choudhary (2009-2014; BA in Biology, and Honors Thesis, 2011)

Seema was one of our first three lab members (along with Stephanie and Khaleda). She studied original reports of local uses of woody plants in The Gambia in West Africa, and discovered several local medicinal uses that had not yet been documented.

Stephanie Kandasami (2009-2014; BA in Biology, and Honors Thesis, 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 long-term project she began and led for five years, and that continues in our lab. 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.