integrative organismal biology in a changing world


Superb starling family

principal investigator

Dustin R. Rubenstein 

Dustin is a Professor of Ecology, Evolution and Environmental Biology at Columbia University. His research spans molecules to populations, from invertebrates to vertebrates, and across levels of analysis, scales of biological organization, and the globe.  He takes an integrative approach to understand why complex animal societies form and how organisms cope with environmental change through studies that combine behavior, ecology, and evolution with those of the underlying molecular, neural, and neuroendocrine mechanisms. He has studied a variety of animals, including reptiles, birds, mammals, insects, and crustaceans on every continent except Antarctica, as well as in the Caribbean and Pacific Oceans.



Patrick Kennedy ’21 - ’24

Marie Skłodowska-Curie Fellow

Simons Foundation Fellow

Patrick is interested in why animals cooperate – and what can tip them over into conflict. During his PhD, he studied the evolution of altruism in South American wasps, and during his first postdoc he developed theoretical models. At Columbia, he will investigate how tropical and temperate social insect populations may differ in their social evolution. He will be studying a species of wasp that spans much of Africa and working with populations in Cameroon and South Africa.

Stefanie Siller Wilks ’22 - 25

Columbia Frontiers of Science Fellow

Stefanie is examining how early life conditions influence patterns of DNA methylation, social behavior, and fitness later in life. During her PhD, she asked similar questions in birds, focusing on house sparrow populations from across the United States. For her postdoctoral work, she will be transitioning to bury beetles, where she can work with populations in the lab to more easily to manipulate early life conditions, and because they have much smaller genomes than birds. She is working with both cooperative beetles from Asia, as well as locally with beetles from New York to develop a new lab-based study system.

graduate students

Alexis Earl PhD ’19 -

Alexis is interested in the evolution of complex social behavior, communication, and cognition. For her MS she studied whether female ornamentation in Indian peafowl signals social status, and whether hormonal mechanisms link variation in ornamentation with status. For her PhD, she is using long-term behavioral data in superb starlings to investigate how the social and ecological environments influence individual level trajectories of reproductive roles within complex social groups, as well as the subsequent impacts on group stability and structure.

research associates


Joseph Solomon

Lab Manager

Joe received his MA from Hunter College before joining the lab. He manages the lab in New York, overseeing students, helping with bioinformatics and data analysis, and all aspects of lab work.


Wilson Nderitu

Field Manager

Wilson has worked on the African starling project since 2001. He left in 2006 to complete his Diploma in Wildlife Management at the Kenya Wildlife Service Training Institute.


Elkana Korir

Field Assistant

Korir has worked on the African starling project since 2019.  Previously he worked on weaver and guinea fowl projects at the Mpala Research Centre.

former lab members



Renata Mazzei ’19 - ’21 

Swiss National Science Foundation Fellow

Postdoctoral Associate, Université du Québec à Trois-Rivières

Mazzei Webpage


Shana Caro ’17 - ’20 

Simons Foundation Fellow

Assistant Professor, Adelphi University

Caro Webpage


Solomon Chak ’16 - ’19 

Life Sciences Research Fellow

Assistant Professor, SUNY Old Westbury

Chak Lab


Rafael Maia ’15 - ’18 

Simons Foundation Fellow

Data Scientist, Apple Inc.


Katherine Brooks ’14 - ’17 

Columbia Frontiers of Science Fellow

Collection Analysis Librarian, Columbia University


Stephen Harris ’15 - ’16 

Columbia Frontiers of Science Fellow

Assistant Professor, SUNY Purchase

Harris Lab


Melissa Mark ’09 - ’12 

NSF Postdoctoral Fellow

Director of Conservation Programming,

University of Washington

PhD students


Stefanie Siller PhD ’22

NSF Graduate Research Fellow 

Columbia Frontiers of Science Fellow

Wilks Webpage


Shailee Shah PhD ’22

Postdoctoral Associate, University of Rochester

Shah Webpage


Yi-Ru Cheng PhD ’21

Postdoctoral Associate, Academia Sinica


Jay Falk PhD ’20 (Cornell)

NSF Graduate Research Fellow 

Postdoctoral Associate, University of Washington

Falk Webpage

Sarah Guindre-Parker

Sarah Guindre-Parker PhD ’17

NSERC Graduate Fellow

Assistant Professor, Kennesaw State University

Guindre-Parker Lab

MA students

Jerry Guan

Jerry Shuzhe Guan MA ’22

PhD student, Harvard University

Guan Webpage


Catherine Yung-Yi Lan MA ’21

MD student, Poznań Univ of Medical Sciences


Eleanor Diamant MA ’17

PhD student, UCLA

Diamant Webpage


Yuki Haba MA ’17

PhD student, Princeton University

Haba Webpage


Alyxandra Pikus MA ’17

Senior Program Manager,

Oxbridge Academic Programs


Natalie Hofmeister MA ’15

PhD, Cornell University

Postdoctoral Fellow, Michigan Society of Fellows

Hofmeister Webpage


Rebecca Kelley MA ’13

PhD, New Mexico State University

Senior Data Scientist, Amazon


James Kealey MA ’12

Science teacher,

Richmond High School, Richmond CA


Kathleen Apakupakul MA ’12

Research Associate

Institute for Conservation Medicine,

Saint Louis Zoo 

Apakupakul Webpage


Sara Keen MA ’11

PhD, Cornell University

Senior Signal Processing Engineer, Cruise

undergraduate thesis students


Arden Berlinger CC ’20

Science Research Fellow

PhD student, University of Cambridge


Hannah Skolnik CC ’15

Amgen Scholar

DVM, UC Davis

Associate Veterinarian, VCA Madera Pet Hospital

Laura Booth

Laura Booth CC ’15

Biological Science Technician, Presidio Trust


Lucia Weinman CC ’14

PhD student, Rutgers University


Julia Pilowsky CC ’12

MA, Tufts University

PhD student, University of Copenhagen

Pilowsky Webpage


Caitlin Dean CC ’12

JD, University of Michigan

Associate, Fish & Richardson


Lea Pollack CC ’12

Summer Undergraduate Research Fellow

PhD, UC Davis

NSF Postdoctoral Fellow, Rice University

Pollack Webpage

undergraduate interns

Eriifeoluwa Adelusimo CC ’22 (sTEAM Fellow)

Yutian Lin CC ’22 (sTEAM Fellow)

Ugochinyere Ndukwe CC ’22 (sTEAM Fellow)

Riley Smith CC ’22 (sTEAM Fellow)

Jacob Whitson GS ’22 (sTEAM Fellow)

Nicolas Beltran CC ’22 (sTEAM Fellow)

Sarah Marazzi-Sassoon BC ’22

Debbie Leung CC ’21 

Faith Ajayi CC ’21 (Rabi Scholar)

Ona Jae Lee SEAS ’21

Shoshana Sernik GS ’20

Sophia Kislik BC ’20

Christian Eggers CC ’20

Jake Arlow BC ’19

Joseph Knee CC ’19

Kaiulani Sakaguchi CC ’19

Francesca Garofalo CC ’18

Tatini Mal-Sarkar CC ’17

Michael Spiotta GS ‘17

Karen Bao CC ’16

Fayme Cai CC ’16

Catherine Chen CC ’15

Brahadheeshwar Sundararaju CC ’15

Elora Lopez CC ’15

Nathen Huang CC ’14

Kerstin Nolan CC ’14

Sonalee Rau CC ’14

Madeline Cohen CC ’13

Heather D’Angelo GS ’12

Ben Eckersley CC ’13

Nathan Bailey CC’ 12

Jordan Hollarsmith CC ’12

Linnet Jessell (University of Kings College) 

Suraj Nagaraj (UC Berkeley)

Brynn McCleery (Cornell University)


Jeremy Law CC ’11

MA, Columbia University

Certified Arborist/Natural Resources Specialist


post-baccalaureate interns

Tyler Davis (Cornell University)

Kaitlyn Gaynor (Columbia University)

Rebecca Harris (Cornell University)

Sarah Khalil (Cornell University)

Brynn McCleery (Cornell University)

Lea Pollack (Columbia University)

Stefanie Siller (Princeton University)

Gabrielle Welsh (University of Maryland)

high school interns

Zhaleh Mahootian (Bronx High School of Science ’20)

Hank Marriott (Ethical Culture Fieldston School ’20)

Livia Marchese (Briarcliff High School ’19)

Regina Hashim (home school student ’19)

Samuel Levy (Abram Joshua Heschel School ’18)

Rebecca Marcus (Mamaroneck High School ’18)

Myron Huang (Bronx High School of Science ’18)

Katherine Grygiercyzk (Valley Stream South High School ’17)

Gillian Carling (The Bronx High School of Science ’13)

visiting graduate students and postdocs

Rebecca Calisi (University of California, Berkeley)

Rafael Maia (University of Akron)

Daniel Meliza (University of Chicago)

Juan Rubalcaba (King Juan Carlos University)

visiting faculty

Tim Greives (North Dakota State University)

© 2002-2022  |  Dustin R. Rubenstein