Danielle's main interests are comparative anatomy and animal diversity. Her research and technical experience began 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 her 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.
Mason received his B.S. in Biology from the University of South Carolina, and is now pursuing a Ph.D. in Animal Behavior and Comparative Psychology here at CUNY. His current research is focused on the neurophysiological basis of female preference for culturally evolved traits in the house finch, but as an undergraduate he studied genetics and behavior in mammalian and insect models. He is also currently working to assess the state of the field of cultural evolution using bibliometric methods.
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.
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 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. He is also an editor of Cancer Therapy Advisor.
Michelle is our lab manager. She graduated from Queens College with a BA in Biology. In addition to keeping the lab going, Michelle is contributing to the upcoming cultural evolution webpage, and working on a project documenting the flora of Awash National Park in Ethiopia. She also works at Long Pond Environmental Center and is a veterinary assistant at a Long Island animal hospital.
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 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. She is now a web developer at the marketing company Reelio.
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.
Liz is our lab nurse. She also helps out with various projects in the lab, especially looking for birds! She is beginning a project documenting the flora of Ethiopia's Awash National Park.
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.
Gianna began in our lab recording house finches, but has since become our most significant contributor to the Online Bibliography of Environmental Thought (OBET). She also works at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center.
Sandy (Harsangeet) Gill
Sandy is analyzing the vocal development of lab-reared swamp sparrows that have been trained on some songs with a constant pace, and other songs that speed up or slow down. By discovering how the young birds develop their ability to sing, she will help understand in what ways rhythm is inherited vs. learned.
Charles has painstakingly aligned (in an analogous way to genetic aligment by hand) songs of house finches (recorded by Dr. Paul Mundinger) to assess within- and between-individual variation in song structure. He received his BA in Biology and defended his Honors thesis in the lab, and now is expanding this work as a Master's research project focused on the nature and extent of cultural "mutation" and thus the unit of cultural evolution in house finch song.
Amanda started in the lab on the house finch cultural evolution project. After receiving her BA in Biology, she transitioned into the MA program. She is interested in ecology and conservation, and is an environmental educator at the Long Island Board of Cooperative Educational Services. She is currently planning a Master's research project on urban ecology in birds.
Natasza came 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 also engaged in the mockingbird project, recording birds and making behavioral observations.
Susie is working with Annie on a study of the recovery of oysters in the NYC area. Extensive measures are being taken to restore oyster populations; we should see some passive recovery through dispersal even in areas that have not been subject to direct restoration efforts, such as Randall's Island. Focusing on the shoreline of this island, in cooperation with the Randall's Island Park Alliance, especially Chris Girgenti, Susie and Anne are documenting the presence and health of populations, the environmental features that correlate with establishment, and the extent of endoparasitism.
Annie is working with Susie on a study of the recovery of oysters in the NYC area. Extensive measures are being taken to restore oyster populations; we should see some passive recovery through dispersal even in areas that have not been subject to direct restoration efforts, such as Randall's Island. Focusing on the shoreline of this island, in cooperation with the Randall's Island Park Alliance, especially Chris Girgenti, Susie and Anne are documenting the presence and health of populations, the environmental features that correlate with establishment, and the extent of endoparasitism.
Ariella hit the ground running 0n the house finch cultural evolution project. She is now deep into a pair of independent projects on female song. The first is an empirical study of the seldom-noticed phenomenon of female house finch singing, with the goal of determining its function as well as its distinctive features, especially compared to the much more familiar male song. The second is a review of the literature on the function of female bird song.
After several years as an educator and program manager at the American Museum of Natural History, Bobby entered our lab and collaborated with Khaleda 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, has recently completed his Biology PhD at Notre Dame, in the lab of Beth Archie. His main project was an assessment of the effect of social status on immune and endocrine function in the baboons of Amboseli, Kenya. He is now back in our lab to study the function and evolution of weaverbird 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 has also been an Adjunct Professor in the Queens College Biology Department.
Everyone below has 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.
Aaron made first contact only a month after the lab was founded. Seven hears later he has been the most consistently present, social, and intellectually active lab member to have left us so far. Through extensive field work in India, Hawaii, Jamaica, St. Croix, and Mauritius, he discovered rapid evolution by sexual selection following introduction of the small Indian mongoose. He defended Ecology, Evolution, and Sexual Selection in the Invasive, Globally Distributed Small Indian Mongoose (Urva auropunctata) in April 2017. While here, Aaron was a skilled laboratory and recitation instructor for many years. He and I also, on a whim, attended bartending school together. And I believe we were the only listeners to modern rock in the lab for years (!). After leaving our lab, Aaron pursued a career in data science.
Anna McPherran (2014-2017; BA in Biology and Honors Thesis). Anna was a pillar of the lab. Her independent research tested for an association between human land use at at a microscale on the phonological structure of house finch songs at several urban areas in California. She also assisted Aaron with his mongoose research in St. Croix. She left us for the PhD program in Ecology & Evolutionary Biology at Stony Brook University.
Christian Van Deurs (2016-2017; MA in Biology). Christian reviewed the evidence for cultural traditions and cultural evolution in mammals. He is a science teacher in the NYC school system by day, and a rock star by night.
Ronveer Chakraborty (2014-2017). After graduating from Queens College with a BA in Biology, Ronveer entered our lab and became one of our most fun and active members. He studied the moral traditions of the Tiv people.
Sara Paccione (2014-2016; MA in English), background research for several classic works of literature covered in the Reflections on Great Literature blog.
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 developed a software package for bioacoustic analysis, FinchCatcher, which established our analytical methods for the cultural evolution project for years to come. She then took a faculty position at the Nanjing Forestry University. She continues to help our students finish their cultural evolution and bird song projects from a distance.
Elliot was our lab's first doctoral student, brought an energetic spirit and a diverse and quantitative intellect-- as well as our first NSF funding!-- to the lab. He defended his dissertation,Models and Methods in Social and Cultural Evolution, in June 2015. He then took a postdoctoral research fellowship at the University of Pennsylvania, in the laboratory of Erol Akçay.
Johanna Navarro (2009-2015; MA, Biology, 2015). Johanna was our lab's first Master's student and was the first to receive a Master's degree-- and she published almost immediately after defending! She helped establish graduate research in the lab, along with Wendy and Rose. 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. Shortly after leaving us she became a faculty member at Queensborough Community College.
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. Seema brought her project nearly to the point of being a monograph, a goal we still hope to reach.
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 was social glue and a force for friendliness and good will in the lab. She left us to earn a Master's of Public Health at Columbia University.
Alison (Bromberg) Powell (2012-2014). Alison took over the swamp sparrow vocal development for her tenure, in between being a force for Weezer. I will be forever grateful for that opportunity she provided me (fulfilling her promise upon joining our lab) of hanging out with them for an evening after their show.
Simon Lee (2013-2014; BA, Biology, 2013), House finch cultural evolution. Simon was the first student to productively parse and document house finch songs from the Mundinger archive for Cornell's Macaulay Library of Natural Sounds.
Maureen (Pereyra) 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. She left us to become a PhD student at the University of Rochester.
Jackie Song (2011-2013). Jackie conducted an extensive and well documented survey of house finch song in California that led to analysis by Eric and Anna. Jackie established our Facebook page, and kicked our social gatherings into higher gear.
Beata (Rozbicka) Sadigh (2009-2010), Morality of the Bemba people of Zambia. Betty has remained active intermittently in the lab, in courses and discussion seminars. She received as Master's degree and is now a teacher.
Rita Monfort (2009-2011), Parasite epidemiology in baboons, Wolbachia-host coevolution, cuckoo-host coevolution, human evolution, and sperm competition in baboons. Rita performed research in Ethiopia during our first expedition there in 2010.