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Lab Members and Their Projects

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

Danielle Wasserman

Danielle's main interests are comparative anatomy and animal diversity. Her varied research and technical experience began in her undergraduate days at Hartwick College, and has since included skeletal restoration at The Field Museum of Natural History and herp systematics at Southeastern Louisiana University. Her Master's thesis was entitled "Examining morphological variation of the hyoid apparatus in monitor lizards". For Danielle's doctoral research she continues to study hyoid ("tongue bone") evolution in reptiles-- this time avian ones! Danielle is also a biology laboratory manager at Yeshiva College and teaches Zoology at Kean University.

Go to Danielle's website

Mason Youngblood



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. His doctoral dissertation research is focused on the small Indian mongoose (Herpestes auropunctatus), in which he discovered rapid evolution by sexual selection following introduction from continental Asia to several oceanic islands. He has recently completed extensive field work in India, Hawaii, Jamaica, St. Croix, and Mauritius.

Download Aaron's cv

Go to Aaron's website

Franny Geller

Franny Geller

Having graduated with a bachelors degree in Music from Queens College, Franny made a transition from human song to birdsong to biology. Her dissertation research involves an investigation of cultural lability (the rate at which a trait culturally evolves), and a study of the degree to whcih developmental, demographic, and ecological fractors underlie house finch song structure and cultural transmission.

See Franny's cv

Go to Franny's website

Daniel Mann

Coming to NYC from Arkansas where he received a B.A. in History and Spanish, Dan earned a Master's in Applied Linguistics from Columbia. He is now a candidate for a Linguistics Ph.D. here at CUNY, working with Juliette Blevins at the Graduate Center. Dan has performed research on language acquisition, phonetics and phonology, and comparative and historical linguistics. In our lab he is studying especially the permissivity of vocal learning in the house finch. He is currently interning in the laboratory of Tecumseh Fitch at the University of Vienna.

Jonathan Goodman

Jonathan is a postgraduate intern in evolutionary philosophy. He majored in behavioral biology & neuroscience at Emory University, and did his graduate work in philosophy at University College London and the University of London. His past work focused, among other things, on the degree to which evolutionary theory can explain morality and moral commands such as The Golden Rule. In our lab he is pursuing conceptual clarity among various perspectives in the study of cultural evolution.

Masters/Postbaccalaureate researchers

Wendy Perez

Wendy Castillo

Wendy is recording and analyzing geographic variation in an introduced population of house finch songs in Hawaii, and comparing them to those previously recorded in California. By so doing she will provide cultural evidence of their location of origin, and also determine how the Hawaiian birds' songs have changed since introduction.

Khaleda Khan

Khaleda joined our lab at its inception in 2009, and as an undergraduate studied the behavior of African Ploceus weaverbirds. For her honors undergraduate thesis she characterized the behavior of male village weavers (Ploceus cucullatus) at a breeding colony in Ethiopia. She then spent three years as the Archivist of the Paul Mundinger house finch recording collection, training and leading dozens of undergraduate researchers in the identification and parsing of the songs of thousands of house finch individuals. Presently her Master's project focuses on the interaction of inherited and learned factors in the development of swamp sparrow song. Khaleda was our lab manager from 2011-2016, and now works for a web design company.

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

Download Khaleda's cv

Gianna McArthur

Gianna began in our lab in 2011 recording house finches, but since then has become our most significant contributor to the Online Bibliography of Environmental Thought (OBET). She also works at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center.

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. For his main Master's project he is analyzing house finch song variation in California (based on the recordings of Jackie Song) in order to determine the nature of its variation over space.

Ronveer Chakraborty

Ronveer, who graduated from Queens College with a degree in Biology, 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 (recorded by Dr. Paul Mundinger) 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, comes to us from A&E where she was a producer, and then the New York Botanical Garden where she works on the World Flora Online Project. She is contributing artwork and text for a new lab project on birds in human culture. She is also engaged in the mockingbird project, recording birds and making behavioral observations.

Anna McPherran

Anna recently graduated from the Honors Program here at Queens College, her thesis being an assessment of microscale effects of human land use on the phonological structure of house finch songs. She has since expanded the project to be an intensive study of the effect of urbanization on house finch song at several spatial scales across 17 cities in California (based on the recordings of Jackie Song).

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

Download Anna's CV

Christian Van Deurs

Christian, a science teacher in the NYC school system, is performing a review of the evidence for cultural traditions and cultural evolution in mammals.


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

Michelle Mordukhaev, House finch cultural evolution, and the forthcoming CultEvol webpage. Michelle is our lab manager.

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

Sandy (Harsangeet) Gill, Interaction of learning and inheritance in the maintenance of rhythm in swamp sparrow song.
Susie Yin, House finch cultural evolution
Ariella Kornreich, Female house finch song
  Ruth Anam, Evolution and religion
  Theresa Crupi, Software development for the Online Bibliography of Environmental Thought (OBET)

Postdoctoral Researchers


Bobby Habig (heybobby99@gmail.com)

After several years as an educator and program manager at the American Museum of Natural History, Bobby entered our lab and collaborated with Khaleda Khan on the behavior of breeding male and female African village weaverbirds. He expanded this project into a study of colony disturbances, nest attendance, and male boldness that resulted in the first paper submitted for work done by a student in our lab. Bobby, who holds two Bachelor's degrees and also a Master's in Education, is now completing his Biology PhD student at Notre Dame, in the lab of Beth Archie. His main project is an assessment of the effect of social status on immune and endocrine function in the baboons of Amboseli, Kenya. After defending his dissertation, he will return to our lab to study the function and evolution of weaver nest structure as an NSF Postdoctoral Fellow.

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 learning and other complex traits. He is also an Adjunct Professor in the Queens College Biology Department.


The students below have contributed to our research projects in the lab, and nearly all 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.

Amanda Goldstein (2015-2016; BA in Biology), house finch cultural evolution, lab comedienne
Stacy Wang, (2016; BA in Computer Science), software development for the Online Bibliography of Environmental Thought
Teresa Wu (2015-2016; BA in Computer Science), software development for the Online Bibliography of Environmental Thought

Giulietta Coppola (2015-2016; BA in Biology), house finch cultural evolution

Chenghui Ju (2011-2015; PhD., Ecology, Evolution and Behavior, 2015).

Chenghui was our lab's second defending doctoral student. She defended her dissertation, Cultural Evolution in Natural Populations: A Quantitative Bioacoustic Analysis, in July 2015. She has developed a software package for bioacoustic analysis, FinchCatcher. She now has a position at the Nanjing University of Chinese Medicine.

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.

Daniele DeLeone (2014-2015; CUNY BA in Anthrozoology), cultural evolution and the Trolley Problem

Elliot Aguilar (2009-2015; PhD., Ecology, Evolution and Behavior, 2016)

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

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
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.