Welcome! Our laboratory was established in the fall of 2009. Currently we are 20 researchers working on a broad range of topics including natural history, vocal development, brood parasite-host coevolution, coloniality, bird egg color, sexual selection, rapid evolution, environmental ethics, and cultural evolution in bird song and human morals.


First lab meeting in the front room of our new space, May 2016



  • DECEMBER: Natasza has taken a permanent position at the New York Botanical Garden on their World Flora Online Project.
  • NOVEMBER: Our lab hosted Kerin Claeson, Associate Professor of Anatomy at the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine. Kerin spoke in our Departmental colloquium on “See more of Seymour: stories and outcomes from the Antarctic Peninsula Project 2016”. Later in the afternoon she gave another lecture, on batoid evolution: “Guitarfish from rocks of all ages”.
  • OCTOBER: Aaron gave invited talks at both Yale University and Fordham University this month, speaking on “Rapid evolution by sexual selection following introduction in the the small Indian mongoose”.
  • SEPTEMBER: One of Natasza‘s images was published on the cover of Saving Land, a publication of the Land Trust Alliance. See the cover.
  • SEPTEMBER: Welcome to our new lab members: Christian will be investigating the evidence for cultural evolution in nonhuman animals aside from bird song. Ruth, Ariella, and Susie will be working on the house finch project.
  • AUGUST: At the annual party at the Lahti house, attendees from our lab broke the record for the number of us at the same place at the same timet: 25, including 18 current researchers and 7 alumni.
  • JULY: After 6 years, Khaleda has retired as lab manager! Thank you for your service, Khaleda. Welcome to Michelle our new lab manager. The lab manager has retired. Long live the lab manager!
  • JULY: Dan abandoned us for a year to intern at the illustrious lab of William Tecumseh Fitch at the University of Vienna.
  • JUNE: Aaron returned from his latest field research expedition in search of rapid evolution in sexually selected traits in the small Indian mongoose. This ends his fieldwork, which involved over a year and a half total in Hawaii, India, St. Croix, Jamaica, and Mauritius.
  • JUNE: Our lab welcomed Jonathan as a postgraduate intern in evolutionary philosophy. Jonathan will be researching the green beard effect and also conceptual clarity in studies of cultural evolution.
  • JUNE: Our lab spent a long weekend touring natural areas of New England, especially central Massachusetts and southern Maine. We camped at the Steep Falls Wildlife Management Area in Standish, Maine. Thanks to Paul & Bobbie Niehaus for hosting us!
  • MAY: Welcome to our newest doctoral student– Danielle! She will be studying the evolution of the hyoid bone in birds.
  • MAY: Thanks to our programming team led by Teresa, an early beta version of the new Online Bibliography of Environmental Thought is up and running! ( With this, Teresa graduates and will hand the programming leadership torch over to Stacy.
  • MAY: Anna accomplished the following:
    • Defended her Honors thesis, “Possible effects of anthropogenic noise and land use on house finch songs in California.”
    • received the Muriel and Philip Feigelson Memorial Award from the QC Biology Department, recognizing “outstanding achievement in research”
    • graduated with High Honors, with a Bachelor’s in Biology
  • MAY: Congratulations to our graduates this year– Anna, Giulietta, Tashi, Daniele, and Teresa!
  • MAY: Our lab hosted Uldis Roze, Emeritus Professor of Biology here at Queens College, who spoke to our lab about his long-term field research and experiences with porcupines in the Catskills. He and his wife Steph called us a “spirited and wonderful group”– thanks, Uldis!


    • MAY: Charles, Franny, Chenghui, and Khaleda coauthored a paper to accompany the house finch recordings of Paul C. Mundinger that our lab has been organizing, parsing and depositing at Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s Macaulay Library of Natural sounds:

Maniego, C., F. C. Geller, C. Ju, K. Khan, and D. C. Lahti. 2015. Song sharing and assessment of individual identity in house finches. A white paper to accompany the house finch (Haemorhous mexicanus) recordings of Paul C. Mundinger deposited at the Macaulay Library of Natural Sounds. Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology. 15 May, 10pp.


Kershenbaum, Arik, Daniel T. Blumstein, Marie A. Roch, Çaglar Akçay, Gregory Backus, Mark A. Bee, Kirsten Bohn, Yan Cao, Gerald Carter, Cristiane Cäsar, Michael Coen, Stacy L. DeRuiter, Laurance Doyle, Shimon Edelman, Ramon Ferrer-i-Cancho, Todd M. Freeberg, Ellen C. Garland, Morgan Gustison, Heidi E. Harley, Chloé Huetz, Melissa Hughes, Julia Hyland Bruno, Amiyaal Ilany, Dezhe Z. Jin, Michael Johnson, Chenghui Ju, Jeremy Karnowski, Bernard Lohr, Marta B. Manser, Brenda McCowan, Eduwardo Mercado III, Peter M. Narins, Alex Piel, Megan Rice, Roberta Salmi, Kazutoshi Sasahara, Laela Sayigh, Yu Shiu, Charles Taylor, Edgar E. Vallejo, Sara Waller, and Veronica Zamora-Guiterrez. 2014. Acoustic sequences in non-human animals: a tutorial review and prospectus. Biological Reviews doi: 10.1111/brv.12160.

    • MAY: Aaron published a paper– his first for work in our lab– on the small Indian mongoose in Hawaii:

Owen, M. Aaron and David C. Lahti. 2015. Sexual dimorphism and condition dependence in the anal pad of the small Indian mongoose (Herpestes auropunctatus). Canadian Journal of Zoology 93:397-402.

  • FEBRUARY: Aaron was awarded a Queens College Biology Mini-grant to study the small Indian mongoose on St. Croix as part of a collaborative team with Buzz Hoagland of Westfield College and Steve Brewer of the University of Massachusetts.
  • FEBRUARY: Jacqueline was awarded a scholarship to attend a residential program on environmental education this July at the Hog Island Audubon Camp in Maine.


  • JULY: We (CUNY, led by our buddy Mark Hauber) hosted the annual meeting of the International Society for Behavioral Ecology this year. Several of us attended. Our student presentations were:
    • Chenghui: Ju, C., F.C. Geller, and D.C. Lahti, “An integrative analysis to characterize song diversity of the House Finch (Carpodacus mexicanus) in North America.” (Talk)
    • Khaleda: Khan, K. and D.C. Lahti, “Mate attraction dominates the behavior of a colonially breeding bird.” (Poster)
  • JULY: Aaron returned from 10 months in India on a Fulbright Scholarship. Aaron got great data on movement patterns and sexual selection in the small Indian mongoose.
  • JULY: We had two summer interns this year: Hannah Pearce, from the University of Kent in the U.K., and Jackie Robins from the State University of New York at Binghamton. Both Hannah and Jackie recorded and analyzed bird song with us.


  • DECEMBER: Aaron was awarded a Sigma Xi Grant-In-Aid of Research for his study of social behavior in the small Indian mongoose. During this month he also spoke on “Insights into the mating behavior of the invasive small Indian mongoose” for Young Ecologists Talk and Interact (YETI), Zunheboto District, Nagaland, India.
  • DECEMBER: Our lab hosted Sarah Woolley, Chair of Psychology at Columbia University. She spoke at our departmental colloquium about the neural coding of vocalization in the songbird brain.
  • NOVEMBER: Andrew F. Richards (hereafter Andy) joined our lab as our first postdoctoral research associate. Andy studies the evolution of human psychology and behavior, as well as vocal communication in dolphins.
  • OCTOBER: Chenghui participated in an invitational workshop, “Analyzing Animal Vocal Sequences”, at the National Institute for Mathematical and Biological Synthesis (NIMBioS) at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. She also released (to our lab) her acoustic analysis software, FinchCatcher (1.0, beta)!!
  • SEPTEMBER: Our lab hosted Mary Caswell “Cassie” Stoddard, a biologist who is currently a Harvard Fellow. She spoke at our departmental colloquium about the ecology and evolution of visual signals in birds.
  • AUGUST: Elliot has returned from a year at the Centre for the Study of Cultural Evolution at Stockholm University. During this time he published an article about cultural genealogies in The New Inquiry called “Selling Roots”. He also gave a presentation on cultural genealogies at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany, and on cultural attractiveness at the 2013 meeting of the European Human Behavior & Evolution Association and the International Conference on Social Dilemmas in Switzerland. See Elliot’s poster from ICSD.
  • JULY: Several members of our lab went to the Animal Behavior Society national meeting in Boulder, Colorado. Our student presentations were:
  • JUNE: Simon graduated from Queens College, CUNY, with a BA in Biology!
  • MAY: Khaleda received a student grant from the Animal Behavior Society, and two grants from Queens College (Dean’s Travel Fund and Alumni Association Fund), to attend and present her research at the annual meeting of the Animal Behavior Society this year in Boulder, Colorado.
  • APRIL: Several of us went to the CABI (CUNY Animal Behavior Initiative) Conference at Hunter College. The following students presented:
    • Aaron: “Sexual dimorphism in the small Indian mongoose (Herpestes auropunctatus): implications for sexual selection” (Talk)
    • Chenghui: “Study of songs of the house finch (Carpodacus mexicanus) on the East Coast” (Poster).
      Chenghui won the award for the best poster presentation at CABI!
    • Khaleda: “A day in the life of a male African village weaverbird (Ploceus cucullatus)” (Poster)
  • APRIL: Franny launched her new website: check it out!
  • MARCH: Our lab hosted Dave Lohman, a biologist at City College CUNY, who spoke in our departmental colloquium about the ecology, evolution, biogeography, and conservation of butterflies in Southeast Asia.
  • MARCH: Aaron is now a Fulbright Scholar! He was awarded a fellowship to study the ecology and behavior of the small Indian mongoose in India later this year. He will be collaborating with Dr. Yadvendradev Jhala at the Wildlife Institute of India.
  • MARCH: Our lab hosted Steve Johnson, an ornithologist and environmental consultant. Steve received his PhD in biology from the University of Massachusetts, and now heads up Laurentide Ecological Consultants with his wife Lori. Steve spoke to us about his research on the syntax of robin song. Steve is one of our collaborators.
  • FEBRUARY: Our lab hosted Javier Monzon, who received his PhD from Stonybrook University for his work on the landscape genomics of northeastern coyotes. He presented his research to us and continued our ongoing collaboration on the genetic basis and rapid evolution of plumage and song in canaries under artificial selection.
  • FEBRUARY: Our lab hosted Daniel Mann, a CUNY graduate student in theoretical linguistics, who spoke to us about his research and the possibility of applying evolutionary theory to the cultural evolution of language.
  • FEBRUARY: Aaron received a Doctoral Student Research Grant from the CUNY Graduate Center for this spring.
  • JANUARY: Our lab hosted John Waldman, naturalist, ecologist, and author of Heartbeats in the Muck: The History, Sea Life, and Environment of New York Harbor, among other books. We discussed Heartbeats with John during lab meeting.


  • MAY: Congratulations to our lab graduates! Maureen received her bachelor’s degree in biology, and Bobby received a second bachelor’s degree.
  • MAY: Franny joined the Ph.D. program in biology at the CUNY Graduate Center and will continue her research on cultural evolution in house finches as a doctoral student.
  • APRIL: Aaron was elected to both the CUNY Graduate Center’s Graduate Council, as a representative for the Biology program, and the CUNY Graduate Center’s Advisory Committee for the Ecology, Evolutionary Biology, and Behavior (EEB) subprogram of Biology.


  • JULY: Aaron spoke at the Society for the Study of Evolution conference in Oklahoma, and the joint meeting of the Animal Behavior Society and the International Ethological Society in Indiana. His talk, which was based on his Purdue Masters research and was coauthored by K. Rohrer and R. Howard, was “Female preference for a novel male phenotype in zebrafish (Danio rerio)”.
  • JUNE: Maureen was awarded a CUNY Pipeline Program Fellowship. This fellowship, supported by the Office of Educational
    Opportunity and Diversity Program
    s at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York, prepares students from underrepresented groups for doctoral studies.
  • JUNE: We have been awarded an NSF grant for a collaborative project with Stefano Ghirlanda of Brooklyn College. The project, “Multi-ancestor coalescent theory for cultural evolution”, represents the major part of Elliot‘s dissertation research, and the award will fund Chenghui for the remainder of her graduate career.
  • MAY: Our first three lab members defended honors undergraduate research theses, and graduated! All three will be staying on and continuing to work on their projects.
    • Khaleda: “Mate attraction dominates the behavior of a colonially breeding bird”
    • Stephanie: “A comparative study of the moral prohibitions of the Wolof and Bambara peoples of West Africa”
    • Seema: “Ethnobotany of Janjangbureh Island, The Gambia, West Africa”
  • APRIL: Elliot was awarded two back-to-back NSF fellowships, that will fully fund him for the remainder of his graduate career: the Graduate Research Fellowship, and the GK-12, The Graduate STEM Fellowship in K-12 Education.
  • MARCH: Stephanie was awarded one of only 25 fellowships at the Traveler’s Summer Research Fellowship Program at Cornell University for this coming summer.
  • MARCH: Franny and Khaleda presented posters at the Queens College chapter of Sigma Xi poster session on 3/24/11. Franny’s was “A Virtual Guide to the Flora of Awash National Park”, and Khaleda’s was “Mate Attraction Dominates the Behavior of a Colonially Breeding Bird”.
  • FEBRUARY: Elliot was invited and awarded a scholarship to the Santa Fe Institute’s Complex System Science seminar in June; he also started the NYC Cultural Evolution Group this month.


  • DECEMBER: The Online Bibliography of Environmental Thought, managed by our lab and funded by the International Society of Environmental Ethics, launched on 12/28/10! It can be found at
  • DECEMBER: Our lab was the cover story in the Queens College magazine FYI. Here’s the article.
  • SEPTEMBER: Before she even has finished her masters degree, Wendy was offered and has accepted a position of biology teacher at the Bronx High School of Science, one of the best and most prestigious high schools in the nation (4th, according to U.S. News & World Report).
  • JULY – AUGUST: We had a summer research trip to Ethiopia this summer!
    • David and April collected data on Rüppell’s weaver egg variability, and conducted egg recognition experiments on that species.
    • Khaleda recorded Rüppell’s and lesser masked weavers (despite what field guides say, they do have distinctive songs!), and discovered several eclipse-plumage birds singing.
    • Khaleda and Rita obtained HD video recordings of a village weaver colony, which they will use for focal animal observations in the lab.
    • Rita completed field research on the effect of hybridization on fitness of hamadryas and olive baboons.
    • We gathered materials for a Guide to the Natural History of Awash National Park.
    • We will be supporting two more African naturalists, Tsyon and Girum.
    • We have made plans for exciting collaboration with the founder of the Ethiopian Wildlife Conservation Society, Dr. Yirmed Demeke.
  • JUNE – JULY: Elliot was awarded a scholarship and attended the 15th Summer Institute in Statistical Genetics at the University of Washington.
  • JUNE: Elliot presented “The phylogenetics of song characters in the house finch (Carpodacus mexicanus)” at the annual meeting of the Society for the Study of Evolution in Portland, Oregon.

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