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I advise students at graduate and undergraduate levels. If you are interested in working with me in Panama, feel free to send me an email describing briefly your research interests.

The Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute supports numerous interns and fellows each year who want to gain research experience in the tropics. To know more about Internship and Fellowship opportunities, visit this link

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Helio Quintero, BSc
Universitad de Panamá, Panamá

Helio is interested in studying how the evolutionary history of shallow tropical ecosystems separated by the Isthmus of Panama affect the way they will respond to environmental changes. Helio is currently investigating the relative contribution of hosts and environments at driving the composition of gut microbiomes in butterflyfishes occuring on both sides of the Istmus of Panama.


Natasha Hinojosa, PhD student
University of California, Santa Cruz, USA

Natasha's research leverages one of the most remarkable natural experiments, the rise of the Central American Isthmus, to understand how coral reef fishes adapt to striking environmental differences. Natasha is particularly interested in the plasticity and evolution of feeding traits that are under strong selection. 


Viviane Ali Suarez, BsC student
Universidad Latina, Panamá

Viviane is pursuing an undergraduate degree in biotechnology. Her research uses Environmental DNA (eDNA) sequencing to investigate the cryptic diversity of Pocillopora corals in the Tropical Eastern Pacific. 

Laura Lardinois, PhD student
McGill University, Canada


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Catalina Rodríguez Guerra, BSc

Universidad de Cundinamarca, Colombia

As an environmental engineer by training, Catalina has been interested in studying the ecological services provided by microbes in tropical ecosystems. Catalina has collaborated in different projects. She has initially been looking at the relationship between biomass and invertebrate biodiversity. She is now participating in a study looking at the relative contribution of the host and the environment at driving the composition and evolution of microbes associated with sister species separated by the Isthmus of Panama. Currently, she is working in the molecular lab at Naos learning molecular techniques and analytical tools for interpreting sequence data.


Friederike Clever, PhD student 

Manchester Metropolitan University, UK

Friederike is interested in understanding how ecological communities respond to environmental changes. Her research combines community ecology with molecular and behavioral methods. She uses metabarcoding to study the diets of benthic feeding fishes (corallivores and invertivores) across reefs with different benthic communities in Bocas del Toro, Panama, and on the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef in Belize. Metabarcoding allows her to describe fish diets to a high taxonomic resolution and to reveal prey items that would be difficult to detect with conventional methods. Friederike uses this detailed dietary knowledge to understand to what degree benthic feeding fishes rely on particular benthic taxa and the consequences of changing benthic habitats on the feeding behavior and fitness of coral reef fishes.

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Nicole Knight, PhD student 

McGill University, Canada

Nicole studies how trophic interactions shape local and global patterns of biodiversity. Her work in Panama aims at a) better understanding how symbiotic gut microbes might facilitate herbivory in highly seasonal environments, and b) determining the extent to which biotic interactions generate patterns of invertebrate diversity across a Caribbean seascape.


Bryan Nguyen, PhD student 

George Washington University, USA

Bryan is generally interested in the use of high-throughput DNA sequencing technologies and computational biology to better understand the patterns and drivers of marine biodiversity. He uses molecular tools to ask how taxonomic and phylogenetic diversity scale with geographic area, body size and habitat diversity across tropical ecosystems. Bryan is also testing the ability of environmental DNA (eDNA) in seawater at detecting patterns of diversity at different spatial scales across a tropical seascape.

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Estelle Bapst, Masters student 

Université Paris-Sorbonne, France

Estelle is conducting a Masters in Biodiversity and Conservation of Marine Ecosystems at the Sorbonne University in Paris. Her project at STRI uses sequencing of ancient environmental DNA to explore millennial scale changes in biodiversity on coral reefs of the Tropical Eastern Pacific. She is also keen on diving, surfing and dancing. Travel is another one of her passions. She is eager to discover  new countries and traditions.


Fleur Bruggemann, Masters student 

Université Paris-Sorbonne, France

Fleur is interested in the evolution of host-symbiont interactions and how they  contribute to shape biodiversity in marine systems. For her master thesis, she is investigating the parallel evolution of coral reef fish sister species and their gut microbial communities on either side of the Isthmus of Panama.

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Abby Cannon, PhD (2018)

SCRIPPS Institution of Oceanography, USA

Abby studies how disturbances by animals affect the ecology of seagrass beds. Part of her work has focused on how simulated manatee grazing and stingray biorturbation affects infauna Caribbean seagrass communities.

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Rossana Romo, BSc (2019)

Pontificia Universidad Catolica del Ecuador

Rossana is interested is studying coastal ecosystem functions and services. Her research in Panama focusses on how light and temperature influence grazing activity in intertidal environments of the Eastern Pacific coast of Panama. She also uses an experimental and DNA-based approaches to look at how nutrients and grazing affect communities of interstitial microorganisms living in the sediments associated to the Caribbean Turtlegrass, Thalassia testudineum.


Jade Sourisse, PhD student (2019)

University of Hong Kong

Jade is interested in understanding the effect of habitat degradation on ecological interactions. For her masters research, Jade is looking at how the gut microbiome of a coral reef fish varies between nine reefs that range in coral cover and wave exposure in Bocas del Toro. 


Rhiannon Harvey, BSc (2019)

Duke University, USA

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During her undergraduate studies, Rhiannon focused on marine biology at the macro level. For her senior thesis, she used micro-CT to examine the morphometrics of whale eyes. Now she is working to gain experience in marine biology at the micro level. She is currently working on two projects, one using tropical reef fish and one using snapping shrimp, to examine how host and environmental factors affect the microbiome in pairs of sister species on either side of the Isthmus of Panama.

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Elaine Shen, PhD student (2017)

University of Rhode Island, USA

Elaine is interested in fisheries ecology, specifically how small-scale coral reef fisheries affect biodiversity and food security. During her senior year at Rice University, she spent a summer at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute working on her undergraduate thesis, which compared fish detection using environmental DNA and visual surveys in the mangrove, seagrass, coral, sand, and boat dock habitats of Bocas del Toro. This research has expanded to incorporate patterns of metazoan diversity more generally and is in preparation for publication.

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Joan Antaneda, BSc (2016-2017)

Universitad de Panama, Panama

Joan is interested in comparing the distribution and ecological role of molluscs in mangrove ecosystems between the Eastern Pacific and the Caribbean. She was involved in a project looking at the role of root epibionts at provisioning habitat for fishes and invertebrates

Academic level and affiliation at the time of advising are indicated unless specified

* student co-author on peer reviewed publication(s)

Graduate students

2015    Nora Kandler*, PhD stdt, Victoria Univ Wellington (current), Masters research co-advisor

             Rodrigo Villalobos*, PhD stdt, KAUST Univ, Masters research co-advisor

             Liz Scheimer, MS, graduated from Stanford Univ, SI NMNH internship

2014    Laura Dufranc, MSc, EPHE Paris Sorbonne, Masters research co-advisor

2013    Mehreen Mughal, MSc, Georgetown Univ, SI NMNH summer intern

2010    Maxime Beraud*, MSc, EPHE Paris Sorbonne, Masters thesis co-advisor


Undergraduate students


2017    Amanda Chiachi, BS, Univ of California Davis, STRI summer intern

             Elaine Shen, BS stdt, Univ of Rhodes Island (current), Undergraduate senor thesis co-advisor

             Rosalyn Lam, BS, Univ of California Davis, STRI summer intern

             Daniella Heflin, BS stdt, George Washington Univ, STRI summer intern

             Giovanna Kupiec, BS stdt, George Washington Univ, STRI summer intern

             Collin McMillan, BS, Univ of Notre Dame, STRI summer intern

             Ryan Herold, BS, Long Island Univ/Watson foundation fellow, STRI summer intern


2016    Lyle McMillan, BS stdt, Duke Univ, STRI summer intern

             Natasha Hinojosa, BS stdt, Univ North Carolina, STRI summer intern


2014    Sydney Rosebraugh*, BS, Univ of Chicago, SI NMNH intern

             Allison Snider*, BS stdt, Central Michigan Univ, SI NMNH summer intern

             Tommy Devine*, BA, Ohio State Univ, SI NMNH intern. Hired as project manager at SI NMNH following internship training. Supervisor: Dr. Carole Baldwin


2013    Victoria Morgan, BA stdt, Cornell Univ, Undergraduate thesis co-advisor. Awarded NSF graduate fellowship, currently PhD student at UC Davis. Supervisor: Prof. Rick Grosberg

            Amanda Devine*, BS, Dartmouth College, SI NMNH intern. Hired as data manager at SI NMNH following internship training. Supervisor: Dr. Jonathan Coddington

            Samantha Clark, BS stdt, Univ of Virginia, SI NMNH summer intern


2010   Natalia Agudelo*, BS stdt, Northeastern Univ, SI NMNH intern Hired as lab. technician at SI NMNH following internship training. Supervisor: Lee Weigt

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