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Welcome! Our laboratory was established in the fall of 2009. Currently we are 23 researchers working on a broad range of topics including natural history, urban ecology, bird nest evolution, bird egg color, bird hyoid (tongue bone) evolution, African ethnobotany, social learning, public understanding of evolution, and cultural evolution in bird song and human music.

News

First lab meeting in the front room of our new space, May 2016. At table: Anna McPherran, David Lahti. Behind them from left: Andrew Richards, Natasza Fontaine, Mason Youngblood, Dan Mann, Ronveer Chakraborty, Danielle Wasserman, Franny Geller, Amanda Goldstein, Wendy Castillo, Bobby Habig.

2019:

This year I was on sabbatical– 404 days, from December 21, 2018 to January 27, 2020!  Thanks very much to Bobby, who expertly ran the lab in my absence. Here are highlights and events from the year:

  • First of all, welcome to our new lab members! In 2019 Oditi Debi, Ratna Kanhai, Andrea Lopez, Ritika Nath, Christina Takos, and Catalina Tapia all joined the lab. Each will be working on either the Bronx River Urban Ecology Project or the House Finch Cultural Evolution Project.
  • Maleha is mentoring Melanie Chuu, a high school student from the Bronx High School of Science, in research in the lab.
  • Bobby continued under his NSF postdoctoral grant, and conducted a field research expedition to Awash National Park in Ethiopia, where he surveyed the weaverbirds and studied their nest ecology and evolution. Longtime lab friend Dr. Noah Burg (of CUNY and then Southern Oregon University) accompanied Bobby as a research associate.
    • Jasmin joined Bobby in Ethiopia, helped with the Awash weaver survey and also conducted a study of weaver nesting associations with other species.
    • Bobby also conducted collections research (collecting data for quantitative analyses of weaverbird nest architectures) at the wonderful Western Foundation of Vertebrate Zoology in Camarillo, California. Thanks as always to Linnea Hall and René Corado for their aid and hospitality.
  • Bobby also started up a major domestic research initiative: the Bronx River Urban Ecology Project. Bobby and four Master’s students commenced complementary projects along the Bronx River between NYC and White Plains:
    • Ritika is studying patterns of mammalian diversity, assessing how apex predators and features of the urban landscape shape patterns of community composition
    • Sal is studying patterns of floristic diversity, analyzing how differences in urban landscape features contribute to phylogenetic, taxonomic, and functional diversity
    • Amanda is studying patterns of avian diversity, measuring the impact of urbanization and anthropogenic disturbance on avian community composition
    • Maleha is surveying aquatic macroinvertebrates, leveraging historical and current data to assess longitudinal changes in species richness and water quality over the past twenty years
  • Congratulations to this year’s QC graduates, including Ar, Oditi, Ritika, and Shari!
  • Ar had an immensely successful final year in our lab:
    • received this year’s Laura A. & Arthur L. Colwin Prize, which is awarded to the QC Biology Department’s top undergraduate researcher in the graduating class.
    • successfully defended an undergraduate Honors Thesis, entitled “Female song can be as long and complex as male song in wild house finches (Haemorhous mexicanus)”.
    • revised and submitted a first-authored paper for publication based on the above honors thesis shortly after graduation– by far the quickest undergrad in the history of the lab to do so.
    • graduated summa cum laude with a BA in the Honors Program in Mathematics and Natural Sciences.
    • entered Fordham University as a Biology doctoral student (right out of undergrad!), with a University Fellowship, working in the lab of J. Alan Clark.
  • Mason continued his studies of cultural evolution, this year writing and speaking extensively on both his house finch and human music model systems:
  • Our first PhD alumnus Elliot (’15) published another paper from his dissertation on cultural evolution:
  • Khaleda, erstwhile lab manager, researcher, and one of the founding members of the lab, has published her study of behavioral time budgets of the village weavers in Ethiopia’s Awash National Park. This was the first major new project initiated in the Lahti lab nearly a decade ago, and includes over 800,000 discrete time points of data. Bobby contributed to the data analysis and interpretation following Khaleda’s return from Awash, and took the lead on the females particularly.
  • Michelle, our lab manager since Fall 2016, has left us for veterinary school at St. George’s University, Grenada. Doing what she always wanted. Thanks for your service, Michelle! Our senior lab members have voted unanimously for Maleha to be the new lab manager, and she has graciously accepted. Our lab manager has retired. Long live the lab manager!
  • Both Danielle and Mason passed their 2nd doctoral exams (in Biology and Psychology respectively), so both are now officially candidates for the PhD. Danielle’s research proposal, which encompasses her entire dissertation, is “Hyoid evolution in Hawaiian honeycreepers”. Mason’s proposal, which covers only the last of his dissertation projects/chapters, is “Transmission bias in the cultural evolution of house finch song”.
  • Maleha was awarded a Merlyn Climate Change Grant for her work on the Bronx River Urban Ecology Project
  • Wendy received several awards and honors for her educational activities:
    • Whole Kids Foundation Garden Grant
    • grant from Donors Choose for supplies for a community garden
    • grant to attend the International Technology and Engineering Educators Association (ITEEA) Conference
    • National Geographic Educator Certification
  • Bobby published two papers from his research on baboons in Kenya, while he was a doctoral student based in the Archie lab at Notre Dame:
  • Congratulations to Ritika and Catalina, who were accepted and matriculated into the QC Biology Master’s program.
  • Chenghui, lab PhD alumna (’15) published a paper based on a chapter of her dissertation, in collaboration with Franny who conducted the field research. This is the first  major publication to come out of the House Finch Cultural Evolution Project, which started when Franny and Chenghui entered the lab in 2011. This also represents the first publication in collaboration with the late Paul Mundinger that utilizes his historical house finch recordings.
  • Bobby ran the Queens College Biology Department Colloquium series in the Fall term, inviting and hosting a great array of speakers. Here is the Fall 2019 Colloquium Schedule.  Bobby also ran lab meetings throughout the year, and invited outside speakers for several of these events as well.  Here were our distinguished academic visitors in 2019, in order of appearance. Also listed are the excellent Queens restaurants that concluded the visits, as these represent a good deal of scoping on Bobby’s part!
    • Carol Henger, a PhD candidate at Fordham University and the recipient of a Master’s from Hunter College, presented her research on the population genetics of coyotes in NYC. The lab took her to Blend on the Water in Long Island City.
    • George Jackman, a CUNY (Queens College) PhD and currently Habitat Restoration Manager at Riverkeeper Inc., presented his research on fish consrvation. The lab took him too Mira Sushi.
    • Alexis Brewer, a CUNY EEB PhD candidate working with José Anadón, gave two research presentations to our lab on scavenger community ecology. One talk was entitled “The response of the vertebrate scavenger community to urbanization follows the intermediate disturbance hypothesis”, and the other “Turkey vultures modify foraging strategies in response to anthropogenic food subsidies”.  The lab took her to Jade Eatery & Lounge, and Sagar Chinese.
    • Noah Burg, a CUNY EEB PhD and then lecturer at Southern Oregon University, an evolutionary biologist and ornithologist, gave two presentations, one to our Department and one specifically to our lab. The first was on the genetics of introduced populations, and the second was based on the research he conducted in collaboration with Bobby at Awash National Park in Ethiopia. The lab took him to Mira Sushi.
    • Aishwarya Bhattacharjee. a CUNY EEB PhD candidate working with José Anadón, presented her research on the interface between humans and scavengers in Nepal. The lab took her to Masala Box.
    • Jasmin Alim, a QC Master’s student working with Mitch Baker, presented her research on agricultural pests.  Her talk was entitled “Dill seed oil as a natural synergist of organic pesticides to control potato pests”. The lab took her to Mira Sushi.
    • Catherine Markham, a behavioral ecologist and primatologist and Asst. Prof. of Anthropology at Stony Brook University, gave two presentations, one to our Department and one to our lab in particular. The first was entitled “Primate societies: competition within and between social groups”. The second was based on her research trajectory, entitled “One open door to the next: launching a career with a lot of luck and a little stubbornness”. The lab took her to Jade Eatery and Lounge.
    • Dina Lipkind, a neuroscientist and behavioral biologist, who was a psotdoctoral researcher at Hunter College and is now an Asst. Prof. of Biology at York College, gave two presentations. She spoke to our department on “Learning complex behavioral sequences by trial and error: lessons from bird song”; then she spoke to our lab about her research trajectory. The lab took her to Joe’s Shanghai restaurant.
    • Juliette Gorson, a recent CUNY EEB PhD and now Asst. Prof. of Biology at Hofstra University, presented her research in a talk titled “The transformative power of venom in evolution and biomedical applications”.
    • Cheryl Hayashi, Professor and Director of Comparative Biology Research at the American Museum of Natural History, was previously a professor at University of California Riverside, and received a MacArthur Fellowship. Cheryl presented her research on the evolutionary and functional genomics of spider silk.

2018:

2017:

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 (63 attendees) we broke a lab record for the number of Lahti lab members at the same place at the same time: 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! (isee-obet.org). 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!
  • APRIL: Charles presented his research at the Sigma Xi Research Day at Queens College: “Cultural variation in house finch (Haemorhous mexicanus) song”.
  • APRIL: Our lab hosted David Marshall, research scientist at the Department of Ecology & Evolutionary Biology at the University of Connecticut. He spoke at our departmental colloquium on the “Evolution of periodical cicada life cycles”.
  • MARCH: Franny gave a talk on her research at the CUNY EEB Research Symposium: “Cultural evolution and function in the house finch”.
  • MARCH: Giulietta and Amanda presented at the CUNY Service Corps Poster Session, describing their work at the Queens Zoo: “Wildlife Conservation Society City Zoos: Queens Zoo”.
  • FEBRUARY: Natasza was chosen for an internship at the New York Botanical Garden on their World Flora Online project.
  • FEBRUARY: Anna and Sandy were both awarded QC’s Kenneth Kupferberg Memorial Scholarship: for “a full-time junior or senior student who is majoring in the natural sciences and has an outstanding academic record”.
  • JANUARY: Franny presented her research at the Queens College Biology Symposium: “Cultural evolution in the house finch: quantification and behavioral underpinnings”.


2015:

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.

2014:

2013:

  • 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.

2012:

2011:

  • NOVEMBER: Aaron was awarded the Queens College Biology Doctoral Student Mini-Grant.
  • SEPTEMBER: Seema presented a poster at the Queens College Undergraduate Research Symposium, entitled “Ethnobotany of Janjangbureh Island, The Gambia”
  • SEPTEMBER: Franny joined the Queens College Masters program in 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.

2010:

  • 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 www.isee-obet.org.
  • 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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