Columbia is a great place to begin or to continue your academic career. In addition to the diverse community in the Department of Ecology, Evolution and Environmental Biology and its partner institutions, the Rubenstein Lab has strong links to colleagues in the Department of Biological Sciences, Department of Psychology, Program in Neurosciences and Behavior, and the Zuckerman Mind, Brain, Behavior Institute. We also interact regularly with colleagues from CUNY, Fordham, Rockefeller, NJIT, NYU, and other NYC academic institutions. Members of the lab typically are affiliated with the American Museum of Natural History, where we do much of our molecular work. We also work closely with the New York Genome Center and a variety of core labs at the Columbia University Medical Center and other local hospitals. We do fieldwork locally near the Black Rock Forest in the Hudson Valley, as well as further away from NYC in Kenya, Central America, and Asia. While Columbia may be relatively small in size, NYC is not. Whether it is access to a lab, a collaborator, or a colleague, most of what you could ever need is only a short subway ride away. And with three international airports, its equally easy to do field work all over the world.


The Rubenstein Lab at Columbia University is always looking for PhD students interested in studying the evolution of complex animal societies and/or how organisms adapt to and cope with environmental change. We are particularly interested in applicants looking to integrate studies of behavior, evolution, ecology, endocrinology, neuroscience, and genomics. Current projects include a long-term study of cooperatively breeding superb starlings in Kenya where we are interested in determining how environmental variation influences behavior, life history, and physiology. Recently, we have expanded our work to multiple sites across Kenya along a broad-scale precipitation gradient to understand how birds adapt to environmental change. A newly sequenced genome of the superb starling is enabling us to study the molecular mechanisms (e.g., gene expression, genetic architecture, epigenetic markers) underlying behavioral and physiological adaptation to climatic variation.


My policy with PhD students is one of guided independence. I encourage you to think big! What are the most interesting problems in behavioral and evolutionary ecology right now and how are you going to solve them? Your goal as a graduate student should be to not only master your topic of study and become an expert in your discipline and study system, but also to push the field and further develop a body of evolutionary or ecological theory. My job is to help you succeed in doing this. I will work with you to develop questions and formulate hypotheses. I will help you become a better writer, both for scientific publications and for grant proposals. Although I will help you become a better field biologist, I will also require that you learn a variety of laboratory techniques so that you become trained as an integrative biologist that can think and work across disciplines. I believe that integrative research is the future of animal behavior. Recognizing this now and being trained this way during your PhD will make you more marketable for postdocs and jobs in the future.


Prospective students should have extensive field and/or lab experience, including having conducted their own independent research. Interested applicants should demonstrate creativity, perseverance, and a passion of science. Students admitted to the PhD program in Environmental Biology will be offered up to five years of support, including a generous stipend, subsidized housing to live in New York City, and modest research funds. They will join a vibrant Department of Ecology, Evolution and Environmental Biology, and also become affiliated with Columbia’s new Center for Integrative Animal Behavior. During their time at Columbia, they are also likely to work closely with colleagues from the American Museum of Natural History and the New York Genome Center.


Interested applicants should email their CV, a summary of previous research experience, and a brief description of the work that they would like to do in graduate school.



There are many opportunities for undergrads to gain experience with molecular techniques, hormone assays, immune assays, bioinformatics, comparative methods, or field work. Students work initially with an older member of the lab, eventually developing their own project for a senior thesis. Ultimately, I hope that each undergraduate will publish their thesis as a first-authored paper in a peer-reviewed journal.

Masters students are generally accepted into the E3B program and then find an advisor during their first year at Columbia. However, if you are interested in working with me, feel free to get in touch.


Because my interests are broad and varied, I am open to postdocs wanting to work on a variety of systems and question. If you might be interested in working in my lab, please email me and we can discuss ideas and opportunities. I currently do not have funding to support postdocs, but I am happy to work together on fellowship applications to fund training at Columbia. The best current opportunities for postdoctoral support are fellowships from the Simons Foundation, Fulbright, Marie Curie, NSF, NERC, NSERC, Life Sciences Research Foundation, The Human Frontiers Program, etc.


     Columbia University, Department of Ecology, Evolution and Environmental Biology, 10th Floor Schermerhorn Extension, MC5557, 1200 Amsterdam Avenue, New York, NY 10027

     Office: 90 Morningside Drive, Basement #3 • Lab: 851-854 Schermerhorn Extension

     Tel: 212-854-4881 • Fax: 212-854-8188 • Lab Tel: 212-854-5330 • Email: dr2497[at] • Twitter: @DustRubenstein