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EEB Graduate Students

2016 Cohort

Ciro Cabal


Licentiate in Biology and MS in Ecology by Complutense University of Madrid (Spain), I have been working in several research projects in my home country -mapping vegetation, identifying Key Biodiversity Areas in Spain and more recently studying nitrogen deposition effects on Mediterranean arid ecosystems. Passionate about science and concerned about environment, I am interested in plant community ecology from both the theoretical and the empirical points of view. Some of the concrete subjects that motivate me are plant species interactions (competition, facilitation), and plant community dynamics (succession, perturbation, resilience). Mediterranean ecosystems are specially inspiring for me, not only because they represent the landscape where I grew up, but also because they are among the hotspots of world biodiversity and one of the habitats most threatened by global change.

Chris Crawford


Chris comes to Princeton after three and a half years working at Sustainable Conservation, an environmental nonprofit in San Francisco. Chris worked on Sustainable Conservation’s PlantRight initiative, a collaborative effort to stop the sale of invasive plants in California, and also lead a cost-benefit analysis to help inform and facilitate riparian restoration along the Mokelumne River in California’s Central Valley. A Michigan native, Chris graduated in 2012 from the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, where he studied Ecology & Evolutionary Biology and Physics. At Princeton, Chris is excited to study the implementation of international biodiversity conservation policy, in order to equip himself to better facilitate the translation of conservation science and goals into meaningful (and timely) action. He is also interested in investigating the tradeoffs of ecosystem services-based approaches to conservation, strategies for enhancing under-utilized marginal land, and ways to help communities in developing nations simultaneously thrive and promote local biodiversity. Among other things, Chris enjoys riding his bicycle, taking pictures of clouds, cooking vegetarian stir-fries, and listening to Swedish music.

Luke Henry


Luke Henry is interested in understanding how species interactions constrain or facilitate adaptation to novel environments. He received his BA in biology and BM in bassoon performance from Bard College, and MS in EEB from Indiana University. His previous research investigated how different abiotic and biotic pressures influence ecological interactions and evolutionary trajectories using a variety of systems, including ticks, sunflowers, bats, and Drosophila. 

Matthew Hutchinson


Matthew Hutchinson is broadly interested in the ways in which species interact, how those interactions can be informed by a species' biology, and the implications of those interactions for ecological and evolutionary processes. He received his B.Sc. in Biological Sciences (2015) from the University of Canterbury, New Zealand where he also worked on theoretical ecology questions pertaining to cophylogeny in ecological communities and the role of species' interactions in trait evolution. Going forward, Matthew aims to combine empirical and theoretical approaches to explore both the value of multiplex networks to community ecology and the role of different interaction types in structuring species assemblages.

Amanda Svagian


Amanda Savagian is broadly interested in how and why animals communicate, especially in dynamic, social contexts.  How has communication coevolved with a species’ social system?  How do different signaling modalities help animals navigate their social environment?  She plans to explore these and related questions in the cooperatively breeding greater ani, a Neotropical cuckoo, for her PhD.  Previous research during her undergrad at the University of Pennsylvania focused on song development in brown-headed cowbirds as well as ranging patterns and sleeping site selection in wild owl monkeys.  She has also worked with gray wolves and semi-captive rhesus macaques.

Chris Tokita


Chris is interested in complex adaptive systems, emergent social behaviors, and the intersection of evolutionary and economic theory as they relate to social groups. He graduated with distinction from Yale University with a Bachelor of Science in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology. His senior thesis used game theory to understand the evolution of "defective" behavior in bacteriophage. Prior to arriving at Princeton, he spent two years in Washington DC as a Science Policy Fellow at the Science and Technology Policy Institute (STPI), the federally funded research and development center for the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. 

Zoe Volenec


Hi, my name is Zoe, and I'll be joining the EEB department this year. I graduated with my bachelor’s degree in Environmental Science and Economics from Notre Dame this past May. My honors thesis investigated the response of endangered Montana bunchgrass prairie productivity and nutrient cycling to climate change. I am broadly interested in the combined ecological and economic impacts of land use and climate change. My other interests include, but are not limited to backpacking, baking (read eating baked goods), and yoga.

Liana Wait


Liana Wait graduated from the University of Adelaide with a Bachelor of Science (Veterinary Bioscience) in 2012, and an Honours Degree of Bachelor of Science in 2014. In 2016 she completed a Master of Research at Macquarie University, investigating parasite diversity in the Tasmanian devil. Her research interests include parasites, wildlife, co-infections, and zoonotic disease. She hopes to study the impact of parasite co-infections on disease outcomes for individuals and populations. 

Jessica Zung


Jessica Zung received her bachelor's degree in EEB and Physiology from the University of Toronto in 2016. In her honours theses, she investigated (1) how much natural selection has acted within a single generation by examining transcriptome differences between two age cohorts of a long-lived perennial and (2) how spike-frequency adaptation in neurons affects signal propagation at the network level. She also spent a couple of summers doing field research in pollination biology. Given her background in ecology, evolution, genomics, and neuroscience, Jessica is interested in the evolution of ecologically relevant behaviours and their underlying genetic and neural bases. Her graduate work will focus on mosquitoes—which, in addition to being major vectors of human disease, are also extremely annoying!

2015 Cohort

Justine Atkins

Justine Atkins graduated with a double-bachelor degree in Biology and History in 2013 and a Bachelor of Science with First Class Honors in Biological Sciences in 2014, from the University of Auckland, New Zealand. Her Honors dissertation used spatially explicit individual-based simulation modelling to explore the effects of interactions between intrinsic species characteristics and landscape structure on dispersal ability. She is interested in the interaction between animal movement behavior and environmental heterogeneity, particularly in relation to individual and collective decision-making processes.

Alex Becker

Alex Becker received a BA in Mathematics from New York University. His previous research has focused on modeling within host dynamics of tuberculosis and statistical inference of measles time series data. He's interested in general disease modeling with a current focus on measles in schools. 


Allie DeCandia

Allie DeCandia received her B.A. in Environmental Biology (2015) from Columbia University. While there, she worked at the Sackler Institute for Comparative Genomics at the American Museum of Natural History on a number of conservation genetics initiatives. For her senior thesis, she developed a novel molecular method for noninvasive sex identification of mammalian carnivores. She is interested in using genetics to analyze the interaction of individuals with their environment, and hopes to study population genetics, ecological epigenetics, and wildlife conservation while at Princeton. 

Wenying Liao

Wenying Liao is  broadly interested in biogeochemistry and ecosystem ecology - Her current focus is applying empirical and theoretical methods to develop understanding of nitrogen (N) cycle in terrestrial ecosystem. Her current research primarily investigates symbiotic N-fixing process in terrestrial ecosystems: this includes understanding of physiological constraints of N fixation, community dynamics of symbiotic N-fixing plants (their interactions with biotic and abiotic environment), and ecosystem consequences derived from such interactions

Dylan Morris

Dylan Morris received his B.A. in Ethics, Politics, and Economics from Yale University and his MPhil in Biological Anthropology from the University of Cambridge, where he studied on a Paul Mellon Fellowship. His master’s dissertation used Bayesian models to analyze malaria transmission dynamics in wild gorillas and chimpanzees. After graduating, he worked as a field researcher near Odzala-Kokoua National Park in the Republic of Congo. There, he contributed to a study of Western lowland gorilla group mobility and social network structure. His research interests include zoonotic disease, theories of cooperation, and mathematical and statistical modeling.

Arjun Potter

Arjun Potter is interested in species interactions, particularly plant-animal interactions, and how these interactions inform conservation. Much of his previous experience has been in grasslands; after graduating from Cornell University in 2012, he spent a year in Indonesia on a Fulbright scholarship researching the impacts of grazing on a grassland in Java. Since then, he has had the opportunity to apply ecological principles to improve forage quality on pastures in New England. As an undergrad, he studied the natural history of a poorly known bird species in India.

Malavika Rajeev

Malavika Rajeev received a dual BS/MS in Ecology at the University of Georgia. Her MS thesis focused on examining patterns of seroprevalence of zoonotic diseases in livestock across two ranching systems in Laikipia, Kenya. She is interested in studying the ecology of disease interventions with a focus on vaccine preventable diseases.

Fernando Rossine

Fernando Rossine is interested in how population structure conditions the evolution of decision making processes. In the search for answers, he has been probing the surprisingly intellectual amoeba Dictyostelium discoideum. He has earned both his Bachelor's degree in Biology and his Master's degree in Ecology from the University of São Paulo. His Master's thesis explored through computational approaches the relation between spatial patterning and speciation rates." 

Ed Schrom

Ed Schrom is interested in many questions at the interface of evolution, ecology, and immunology. For example, how do the ecological interactions among parasite species (and symbiotic microbiota) in a coinfected host affect host-parasite coevolution? What role does historical contingency play in the evolution of immune systems? What structural/functional features are most responsible for the efficacy of immune systems, and how can these features be applied to other defense systems? What constraints prevent more effective immunity, from the genetic to the evolutionary?

Zhilei Zhao

Zhilei Zhao is interested in combining ideas and tools from evolution, genomics and neurosciences to study the evolution of behaviors. Mainstream neuroscience studies focus on the questions of What, developmental biology helps to understand the questions of How, as evolutionary biologists, we always ask the questions of Why. He wants to understand why the behaviors of species or even individuals are so diverse and what the underlying neuronal and genomic bases are. Currently, he’s working on the host preference of mosquitoes, which he thinks is vital because he’s too attractive to mosquitoes and struggles to understand why.  

2014 Cohort

Patricia Brandt, Kaia Tombak, Elise Myers, Saki Takahashi, Joseph Bak-Coleman, Elizabeth Heppenheimer, Rutwik Kharkar, Lu Yang, and Tong Mu

Joseph Bak-Coleman

Joseph Bak-Coleman received his M.S.(2014) and B.S.(2011) degrees from Bowling Green State University where he studied how fish integrate information from multiple sensory systems to respond appropriately to currents. His current work focuses on understanding how fish and other animals use and integrate sensory information to make decisions in collective context. He hopes to tackle these questions through a combination of laboratory and field work, as well as mathematical modeling. 

Kaia Tombak

Kaia Tombak completed a B.Sc. in 2009 and a M.Sc. in 2011, both at McGill University. For her undergraduate thesis she studied chipmunk vigilance behavior in the forests of Quebec, and for her master’s research she investigated feeding behavior and dominance hierarchies in colobine monkeys in Uganda. Upon graduating, she interned at the UNEP Convention on Biological Diversity in Montreal, taught yoga for six months in Peru, conducted a shark photo-identification study in South Africa with a National Geographic grant, and worked for Wildlife Conservation Society Canada in Toronto for two happy years. She is interested in conservation biology and animal behavior, particularly collective behavior and social dynamics.

Patricia Brandt

Patricia Brandt  graduated in 2014 with a B.A. in Biology from the University of Chicago, where she focused on ecology and evolution. She is interested in studying how nitrogen-fixing symbioses affect the carbon cycle.  

Elizabeth Heppenheimer

Elizabeth Heppenheimer received her B.A. in biology from Franklin and Marshall College in 2014. Her undergraduate thesis work focused on assessing spatial and temporal changes in the genetic structure of the red fox in response to anthropogenic land alteration. In the future, she is interested in pursuing studies broadly related to conservation, population genetics, and epigenomics. 

Rutwik Kharkar

I am interested in studying the effects that incentives provided to people for conserving ecosystems have on people's motivations. More specifically, I want to study the interactions between policy and social norms. I want to find out whether it is possible to change people's motivations so that they are more likely to behave in ways that are in line with conservation goals, and whether our current conservation practices are enforcing or eroding these motivations. I believe that conservation is much more of a social enterprise than a scientific one, and that it is impossible to do conservation without understanding the motivations behind people's behaviors.

Tong Mu

Tong Mu received his B.S. in Biological Science with honors from Peking University (2014), where he studied the diversity of hot spring cyanobacteria as his thesis project. Fascinated by the diverse forms and behavior of organisms, he also became aware of current conservation issues during his field projects and trips. He is particularly interested in stopover ecology and habitat use of migratory birds, and plans to combine ecology and economics research to provide feasible and economical solutions to migratory bird conservation.  

Elise Myers

Elise Myers earned her BS at M.I.T. in Earth, Atmospheric, and Planetary Sciences (focus: geology/geochemistry) and her MS in Biogeochemistry.  For her thesis, she extracted complex organic lipids of varying persistence in the rock record from microbial mats in Hamelin Pool, Australia, to better understand the links between current microbiological diversity and that preserved in some stromatolites, which can be up to 3.5 billion years old. Her interests are in microbes and their interactions; biogeochemical dynamics from an experimental and theoretical perspective; and the long-term behavior of the land carbon sink. She speaks Spanish and Portuguese.  She kickboxes, dances (salsa in particular), reads (for fun), and writes. 

Saki Takahashi

Saki Takahashi is a PhD student in the Metcalf group. She is interested in the mathematical modelling of human infectious disease dynamics and their control measures. She is currently pursuing work on mapping vaccination coverage for measles and other vaccine-preventable diseases, as well as modelling strain interactions of hand foot and mouth disease (HFMD) in the Asia-Pacific region. Saki was a research assistant in the Metcalf and Grenfell groups for the past academic year, during which she participated in a working group meeting at the WHO in Geneva and gave presentations at the Chinese Center for Disease Control in Beijing and the National Institute of Infectious Diseases in Tokyo. Previously, she worked at the Center for Communicable Disease Dynamics at Harvard where she studied the temporality of seasonal influenza strains. Saki received her AB in Applied Mathematics from Harvard (2011) and ScM in Epidemiology from Johns Hopkins (2013).

Lu Yang

Lu Yang (just call her Ling) received her B.S. in Biology from Peking University in 2014. Since Ling’s first exposure to the topic of evolution in junior year, she has been intent on further delving into this field, especially from a genomic level. Due to the experience of biomedical engineering at Okayama University and functional genomics at the University of Toronto, she wanted to combine both experimentation and computation in her research. Currently she works on projects concerning adaptive and parallel evolution of toxin resistance. Other research interests include the evolution of non-coding regions and epigenetics. Like many other EEB students, Ling is a big fan of nature, animals, and kids. She is also an amateur photographer and welcomes all kinds of discussions about photography.

2013 Cohort

Jen Guyton, Matt Grobis, Sinead Morris, Tyler Coverdale, Maria Gutin, Kaz Uyehara and Olivia Guayasamin

Jen Guyton

Jen Guyton earned her B.Sc. in Conservation and Resource Studies in 2010 at the University of California, Berkeley. Before arriving at Princeton, she studied baboon behavior in Tanzania with the School for Field Studies and meerkat behavior in South Africa with Cambridge University before shifting her interests to ecology. She spent last year investigating the role of hippos in a river ecosystem at Mpala Research Center in Kenya. Broadly speaking, Jen is interested in tropical ecology and conservation, especially in savanna systems. She plans to investigate the role of large mammals in shaping landscape-scale processes, and how those processes are altered by shifting faunal regimes. 

Matt Grobis

Matt Grobis received his B.S. in Integrative Biology at the University of Illinois (2012), where he researched the antipredator function of schooling in threespine sticklebacks. He then spent a year at the Max Planck Institute for Ornithology researching sleep behavior and social foraging in great tits, funded by a Fulbright grant. For his thesis, Matt is interested in how individual phenotype affects the spread and use of information in animal groups. 

Sinead Morris

Sinead Morris graduated with a first class MSci Mathematics from the University of Glasgow (2013) where she took a range of courses covering both pure and applied topics. Her Bachelors thesis used network theory to model the spread of infectious livestock diseases and her Masters thesis employed random walk theory to model tumour induced angiogenesis. She also completed a Carnegie Trust funded research project investigating the impact of link switching in small world networks. Now she is looking forward to exploring new topics in disease modeling and continuing the well-established tradition of Scots in Princeton. 

Tyler Coverdale

Tyler Coverdale got his B.S. in Biology from Brown University in 2010, where he studied the impacts of historical and contemporary human impacts on Cape Cod salt marshes. He is generally interested in species interactions – how they shape ecosystems and are in turn shaped by changing biotic and abiotic conditions. He hopes to build on his previous experience as an experimental ecologist to answer questions related to the ecology and conservation of African savannas.

Maria Gutin

Maria Gutin received her B.S. in Biology (2012) from the University of Utah, where she studied the genomic evolution of bacterial endosymbionts in various insect species. She also interned at a local biotech company, where she worked on the development of molecular diagnostic tests for measuring the aggressiveness of cancerous tumors in humans. Merging her interests in evolution, genomics, and human health, she plans to use genomic techniques to better understand the evolution of aging. 

Kaz Uyehara

Kaz Uyehara earned his B.A. (2010) from Swarthmore College, and most recently has been  teaching high school science. He is interested in using theoretical ecology to further the  understanding of anthropogenic change to ecosystems.

Olivia Guayasamin

In 2013, Olivia Guayasamin graduated from Princeton University with an A.B. in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology.  With a background in psychology, neuroscience, animal behavior and evolutionary biology, Olivia is most intrigued by behavioral questions best answered by interdisciplinary approaches. Her current research involves exploring a rather reciprocal arrangement:  How do consistent individual differences among zebrafish (Danio rerio) alter the behavior of fellow group members, and in turn, how does the current state of a group influence the behavior of the individual? Other interests include collective human behaviors and science communication.  

2012 Cohort

Back row, from left, are: Tim Treuer, Andrew Tilman, Mircea Davidescu, Mingzhen Lu, and Josh Daskin. Front row, from left, are: Jackie Leung, Charlotte Chang, Cara Brook, and Lisa McManus.

Cara Brook

Cara Brook received a B.S. in Earth Systems at Stanford University (2010), where she studied the human-influenced expansion of the Common Raven into Yosemite National Park for her senior honors thesis. Post-graduation, she interned with the sustainable development division of WWF-Madagascar and managed a project investigating the influence of human land use on infectious disease emergence in central Kenya. Most recently, she worked as a USGS field technician studying predator-prey interactions between gray wolves and white-tailed deer in northern Minnesota. Her dissertation work explores seasonal fluctuations in pathogen transmission dynamics among flying fox reservoirs for zoonotic disease in Madagascar.

Charlotte Chang

Charlotte Chang earned her BA with honors from Pomona College (2010) and an MPhil from Cambridge University (2011). She has studied prairie songbirds as well as coastal seabirds, and researched breeding songbirds at Chongming Island (Shanghai municipality, China) this past year as a US Fulbright Fellow. She is interested in mathematical modeling, computational simulation, and above all, getting down in the field. She plans to examine the effect of the cage bird trade in Southeast Asia on population persistence.

Joshua Daskin

Joshua Daskin holds a BS in biology and environmental studies from Brandeis University and an MSc in tropical ecology and conservation from James Cook University. His past includes research in wetland and grassland restoration at Archbold Biological Station in Florida, estuarine ecology and public health at Dauphin Island Sea Lab in Alabama, and amphibian diseases and microbial ecology in Australia. He also worked on restoration for The Nature Conservancy in Michigan. 

Josh's research is regarding war-driven mammal declines in Africa, and the community and ecosystem level effects of these declines. He conducts field work in Mozambique's Gorongosa National Park, and employs GIS, remote sensing, and meta-analysis to address questions over larger spatial scales. Previously, he worked on amphibian disease and conservation as a Fulbright scholar in Australia, and on wetland and grassland restoration in Michigan and Florida.

Mircea Davidescu

Mircea Davidescu graduated summa cum laude in a double-bachelor program with honors (Biochemistry and Computer Science), receiving the Lieutenant Governor's Silver Medal at the University of New Brunswick. His pursuit of knowledge has led him to several sponsored research award internships in a variety of subjects including pharmaceutical genomics, computer visualization, educational games, and quantum computing, and to authoring his own history book (look him up on Amazon!). Mircea is among the 24 students across Canada who received an NSERC Julie Payette graduate scholarship to sponsor his research at Princeton. Building upon his interdisciplinary experience, Mircea is studying how collective behavior influenced the evolution of multicellular animals through studying the behavior of Placozoa.

Jacqueline Leung

Jacqueline Leung received a B.S. in Biological Sciences from the University of California, Davis (2007).  Since college, she has worked at the University of California, San Francisco and New York University, studying how helminths can suppress inflammatory mucosal responses in patients with inflammatory bowel disease.  She is interested in incorporating her background in immunology with disease ecology and epidemiology to better understand how the host’s immune response to parasitic infections, especially co-infections, can influence the dissemination of pathogens today.

Mingzhen Lu

Mingzhen received an A.B. in Geosciences with a double major in Biology from Peking University (2012). His undergraduate thesis was about soil organic matter stability, which is a critical topic in terrestrial ecosystem ecology as it controls nutrient supply, carbon and nitrogen stock in soil.  He is particularly interested in element cycling in terrestrial ecosystems, with special concern on nitrogen cycling. He hopes to develop a deeper understanding of how different components (biotic&abiotic) of n ecosystem fit well with each other in terms of element fluxes. He is looking forward to combining modeling with field work at Princeton. 

Lisa McManus

Lisa McManus obtained her B.S. in Marine and Atmospheric Science from the University of Miami. As a marine biology major, her senior thesis work focused on the recruitment of cryptic fauna on coral reefs. After completing her undergraduate degree, she worked at the University of Miami for two years as a lab technician conducting mangrove ecology studies and as a naturalist at the Biscayne Nature Center. She is interested in modeling connectivity between coral reef ecosystems to inform conservation practices as part of the  PU-BIOS Graduate Program

Andrew Tilman

Andrew Tilman received his B.A. in Mathematics from Gustavus Adolphus College (2011) where he completed an honors thesis on food web modeling. Since graduation, he studied economics at the University of Minnesota. He is excited by integrating ideas and models from economics and ecology. Of particular interest to him is exploring the mathematics of common pool resources and public goods. He is similarly interested in what mechanisms may lead groups to cooperate over the use of these resources.

Tim Treuer

Tim Treuer received an A.B. in Organismic and Evolutionary Biology from Harvard (2010) where he worked on multiple projects concerning aspects of the ecology of tropical lepidopterans.  After graduating he spent a season as a research assistant in El Area de Conservación Guanacaste in Costa Rica, a year in Indonesia working on rainforest restoration and mosquito ecology projects, and a summer in Honduras completing a Divemaster internship.

While my research interests range broadly within conservation, restoration, and community ecology, my dissertation focuses on the conservation potential of large-scale restoration in Mesoamerican dry forest. My research takes place in the 40,000+ ha of long-abandoned cattle pasture of el Área de Conservación Guanacaste in Costa Rica, a setting that offers ample opportunity to understand how abiotic, biotic and historical factors interact to shape the community composition and conservation value of these key carbon sinks. I am particularly interested in developing better tools for large-scale and non-invasive biodiversity surveys (primarily using sound recorders) as well as developing low-cost options for improving soil quality can be used to speed forest recovery at large scales (and thereby serve as a novel form of carbon offset).

2011 Cohort

Leslie Beh

Modern biology has largely been built from a select group of model organisms, such as Drosophila, mouse, and the budding yeast. However, there exists an enormous molecular and phenotypic diversity outside of these organisms. I study the biology of ciliates - an enormously diverse yet relatively undestudied clade of single celled eukaryotes that exhibit complex developmental processes. Of specific interest is the ciliate Oxytricha trifallax (class: Spirotrichea), which undergoes global genome remodelling during sexual reproduction. This consists of massive genome fragmentation, DNA elimination, gene unscrambling, and polyploidization. Given that the packaging of DNA into nucleosomes limits its physical accessibility, it is likely that nucleosome organization must be highly dynamic during genome remodeling. I am currently investigating changes in nucleosome positioning and histone modifications that occur during Oxytricha sexual reproduction, to better understand how chromatin structure modulates genome rearrangements.

Ruthie Birger

I am interested in mathematical models of disease spread, both in populations and within the body. My research focuses on HIV and Hepatitis C Virus (HCV) dynamics. The population level models I work on  -- in Newark, NJ and Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam -- aim to capture the past and current epidemic patterns of one or both infections and use them to predict future incidence and mortality. These future predictions can be modified with a series of theoretical public health interventions, and the modeling results used to assess the potential efficacy of these interventions. HIV and HCV infections can have potentiating effects on each other at the population level and also at the within-host level. My within-host work aims to model these potentiating effects with an eye to identifying optimal treatment strategies for coinfected patients.  

Emma Fuller

Humans exact change on the food-webs of which they are part, but altered food-webs subsequently affect human communities. I think (as many more qualified people have before me) that quantitatively linking both ecological and economic processes to make explicit the connection between human and non-human communities would be a valuable addition to the discourse surrounding natural resource use and conservation, and a basis for fascinating ecological questions. So, I'm hoping to address applied problems (e.g. problems due to predators, livestock, fishing, and agricultural practices) by understanding the theoretical ecological (and sometimes economic) principles which underlie and perpetuate these issues. 

Catherine Offord

Catherine first encountered collective behaviour as an undergraduate in zoology, where she developed an interest in behavioural economics and decision making in animal groups. As a second year graduate student she is working on understanding how the level of variability in an environment affects the the evolution of collectives. She has an inordinate fondness for social insects and is particularly interested in how behavioural variation within insect colonies can influence the outcome of collective decision making. 

Adam Pellegrini

I am interested in understanding how nutrient losses are coupled with disturbances in tropical landscapes. Specifically, I am working in tropical savanna to understand the implications of fire driven nutrient losses for the recovery of forests. Within savanna, I am also exploring the role that elephants play in driving changes in vegetation structure and biogeochemical patterns that are coupled with fire. Hopefully these studies will help us to better understand how disturbance legacies arise and what is required for ecosystem recovery following extensive disturbance

Molly Schumer

I'm interested in the effects of sexual selection on hybridization and speciation. Sexual selection plays a major role in reproductive isolation between species, especially when postzygotic isolation is weak. Theoretically, drift in sexually selected traits, or novel combinations of existing sexually selected traits achieved through hybridization, could result in speciation. My research focuses on identifying the genetic basis of sexually selected traits in the freshwater fish group Xiphophorus and understanding the effects of sexual selection on patterns of hybridization in this genus.

Jacob Socolar

I am an ecologist and conservation biologist with broad interests in community dynamics, tropical forests, and avian biology.  As a PhD candidate in David Wilcove's lab at Princeton University, I focus on determinants of avian community structure in Peruvian Amazonia, home to the richest bird assemblages on Earth. I also have keen interests in theoretical ecology (particularly mechanisms of species coexistence and stochastic models of community dynamics) and newly available large datasets (e.g. Project eBird).  I especially value my intuition as a naturalist as I venture into these more abstract territories. When I'm not hard at work, I like to be in the field as much as possible.  Otherwise, I especially enjoy a good jazz record, a history book, or an adventurous cooking project.

2010 Cohort

Matthew Aardema

My work focuses on the process of adaptive evolution and its role in facilitating population divergence and speciation. I predominately use next-generation sequencing and comparative genomic approaches to investigate how adaptations arise and what their effects are on overall genetic diversity. Among my current projects are an examination of divergence and selection in two species of hybridizing tiger swallowtail butterfly and an investigation of toxin resistance and sequestration in fireflies.

Cleo Chou

Lowland tropical rainforests are one of the most productive ecosystems on the planet.   However, their future as carbon sinks during times of global climate change is uncertain in part due to an incomplete understanding of tropical tree nutrient use.   My dissertation project combines theoretical modeling with empirical field measurements and experimentation in the forest at La Selva Biological Station in Costa Rica.   I use the perspective of individual trees and species specific traits to examine nutrient limitation in lowland tropical rainforests.

This work has implications for species evolutionary success, forest composition, and ultimately the role of lowland tropical rainforests in the global carbon cycle. 

Paul Elsen

My primary research interests are broadly situated in the fields of conservation biology and biogeography. There are two main goals of my dissertation research stemming from these interests. The first is to determine the factors that limit the distribution of birds along altitudinal gradients. To accomplish this I am conducting bird surveys along two elevational gradients in the western Himalayas that differ in terms of species richness, climate patterns, and habitat types. The second goal is to assess how disturbance from grazing, agriculture, and logging are impacting Himalayan bird communities both on their breeding and wintering grounds. This is possible in light of the close proximity of breeding and wintering grounds by many species that undergo short-distance altitudinal migrations in the Himalayas. A bonus third goal is to rediscover the Himalayan Quail, an extremely rare and secretive bird last seen in 1876 very close to one of my study sites.

Christina Faust

With a broad interest in understanding the nexus of human, wildlife and ecosystem health, Christina is using her dissertation to skim the surface of the complex interactions pathogens have with their environments and hosts. She is interested in short-term conservation implications and long-term evolutionary implications of cross-species transmission events associated with land use change. For her dissertation project, Christina is collaborating with some delightful individuals from the Eijkman Institute of Molecular Biology in Jakarta, Indonesia. Through this collaboration, they are examining how heterogeneous landscapes across Indonesia shape vector-borne disease transmission, with a focus on mechanisms for promoting cross-species transmission events. This research has also inspired a broader interest in the theoretical underpinnings of vector-borne disease transmission, which she plans investigate through the lens of various land use change regimes

Matthew Lutz

With a background in architecture, I am interested in the processes and behaviors that generate structure, pattern and spatial organization in biological systems. My current research is focused on the self-assembling structures formed by the army ant Eciton Burchellii, as well as the self-organized temporal and spatial dynamics of the trail networks created by these ants to transport prey items efficiently.

Sam Rabin

Sam's research is focused on understanding the drivers behind vegetation fire at global and regional scales in order to understand the future impact of burning on ecosystems and the atmosphere. He is especially interested in how changes in land use and land cover, land management practices, fire regimes, and climate will affect carbon cycling.

Jennifer Schieltz

I am interested in mammalian behavioral ecology and conservation, particularly human-wildlife interaction. My research investigates wildlife populations and their interactions with their environment, focusing on how human land use practices affect animal behavior. I am currently studying how cattle grazing influences the behavior of various wild grazers on Kenyan rangelands. This is an important question because forty percent of the earth’s land surface is currently used for grazing domestic animals. These lands are also vitally important for conservation as they can provide a means to preserve open space to sustain wildlife outside of national parks. In some areas, it appears that cattle and wildlife can live side-by-side. However, many issues must be considered and managed properly in order to allow wildlife and livestock to coexist. Therefore, I hope to conduct research that not only furthers ecological theory, but has practical implications for wildlife conservation and management as well. 

Annette Trierweiler

I am interested how nutrients and light resources may constrain productivity of tropical forests in a world of rising CO2. My work focuses on nitrogen-fixing plants which are the main source of new nitrogen into an ecosystem and how they are limited by light and other nutrients such as phosphorus and molybdenum (a trace metal important in N2-fixation). To further my research goals, I have done field fertilization experiments as well as glass house experiments where I can manipulate CO2 and light levels in Panama.

2009 Cohort

Caitlin Barale

My research focuses on primate development, and the ways in which peers and family influence social behavior, bonds, networks and reproductive trajectories. I am working with geladas (Theropithecus gelada), a Cercopithecine primate species endemic to the Ethiopian Highlands, in collaboration with the University of Michigan Gelada Research Project. My research follows a group of juvenile males from infancy into peer groups, and onwards to all-male bachelor groups. I combine behavioral observations, social network analysis, and non-invasive hormone analysis to address three main questions: (1) When and to what extent do juveniles participate in peer groups, and what are the influences of family and peers on this transition? (2) When and with whom do males form close male-male bonds, and what, if any, are the short-term benefits of these bonds? (3) As males transition into bachelor groups, do they maintain the bonds they formed during the juvenile period? What, if any, benefits are there to keeping these bonds as adults? Geladas serve as an excellent model for examining the effects of early life on development in primates, especially humans. Like humans, juvenile geladas split their social time between family members in their natal unit and unrelated peers in peer groups. This partition is very similar to the human child’s time-sharing between school and home. In both systems, juveniles learn, explore and receive information about how to become a functional adult in both the home and the peer group setting. Understanding the way social and behavioral influences affect adult gelada trajectories will yield insight into the way early life shapes human development. My research will also provide the first ever set of detailed behavioral and physiological data on wild juvenile geladas, which will allow me to answer fundamental questions concerning maturation time, dispersal timing, growth and development, as well as providing valuable information for conservation. 


Andrew Berdahl

I am interested in both fish and collective behaviour in general, but my current research is focused on collective navigation.  Specifically I am looking at how simple interactions among individuals in a group not only enhance individuals' navigational abilities but can also lead to an emergent tendency for the group to travel in the 'correct' direction, even when this tendency is not present at the individual level.

Quing Cao

I am interested in the animal behavioral ecology and community ecology in the savanna-steppe ecosystem. In particular, my current research focuses on the resource use and niche differentiation of two sympatric equids (horse-like species) in Asia, the released Przewalski’s horse (Equus ferus przewalskii) and the indigenous Asiatic wild ass (E. hemionus). The niche differentiation driven by present competition is very rare and has been difficult to observe, especially in large mammals. Reintroducing once extinct species back to its original habitat may provide a good chance to examine how its realized niches form from the interspecific competition with another species with the similar resource requirements. My colleagues and I are working in Kalamaili Nature Reserve, using automatic camera traps and satellite telemetry in combine with observations to look at: 1) what are the fundamental and realized niches of the two equids, especially in food and water use, 2) how does the competition drive their resource use patterns, and 3) what kind of niche differentiations could allow the coexistence of the two species?

Xingli Giam

I have broad research interests in tropical conservation ecology and biogeography. I am currently studying the effects of land use change on freshwater systems in Southeast Asia. By combining field research and macroecological analyses, I will attempt to quantify the impact of land-use change on freshwater fish communities, with an emphasis on peat swamp forests. To inform conservation and land-use policy in Southeast Asia, I am currently developing spatially-explicit models of peatland deforestation in collaboration with Center for Remote Imaging, Sensing and Processing (CRISP) at the National University of Singapore.
Before starting graduate school in Princeton, I completed my B.Sc. (Hons) and M.Sc. at the National University of Singapore. Both degrees were completed under the supervision of Professors Navjot Sodhi, Hugh Tan, and Corey Bradshaw. Besides spending time with my family, I enjoy playing football (or soccer in the US), tennis, and table tennis in the little free time I have these days. My latest hobby is fish-watching in the nature reserves of Singapore.

Albert Kao

Through theoretical and empirical studies, I have been examining different aspects of how groups make decisions collectively. I am developing a theoretical model to describe how the wisdom of the crowds (whereby larger groups can make more accurate decisions than smaller groups or single individuals) is affected by complex environments. I am also studying a model describing how learning may work in a group context, and how this may allow group members with minimal communication or cognitive abilities to learn a behavior that promotes the wisdom of the crowds. I also perform experiments to empirically probe the same ideas that I have studied theoretically. I use fish and humans as my two model organisms to see how similar mechanisms of collective decision-making are across divergent animal taxa.

Ipek Kulahci

For my thesis, I integrate animal social behavior with animal learning and personalities to explore how social interactions influence information transmission in a group. When addressing social interactions, I also focus on the role of multiple sensory modalities in recognition of group members. This project is a result of my long term fascination with three aspects of animal behavior; animal cognition, especially how animals learn and make decisions in changing environments, social behavior, which provides unique windows into dynamic decision-making as social environment changes frequently and can be quite unpredictable, and animal communication which is the basis of all social behavior. I am also a strong supporter of conservation and wildlife protection, and believe that successful conservation efforts require a thorough knowledge of animal behavior. One critical piece of this knowledge for social species involves understanding how individual differences in behavior are reflected at the group level and whether group members learn from the experiences of others. Currently I work with ring-tailed lemurs (Lemur catta), a threatened species which is a perfect study system for addressing these questions, since individuals vary highly in their personalities, learning abilities, and social interactions which span multiple behavioral contexts and show remarkable complexity

Sebastian Munoz

Sebastián Muñoz is searching for ecological patterns in parasite communities among a wide range of host species and environments. A native of Chile, with a professional degree in Marine Biology, Sebastián uses diverse techniques to find and understand the rules governing species coexistance within these communities. He was first introduced to parasitology working in marine environments, studying the ecology of fish and mollusk parasites. At Princeton, he is expanding his research by looking at the influence of species distribution and their interspecific interactions on the structure of the parasite community. Thanks to a summer research grant from his Department at Princeton University and the travel allowance from his Fulbright International Science and Technology Award, he studied the macroparasites of the Tasmanian Devil, an endangered species with very limited parasitological information. This work estimated for the first time the exact abundance of parasites per host, and revealed what appears to be a new nematode species. As the Tasmanian Devil faces extinction due to a novel and contagious form of cancer, documenting their parasite communities could help researchers to better understand their defenses against infection, with important consequences for their conservation. In collaboration with a former Princeton student they carried out a study on how macroparasites may reduce inflammatory immune responses in songbirds. In the long term, his goal is to help to understand the underlying phenomena that drive the observed patterns in these communities. 

Jenni Peterson

Jenni is interested in ecological aspects of global health issues, especially neglected tropical diseases. Her thesis research centers on Chagas disease and its vector, the triatomine bug. She is investigating both theoretically and experimentally if trypanosome coinfection can regulate populations of triatomines to the point where Chagas disease transmission is altered. She does her experimental research in Medellin, Colombia and theoretical work in Princeton. 

Ann Thomas Tate

I am broadly interested in the evolution and ecology of immune systems, and I combine experimental and theoretical methods to study immunity at multiple ecological scales. My thesis project aims to elucidate the mechanistic basis and population level consequences of immune priming in insects using flour beetles (Tribolium castaneum) and their parasites and pathogens as a study system 

Colin Twomey

Fish school, birds flock, and humans (sometimes) form crowds.  Collective motion, in each case, can exhibit varying levels of order driven by potentially very different interactions at the individual level.  How a group comes to adopt a particular level of order, and who in the group influences that adoption, has to do with the way in which information propagates through the group.  I study information propagation by looking at a group from three different scales: at the level of the individual, at the level of inter-individual interactions, and at the level of the group as a whole.  To study inter-individual interactions, I use techniques from computer vision to quantify the social information locally available to each group member.  At the individual level, I use techniques from machine learning to determine how an individual maps its local information to behavior.  Finally, at the group level, I determine how all those individual decisions collectively result in a change in group state, and the relative influence of each individual on that change.  My hope is that this strategy for analysis may be applied generally (at present, I mainly work with fish schools), and that it will be useful for understanding how information propagates, and therefore how influence functions, in any social group 

2008 Cohort

Blair Roberts

I am broadly interested in mammalian social behavior and behavioral ecology and have participated in studies addressing socioreproductive and mother-infant behavior in equids, reproductive behavior in canids, and interspecies interactions and habitat use in captive ungulates. My current research focuses on mother-infant behavior and juvenile strategies in African ungulates. Different ungulate species exhibit contrary maternal care behavior and development strategies. I hope to determine the extent to which these different behavioral patterns are dictated by a species¹ environment and physiology, and which environmental factors are most important in shaping behaviors and strategies.

Nitin Sekar

I am interested in the functional ecology of endangered species, the relationship between ecosystem services and poverty, and policy related to wildlife conservation and equitable development in the Global South. The aim of his dissertation is to shed light on whether Asian elephants (Elephas maximus) are ecologically unique or redundant as seed dispersers in a disturbed, forested landscape typical of much of India. To understand this, Nitin is collecting data to identify the main alternative dispersers to elephants and to quantitatively compare the contributions of each of these animal species to the dispersal of seeds of three mammal-dispersed fruiting species in Buxa Tiger Reserve, India. Additionally, Nitin is pursuing a certificate in Science, Technology, and Environmental Policy (STEP) with the Princeton Environmental Institute and the Woodrow Wilson School. His policy work will look at whether the Indian government's voluntary village relocation scheme is likely to achieve its stated ecological and equitable development objectives, as well as whether voluntary village relocation is a cost-effective intervention.