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Lab Alumni

Former PhD Students

PhD Students

Andrea Paz






Andrea graduated with a BS in Biology from Universidad de los Andes in Bogotá, Colombia where she studied the phylogeography of the Red-eyed tree frog and how the environment may be influencing the phylogeographic patterns. During her  Master's at the same university she studied the environmental and ecological determinants of population genetic divergence in amphibians of Panama.


She is now interested on the patterns of species distributions and the processes behind the generation and persistence of those patterns. She is hoping to integrate phylogeography, species distribution models and physiological aspects of organisms to understand species range limits. Andrea was awarded a Fulbright Colombia fellowship and joined the Carnaval Lab in the Fall 2015.

Maria Strangas




Maria graduated from the University of Rochester with a BS in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology in May 2010. There, she worked on research projects through the Ramsey Lab, including documenting the composition of Rochester-area forests, studying meadow pollinator communities, and surveying woodland amphibians.  She has also worked with loggerhead sea turtles through Archelon, the Sea Turtle Protection Society of Greece.


After spending two years in the Carnaval Lab as a Lab Technician, Maria joined the group full-time as a PhD Student in Fall 2012. She just defended her dissertation on the evolutionary consequences of past climate change, focused on montane lizards in the Atlantic Forest of Brazil.

She is now working as the manager of the Science Research Mentoring Program at the American Museum of Natural History

Brandon Baird

Brandon graduated from Stony Brook University with a BS in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology in Spring 2012.  While there, he worked at the Davalos Lab studying phylogenetics and diversification of cranial morphology in the bat family Phyllostomidae.  During this time he also participated in the NSF REU program at the University of Alaska, where he studied the effects of climate and pigmentation on lichen physiology. 


He joined the PhD program and the Carnaval Lab in Fall 2013, and is interested in the effects of climate on species diversification and conservation.  He is currently investigating the phylogeography and niche evolution of various taxa of Neotropical herpetofauna.



Ivan Prates




In this Ph.D. research, Ivan has used genomic-scale data to reconstruct the history of South American rainforest lizards, asking how former climate shifts have affected the distribution and demography of tropical taxa. Focusing on anoles, he is now testing for environmental correlates of genomic variation, and identifying genomic regions that have undergone selection during range expansions. Ivan also uses genetic and phenotypic data to assess the geographic distribution, phylogenetic relationships, and taxonomic status of poorly-known frogs and lizards that he has  sampled in Brazil.

Amanda Schweitzer


Amanda completed her MSc in Biology in 2015 and focused her research on bacterial community biogeographic patterns and the influence of host species on community composition. Her thesis was entitled, "How do amphibian skin-associated bacterial communities in the Brazilian Atlantic Forest vary across geography, host species, and time." She is presently exploring her love of all things pastry at culinary school in Washington, D.C.

Former Masters Students

MS Students

Esmeralda Suhling


Esmeralda graduated in Biology from FURB-Blumenau- SC, Brazil, where she spent most of her time studying behavior, cytogenetics, and biochemistry in primates and small mammals.


For her Master's thesis, she wants to study Phylogeography and Evolution of Howler monkeys (genus Alouatta), co-advised by Dr. Eugene Harris from Queensborough- CUNY.

Daija Bobe

Daija was investigating relationship between genetic variation and geographic distribution within and across Ecpleopus gaudichaudii. She aimed to compare genetic structure to climate and topography in order to understand the history of this species, mainly focusing on its responses to former climate change.

Kai Van Vlack

Kai investigated niche evolution in Gymnophthalmid lizards.

Danielle Rivera



Danielle graduated from the City College of New York with a B.S. in Biology in 2013, and an MSc in Biology in 2015. For her undergraduate and Master's research , she described the phylogenetics and phylogeography of widespread South American Mabuya skink species, and the various effects that landscape heterogeneity and environmental differences have on genetic variation in these species. She is now a Ph.D. student in Dr. Matthew Fujita's Lab at the University of Texas - Arlington.

Maria Amin


Maria completed her Master's with a thesis entitled "Biological reserves under climate migration: a case study in Brazil's Atlantic Rainforest." She is now a Parks Analyst at the NYC Department of Parks & Recreation.

Barbara Rizzo


For her Master's work, Barb studied host-pathogen dynamics in the Australian Wet Tropics in collaboration with Dr. Robert Puchendorf from James Cook University. Her thesis was entitled "Chytrid loads, pathogen prevalence, & contemporary host source-sink dynamics in dry vs. wet forests: evaluating refugia from disease in Australian torrent frogs". Barbara is now a NY Teaching Fellow teaching at the High School of Telecommunication Arts and Technology.

Ivandy Castro-Astor


Ivandy's work focused on phylogeographic patterns of Manakins, which are Neotropical passerines known for their sexual dimorphism, elaborate courtship display, and lek-breeding systems. Her thesis was entitled "Phylogeographic study of two Neotropical bird species, Red-headed manakin (Pipra rubrocapilla) and white-crowned manakin (Dixiphia pipra)". Ivandy now works with CUNY's Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation.

Zoe Spanos


Zoe's dissertation focused on the spatial patterns of genetic diversity in glass frogs of the Atlantic Rainforest, as part of the lab's montane diversity project. Her thesis was entitled "Comparative phylogeography of glassfrogs (Vitreorana) endemic to the Brazilian Atlantic Rainforest."

Danielle Grace


Danielle is exploring the link between climate stability and montane biodiversity by analyzing phyloendemism among multiple species' lineages, including amphibians, avians, herps, mammals, and invertebrates. She is now pursuing a PhD at Fordham University in Evolutionary Biology.


Former Undergraduate Students


Sara El Houzaly

Sara came to New York to finish up her studies after graduating from high school in Morocco. She started attending LaGuardia community College where she joined many programs that helped her discover her passion for the field of evolutionary biology and biodiversity. One of these programs was the NIH bridges program, in which she conducted a research about the influence of climate change on zoonotic diseases and learned more about how populations change in response to changes in climate. Her interest in this field led her to the Carnaval Lab, where she further deepened her understanding of evolutionary biology, phylogeography and the use of machine learning to understand patterns of genetic diversity. She is interested in applying these concepts in the future to study hominids and the factors that lead to mass extinctions, bottlenecks and the collapse of ancient human civilizations.


Karla Jacome


Karla joined the Carnaval lab as an undergraduate in September 2019. She is currently pursuing her bachelor’s degree from the City College of New York in Biochemistry. Her project in the lab is focused on analyzing the effect of environmental factors in the tree frog sister species pair: Hypsiboas semilineatus and H. geographicus. She is also the co-founder of an organization called STEM Hive, which provides resources for middle school students to engage and retain their early interest in STEM. In the future, Karla is interested in integrating biochemical processes into species distribution modeling, to understand how biochemistry can affect ecosystems in South America.


Carolina Perez

Carolina is an undergraduate completing a BS in Biology at the City College of New York. She is currently interested in creating species distribution models using Wallace to determine the spatial distribution of the green anole, Anolis punctatus, in the Atlantic Forest during the Pleistocene and in the present. She is interested in learning the relationship between species and the biotic factors within the environment.

When not in the lab, she is the CEO of STEM Hive, a nonprofit organization that empowers young underrepresented students who are interested in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) to pursue an interest. She conducts workshops in Woodside, Queens teaching a group of students different topics in STEM along with her cofounders.


Weijun Liang


Weijun is pursuing a degree of BS in Biotechnology in City College of New York. His honors project is focusing on the phylogeny of Pajama frogs in the Hypsiboas polytaenius clade. His interest is to study molecular evolution, phylogenetics, and comparative genomics with the application of biotechnology and bioinformatics in the future.

Hina Chaudry


Hina graduated in 2012. Her project focused on the biogeography of Anolis lizards in Brazil.

Joyce Chan


Joyce worked on the phylogenetics of the frog Hypsiboas albomarginatus.


Former Post-Docs

Jason L. Brown


Google Scholar Page 

Jason’s ongoing projects with the Carnaval Lab are focusing on the integration of generalized dissimilarity models (GDMs), phyloGDMs, and using spatiotemporally explicit demographic and genetic models to investigate the explicit mechanisms underlying the diversification processes and patterns in the Atlantic Rainforest of Brazil. He is now an Assistant Professor at Southern Illinois University.


Eric Waltari


Eric is an evolutionary ecologist interested in combining molecular methods and species distribution modeling to examine the drivers of spatial patterns of species and genetic diversity. He currently works at the Aaron Diamond AIDS Research Center.


Former visiting students

Visiting Students

Erik Choueri

Erik is an ecologist who graduated from Universidade Estadual Paulista (UNESP Rio Claro-São Paulo/Brazil), and has Masters degree in Ecology from Instituto Nacional de Pesquisas da Amazônia (INPA-Manaus/Brazil). He is currently a Ph.D. student in the Genetics, Conservation, and Evolutionary Biology program at INPA and a visiting student at The City College of New York.


In his graduation project, he used molecular tools to understand the population dynamics of gray dolphins in an estuarine region in southeastern Brazil. During his Masters, he investigated the phylogeographic patterns of Antbirds that occupy riverine islands in the Amazon Basin. Currently, he is using a phylogeographic endemism approach to identify areas with an accumulation of lineages of small vertebrates (rodents, marsupials, and lizards) in the Amazon, and identifying the historical drivers responsible for these patterns. He is interested in biogeography, phylogeography, population genetics, and the evolution of neotropical organisms.


Lidia Martins

Lidia graduated with a Bachelor degree from Pontifícia Universidade Católica do Rio Grande do Sul (PUC-RS/Brazil) and has her Master degree in Animal Biology from Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul (UFRGS/Brazil). In her Master's she used population ecology to evaluate the conservation status of a lizard species endemic to the coastal zone of Rio Grande do Sul (Brazil) by monitoring three of the four known native populations using mark-recapture models.

Now, she is a PhD candidate in Ecology at the National Institute of Amazonian Research (INPA-Manaus/Brazil). She is interest in understand how natural populations have responded to past climate change and refine models to infer species extinction risks and adaptive potentials due to future global climate change. Lidia joined the Carnaval Lab with a Fulbright Fellowship to work on her PhD project for 9 months (2019-2020).

Lilian Sayuri Ouchi de Melo

Lilian graduated in Biology from Universidade Estadual Paulista (UNESP) in Brazil, where she also developed her master and current is doing her PhD. During her master's she was interested in tadpoles diversity and distribution across microhabitats within Atlantic Rainforest ponds and streams. In her PhD she is interested in understanding how the composition, morphological traits and evolutionary history of anurans influence the structure of assemblages on Tropical biomes. She focuses on patterns and process involved on anuran community assemblage. Her PhD aims at integrating biogeography, functional and evolutionary ecology to (i) describe and explain how several facets of biodiversity are distributed on Brazilian biomes and (ii) how we can improve conservation strategies for the most threatened vertebrate group of the world (amphibians) applying a multi-faceted approach. She is visiting The Carnaval Lab to learn and understand better how the biogeographic and evolutionary process could be influencing the current diversity of anurans in South America.

Carolina de Barros Machado da Silva


Carolina did her Undergrad and Masters at Universidade Federal de Pernambuco (Brazil). During this period, she investigated evolutionary dynamics of B chromosomes front the karyotypic characteristics of an endemic grasshopper from Northeastern Brazil.


Currently, Carolina is developing her PhD project at Universidade Federal de São Carlos (Brazil). She studies phylogenetics and phylogeography of Neotropical freshwater fishes. Her aim is to know which processes (ecological and/or historical) are responsible for actual ichthyfauna distribution pattern in South America.

Laryssa Sakayanagi Teixeira

Laryssa graduated with a degree in Biology from UNESP Rio Claro/SP-Brazil in 2013 and is currently a Masters student in the Haddad Lab
For her undergraduate research project, she described the genetic divergence of Ischocnema holti (Anura, Brachycephalidae) a frog species from the Brazilian Atlantic Forest. Her Master's project involved an expansion of her undergrad work, in which she includes more samples and increase the number molecular markers to understand the phylogeography of this species.

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