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International Graduate Student Fellows

The Center for Biodiversity and Conservation (CBC) created the International Graduate Student Fellowship Program in 1994 to train scientists from regions of the world where biodiversity is richest and most threatened. The program focuses on training in ecology, evolutionary biology, and conservation biology in tandem with the CBC's Network of Conservation Educators and Practitioners (NCEP), and aims to equip students with the practical and theoretical training they will need to address environmental problems in their home countries. All Graduate Student Fellows are advised by a Museum scientist, attend classes at the Museum in addition to those at their chosen university, conduct research, and participate in CBC projects. The program currently has four fellows, and nine Ph.D. students and four Masters students have completed their studies since the program's inception.

Current Fellows

The CBC's newest fellow is Souvanny Ounmanny from Lao PDR, who is pursuing a Masters in Conservation Biology at Columbia University. He has been a coordinator of NCEP activities in Lao PDR for several years, and plans to link his experience in community and professional education to the field of biodiversity conservation. He is also a recipient of the prestigious Christensen Conservation Leadership Scholarship, awarded by the Wildlife Conservation Society.

Hugo Ernesto Escobar , from Mexico, completed his first year of coursework at the Ph.D. program at the City University of New York (CUNY). Mr. Escobar also worked closely with Dr. Melanie Stiassny (Axelrod Research Curator at the Museum's Department of Ichthyology) to sort fish collected in the Lower Congo River in West-Central Africa during 2005 and 2006, and produced a new identification key for the genus Stomatorinus.

Leo Douglas with Poster

Leo Douglas from Jamaica.

Kevin Frey


Leo Ricardo Douglas , from Jamaica, entered the Ph.D. program at Columbia in the fall of 2004 as a Fulbright Fellow. He just completed his third year, and among his academic activities were the successful completion of his first advanced examination and the development of his thesis research project on the biological and social impacts of Caribbean protected areas. He also took part in a collaborative international course on Ecosystem Services in Managed Landscapes and presented his team's results at a meeting of the National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis held in California in May.

Brazilian Valeria Tavares is pursuing her doctorate at CUNY, focusing on the phylogeny and biogeography of Neotropical bat families, a group known as "short-faced bats." Her research interests also include the community ecology, functional morphology, and natural history of Brazilian bats.

Past Fellows
Chanda Bennett in the field

Chanda Bennett of the United States.

Heather Fener


Chanda Bennett of the United States obtained her doctorate from Columbia University and joined the CBC as a post-doctoral fellow in spring 2007. Her work focuses on developing strategies for enhancing the recruitment and retention of individuals from historically underrepresented groups in the field of conservation biology, as well as developing urban ecology and education>programs.

Bolivian Nuria Bernal graduated from the Master's program at Columbia in 2001. Ms. Bernal played an integral role in the initial implementation of NCEP in Bolivia, and in 2004 collaborated with the AMNH in the production of photographic exhibitions on biodiversity at two Bolivian natural history museums. Ms. Bernal is now working in Bolivia on CBC-supported community-based conservation projects, and on several Bolivian wildlife survey projects.

Colombian Liliana Dávalos obtained her Ph.D. at Columbia in 2004. Her research on bats has uncovered a systematic underestimation of species diversity in the Caribbean. After two years of post-doctoral research in genomics at the University of Arizona, Tucson, and at the AMNH, she recently joined the faculty at Stony Brook University, Long Island, New York.

Carlos Iván Zambrana Flores , from Bolivia, completed his Masters program at Columbia in 2005. His work focused mainly on predictive models of species distribution applied to amphibians. Mr. Zambrana has returned to Bolivia, where he is collaborating with NCEP activities and doing research on frog conservation. He teaches undergraduate and graduate courses as part of the faculty of the Universidad Mayor de San Andrés in La Paz.

After completing his doctorate at CUNY in 1999, Abebe Getahun returned to Ethiopia, where he is an assistant professor of biology at Addis Ababa University. His studies of the freshwater fish genus, Garra, provide important information for understanding and conserving freshwater biodiversity in Ethiopia and elsewhere in Africa.

Le Duc Minh , from Vietnam, completed the doctoral program at Columbia in the spring of 2006. His research centered on the systematics, biogeography, and conservation status of the turtle family Bataguridae in Southeast Vietnam. His award-winning book, Vietnam: A Natural History , co-authored with CBC Director Dr. Eleanor Sterling and CBC Scientist Dr. Martha Hurley, was published by Yale University Press last year. Dr. Le continues to carry out research at the Museum but will soon return to Vietnam to conduct conservation research, teach, and disseminate NCEP materials in several Vietnamese institutions.

Peruvian Victor Pacheco obtained his doctorate at CUNY in 2003, for his research on the systematics of forest-dwelling Thomasomyine mice. Dr. Pacheco is associate professor and curator of mammals at the Universidad Nacional Mayor de San Marcos.

Djunijanti Peggie , from Indonesia, received her doctorate at Cornell University in 2001. Her research, on the systematics of the Indo-Australian butterfly sub-family Heliconiina, is important for recognizing the impact of changes to the endangered island habitats in which these butterflies live. She is now at the Indonesian Institute of Science's Zoological Museum in Bogor.

Ana Luz Porzecanski , from Uruguay, completed her Ph.D. at Columbia in 2003, where she carried out research on the systematics and historical biogeography of South American aridland birds, as well as on international environmental policy issues. She has since joined the CBC staff as the NCEP Coordinator for the Americas, and oversees training workshops and the production of NCEP modules in Bolivia, Mexico, Peru, and the United States. Dr. Porzecanski also teaches Conservation Biology and Evolution at Columbia University.

Vanessa Rasoamampianina

Vanessa Rasoamampianina from Madagascar at an NCEP workshop.

Center for Biodiversity and Conservation, American Museum of Natural History


Vanessa Rasoamampianina , from Madagascar, completed the Masters program at Columbia in 2004. Ms. Rasoamampianina's thesis centered on the efficacy of ecotourism teaching materials in conveying the importance of biodiversity to whale watchers in Madagascar. Ms. Rasoamampianina now serves as the national coordinator for NCEP in Madagascar, where she organizes training workshops with university professors and conservation professionals.

Jean Claude Razafimahaimodison , from Madagascar, completed his Masters degree at CUNY in 1998. He received a Ph.D. in Ecology and Evolution from the University of Massachusetts in 2004 and has since returned to Madagascar, where he works at Ranomafana National Park.

Peruvian Diana Silva obtained her doctoral thesis in 2000 at Cornell University. She is now a post-doctoral fellow at the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco where she continues to do research on spider diversity.

Marcelo Weksler , from Brazil, completed his Ph.D. degree at CUNY in 2004. Dr. Weksler joined the University of Alaska, Fairbanks, as a post-doctoral researcher in 2005, where he is conducting research on phylogeography of arctic mammals and on the evolution of hemoglobin genes, as well as continuing his studies of Neotropical mammalian fauna.

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