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Gerstner Scholars Program

Gerstner Scholars Program - Biology

Generously funded by the Gerstner Family Foundation, the Gerstner Scholars program will encourage and support groundbreaking research in biology, with an emphasis on genomics, including such topics as microbes, mammals, invertebrates, marine life, and computational biology.

The work of scholars at AMNH co-supported through this competitive program will have implications for such broad themes as: 

  • Human and medical research that is informed by understanding the scientific composition and behavior of other species; and
  • Advancing our understanding of the evolution and diversity of species and the "tree of life."

Chosen for their creative approaches to research questions that are likely to lead to important new discoveries in their respective fields, Gerstner Scholars will include biological scientists who have demonstrated outstanding performance that merits recognition early in their careers.  Awardees must have received their degree or deposited their dissertation before they begin their appointment. 

Gerstner Scholars in Bioinformatics and Computational Biology: Click here for details

Current Gerstner Scholars: Nathan Lujan | Ariadna Morales | David Wright | Phillip Skipwith | Benjamin Titus

Alumni Gerstner Scholars: Federico Lopez-Osorio | Edward A. Myers | Lu Yao | James Herrera | Brendan Reid | Nelson Salinas | Abigail Curtis | Steven Davis | Christopher Martinez | Aaron Heiss | Adrien Perrard | Sara Ruane | J. Angel Soto-Centeno | Faysal Bibi | Jo Wolfe | Mercer Brügler | Timothy Guiher | Jonah Choiniere | Jose M. Padial | Christian Kammerer | Cartsen Kamenz

Current Gerstner Scholars

Dr. Nathan Lujan, RGGS and Divistion of Vertebrate Zoology

Research Interests: Macroevolutionary ramifications of anatomical decoupling in the hyperdiverse Neotropical catfish clade Loricarioidea.

Ph.D.: Auburn University, Biological Sciences; "Jaw morphofunctional diversity, trophic ecology, and historical biogeography of the Neotropical suckermouth armored catfishes (Siluriformes, Loricariidae)", 2009

Dr. Ariadna Morales, RGGS and Division of Vertebrate Zoology

Research Interests: Speciation with gene flow, drivers of ecological speciation and local adaptation, and convergent evolution using as a model system flying mammals and other vertebrates by integrating cutting-edge genomic tools and morphometric and environmental approaches.

Ph.D.: The Ohio State University, Evolution, Ecology and Organismal Biology; "The evolutionary history of the bat genus Myotis with emphasis on North American species", 2018

Dr. David Wright, RGGS and Division of Paleontology

Research Interests: Macroevolution; paleobiology; paleontological approaches to phylogenetics and comparative methods; the evolution and systematics of echinoderms, especially the Crinoidea (sea lilies and feather stars).

Ph.D.:The Ohio State University, Geological Sciences; “Phylogenetic Paleobiology: Diversification and Evolutionary Radiation in Paleozoic Crinoids”, 2016.

Dr. Phillip Skipwith, RGGS and Division of Vertebrate Zoology

Research Interests: Macroevolutionary dynamics of an ecologically and morphologically diverse group of snakes, the pseudoxyrhophiine lamprophiids of Madagascar.

Ph.D.: University of California, BerkeleyIntegrative Biology; "The Phylogenomics and Macroevolutionary Dynamics of Australasian Diplodactyloid Geckos”, 2017

Dr. Benjamin Titus, RGGS and Division of Invertebrate Zoology

Research Interests: Evolution of tropical sea anemone symbioses: systematics, species delimitation, comparative phylogeography, genomics, coalescent modelling.

Ph.D.: The Ohio State University, Evolution, Ecology, & Organismal Biology; “Comparative phylogeography of a multi-level sea anemone symbiosis: effects of host specificity on patterns of co-diversification and genetic biodiversity”, 2017

Alumni Gerstner Scholars

Dr. Federico Lopez-Osorio, RGGS and Division of Invertebrate Zoology

Research Interests: Phylogenetics of Social Wasps (Vespidae), Comparative Transcriptomics, Molecular Evolution of Sociality.

Ph.D.: University of Vermont, Biology; “Phylogenetics and Molecular Evolution of Highly Eusocial Wasps”, 2016.

Dr. Edward Myers, RGGS and Division of Vertebrate Zoology

Research Interests: Snake evolution, systematics, and taxonomy; comparative population genomics and phylogeography; speciation

Ph.D.: City University of New York, Biology; “Comparative population genomics and speciation of snakes across the North American deserts”, 2016.

Dr. Lu Yao, RGGS and Divisions of Invertebrate Zoology and Vertebrate Zoology

Research Interests: Ancient DNA, phylogenetic systematics, phylogenetic comparative methods, morphology, evolution on islands

Ph.D.: University of Chicago, Evolutionary Biology; "Phylogeography and phenotypic evolution of Macaca fascicularis in Southeast Asia", 2016.

Dr. James Herrera, RGGS and Divisions of Vertebrate Zoology and Paleontology

Research Interests:Macroecology, phylogenetic systematics, biogeography, phylogenetic comparative methods

Ph.D.: Stony Brook University, Biological Anthropology; “Phylogenetic systematics and biogeography of lemurs from Madagascar”, 2015

Dr. Brendan Reid, RGGS and Division of Vertebrate Zoology

Research Interests: Turtle evolution and conservation, phylogeography, historical demography, genomics, ecological niche models

Ph.D.: University of Wisconsin-Madison, Wildlife Ecology; “Genetics and Demography of Wisconsin Turtles: From Landscape to Local”, 2015

Dr. Nelson Salinas, RGGS and Division of Invertebrate Zoology

Research Interests: Ericaceae (Blueberry family) taxonomy and phylogenetics, Neotropical plant biogeography, bioinformatics

Ph.D.: City University of New York, Biology; “Systematics and Biogeography of Orthaea (Ericaceae: Vaccinieae)”, 2015.

Dr. Abigail Curtis, RGGS and Division of Vertebrate Zoology

Research Interests: functional and evolutionary morphology of mammals, x-ray computed tomography (CT) scans, paranasal sinuses, comparative methods

Ph.D.: University of California, Los Angeles, Biology; “A three-dimensional quantitative investigation of frontal sinus morphology and function in mammalian carnivores”, 2014.

Dr. Steven Davis, RGGS and Division of Invertebrate Zoology

Research Interests: Morphological and molecular systematics of extinct and extant weevils (Curculionoidea); comparative morphology, embryology, histology, and evolutionary developmental biology; development and evolution of the weevil rostrum.

Ph.D.: University of Kansas, Department of Ecology & Evolutionary Biology; "Morphology, phylogeny, and evolutionary development in the weevils (Insecta: Coleoptera: Curculionoidea)" (, 2014.

Dr. Christopher Martinez, RGGS and Division of Vertebrate Zoology

Research Interests: Morphological diversity of fishes; evolution of jaw structure; relationships between form and function; applications of geometric morphometrics and simulation modeling.

Ph.D.: Stony Brook University, School of Marine & Atmospheric Sciences; “Diversity of skates (Batoidea: Rajoidei) and the spatial structure of NW Atlantic communities”, 2014.

Dr. Aaron Heiss, RGGS and Division of Invertebrate Zoology

Research Interests:  Eukaryote diversity, specifically that of ‘basal’ organisms (protists), and especially that of ‘orphan’ lineages (those without known close relatives) and of organisms representing likely ancestral states.  Cellular morphology; electron microscopy; molecular phylogenetics; sample collection, single-cell isolation, and culturing.

Ph.D.: Dalhousie University, Department of Biology; “Studies on the Morphology and Evolution of ‘Orphan’ Eukaryotes”, 2012.

Dr. Adrien Perrard, RGGS and Division of Invertebrate Zoology

Research Interests: The use of shape data in phylogenetic analyses; evolution of social wasps (Vespidae); systematics; geometric morphometrics; morphological and molecular phylogenetics; wing venation.

Ph.D.: Museum National d’Histoire Naturelle in Paris, France, department of Systematics and Evolution, “Systematics and geometric morphometrics: Evolution of the wing venation in the genus Vespa (Hymenoptera: Vespidae)”, 2012.

Dr. Sara Ruane, RGGS and Division of Vertebrate Zoology

Research Interests: Systematics and evolution of snakes.

Ph. D.: City University of New York Graduate Center, Biology (EEB); “Phylogenetics, Phylogeography, Historical Demography and Morphology of Milksnakes (genus Lampropeltis)”, 2012.

Dr. J. Angel Soto-Centeno, RGGS and Division of Verteberate Zoology

Research Interests: Extinction and speciation of insular bats and the role of climate change on population structure and migration. Biogeography, ecological niche modeling, coalescent modeling, paleontology, phylogeography, and phylogenetics. 

Ph.D.: University of Florida, Department of Biology; "Extinction and phylogeography of Caribbean bats during the late Quaternary," 2013

Dr. Faysal Bibi, RGGS and Divisions of Vertebrate Zoology and Paleontology

Research Interests: Neogene mammalian evolution in Africa and Asia; phylogenetics; paleoecology; biogeography; Bovidae; environment of human evolution.

Ph.D.: Yale University, Department of Geology & Geophysics, "Evolution, Systematics, and Paleoecology of Bovinae (Mammalia: Artiodactyla) from the Late Miocene to the Recent", 2009.

Dr. Jo Wolfe, Division of Invertebrate Zoology and RGGS

Research Interests: The role of ontogeny in reconstructing phylogeny; fossil arthropods, especially Cambrian stem-group members and (pan) crustaceans; theoretical morphological and molecular phylogenetics; developmental gene evolution and its role in the Cambrian explosion; morphological data archiving. 

Ph.D.: Yale University, Department of Geology & Geophysics; “Fossil, Molecular, and Developmental Approaches to Elucidate Pancrustacean Phylogeny,” 2012

Dr. Mercer R. Brügler, RGGS and Division of Invertebrate Zoology

Research Interests: Evolution and diversity of marine invertebrates, especially cnidarians (anemones, corals, jellyfish and their relatives); deep-sea biology, including dispersal, gene flow and genetic structure in extreme environments (such as Antarctica and chemosynthetic vents and seeps); molecular systematics and evolutionary history of the Class Anthozoa (current focus: sea anemones [actiniarians] and black corals [antipatharians]); evolution of mitochondrial (mt) gene order, gene content, and genome architecture. Tools employed: morphology, mt and nuclear DNA, genome architecture, molecular morphometrics (RNA secondary structure).

Ph.D.: University of Louisiana at Lafayette, Department of Biology; “Molecular Evolution in Black Corals (Cnidaria: Anthozoa: Hexacorallia): Implications for Antipatharian Systematics,” 2011

Dr. Timothy Guiher, RGGS and Division of Vertebrate Zoology

Research Interests:  Systematics, historical biogeography, and population dynamics of reptiles (primarily snakes); genomics; statistical methods of phylogenetics and population genetics.

Ph.D.: The City University of New York, Department of Biology; “Systematics and Historical Biogeography of Agkistrodon contortrix and Agkistrodon piscivorus” 2011.

Dr. Jonah Choiniere, RGGS and Division of Paleontology

Research Interests: Phylogeny and body size evolution of theropod dinosaurs, and understanding the non-avian dinosaur to bird evolutionary transition; anatomy and systematics of coelurosaurian theropods; Middle to Late Jurassic dinosaurian faunas; evolution of serially repetitive morphological structures; application of high-resolution CT technology to ontogenetic and phylogenetic studies.

Ph.D.: The George Washington University, Department of Biological Sciences; “Anatomy and Systematics of Coelurosaurian Theropods from Wucaiwan, People’s Republic of China, with Comments on the Evolution of the Theropod Forelimb,” 2010.

Dr. Jose M. Padial, RGGS and Division of Vertebrate Zoology

Research Interests: Taxonomy, phylogenetic systematics, and biogeography of Neotropical amphibians; theory of systematics.

Ph.D.: University of Granada and Museo Nacional de Ciencias Naturales (Madrid); “Integrative Taxonomy of Bolivian Eleutherodactylus and Oreobates (Amphibia: Anura),” 2007.

Dr. Christian Kammerer, RGGS and  Division of Paleontology

Research Interests: Anatomy and phylogeny of early cynodonts and the evolutionary transitions leading to Mammalia; high-resolution CT methods

Ph.D.: University of Chicago, Committee on Evolutionary Biology; “Cranial Disparity in the Non-Mammalian Synapsida,"  2009.

Dr. Carsten Kamenz, RGGS and Division of Invertebrate Zoology

Research Interests: Morphology of scorpions and their evolutionary history; high-resolution CT methods

Ph.D.: Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin (Germany), Department of Biology, specialization in zoology, "Book-lung Morphology -- Implications for Arachnid Phylogeny (Arachnida, Chelicerata)," 2009.