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Collaborators & Students

Field- and collections-based biodiversity research is inherently highly collaborative and provides many opportunities for student participation and training. Throughout my career, I have been delighted to collaborate with a wide range of excellent scientists at various stages of their careers in both the Americas and Europe. I am always interested in opportunities to maximize the fieldwork that I conduct, so if you have hypotheses that you think are ideally tested with field data, please feel free to contact me. Below is a partial list of recent or ongoing collaborators and the projects that these collaborations have facilitated.

My first and most frequent collaborator is my former PhD advisor, Jon Armbruster. Jon fostered my early career with training and financial support for field work in both South America and Africa and has remained a collaborator of mine ever since. We recently co-organized an expedition to the Ireng River in Guyana, and we continue to work closely together on loricariid taxonomic and systematic research and on grant proposals to support this research. The photo at left is of our first expedition together, to the Gran Sabana of southeastern Venezuela in 2003.

Jonathan Armbruster, PhD

Auburn University

David Brooks, MFA

Maryland Institute College of Art

I first met David along an uninhabitated reach of the Casiquiare Canal in southern Venezuela in 2005 – we have been friends and collaborators ever since. David joined me on scientific expeditions to Ecuador, Guyana, Peru and Venezuela and he shares with me a passion for natural history and exploration. From his sculpture studio in Brooklyn, NY, David designs and creates artwork that comments on man's frought relationship with nature and biodiversity. Many of his sculptures and installations draw inspiration from what he witnesses while participating in scientific fieldwork, and we have worked together to convey conservation concerns specifically related to Neotropical fishes (for example, his 2014 Lonely Loricariidae installation at Art Basel in Switzerland). We are currently collaborating on an art exhibit intended to educate the public about scientific and evolutionary processes.

Sonia Fisch-Muller, PhDRaphael Covain, PhD

Natural History Museum of Geneva, Switzerland

Kevin W. Conway, PhD

Texas A&M University

While I was a post-doc in the Texas A&M Wildlife and Fisheries Department, and Kevin was a new professor and curator of fishes at the TAMU Biodiversity Research and Teaching Collection, he and I bonded over a shared love of freshwater fish diversity. We conducted fieldwork together in the Neches River in East Texas and published a paper describing the microscope structure of paired-fin pads, which have convergently evolved in various benthic rheophilic members of the ostariophysan orders Characiformes, Cypriniformes, Gonorhynchiformes and Siluriformes. We later coauthored a book chapter reviewing the ecology, functional morphology and evolution of fishes specialized for life in fast flowing freshwater habitats. We continue to discuss bizarre fish morphologies and hope to get in the field together again soon.

Sonia, Raphael and I share a love for loricariid catfishes and a desire to understand the aquatic biodiversity and biological diversification of the Guiana Shield and its fishes. We recently published a molecular phylogeny of wood-eating catfishes and continue to plan future projects to help resolve the taxonomy and phylogeny of loricariid catfishes.

Donovan German, PhD

University of California, Irvine

Stéphanie Lefebvre, MS

MS student at U. of Toronto (graduated)

Donovan and I first bonded over our shared fascination with the nutrient ecology and physiology of wood-eating catfishes. Donovan joined me on a 2006 expedition to the Marañon River in northern Peru, during which he collected a wide range of isotope and intestinal samples that formed the basis for part of his PhD dissertation and several papers that we worked on together and separately. We recently reexamined some of those 2006 samples from a microbiome perspective, in collaboration with Colin Jackson at University of Mississippi, and are working on another paper.

Stéphanie entered the University of Toronto as a MS student coadvised by Hernán López-Fernández and Nathan Lovejoy while I was working with Hernán and Nate as a post-doc. Having a strong interest in fish jaw mechanics, Stéphanie focused her MS thesis on a phylogenentically explicit analysis of loricariid jaw and dietary data that I had gathered for my dissertation and that she expanded upon. She became the second MS student to graduate from Hernán's lab and is now working in Vancouver, BC. We hope to soon submit a manuscript based on the many interesting findings from her thesis.

Hernán López-Fernández, PhD

University of Toronto & Royal Ontario Museum

Nathan R. Lovejoy, PhD

University of Toronto Scarborough

Vanessa Meza-Vargas, MS

PhD student at PUCRS (Pontifical Catholic University of Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil)

Brice Noonan, PhD

University of Mississippi

Katherine A. Roach, PhD

Université du Québec à Trois-Rivières

Hernán and I share a love for Neotropical fish diversity with a special and longstanding interest in the diversification and conservation of fishes of the Guiana Shield. Hernán and Nate Lovejoy collaborated with me on a funded NSF International Research Fellowship that brought me to the Royal Ontario Museum and the University of Toronto to work on the molecular phylogenetics of loricariid catfishes. We continue to collaborate on a wide range of fish taxonomy and systematics projects. Hernán also joined me on a 2012 expedition to survey rivers of the Andean piedmont in Ecuador. 

Nate and I have worked together since 2012, when my NSF International Research Fellowship allowed me to come to Toronto to conduct research with both him and Hernán López-Fernández. Nate has long been a leader in advancing large-scale hypotheses about how, when and where Neotropical fish diversity originated. In addition to working together on Neotropical fish biogeography and systematics, we are working together on the population genomics of Canadian freshwater fishes, in collaboration with Nicholas Mandrak (UTSC) and Brice Noonan (University of Mississippi).

Kirk Winemiller, PhD

Texas A&M University

Vanessa has been collaborating with me on the taxonomy of Chaetostoma Clade genera and species since 2009, when she first visited the United States to conduct research at Texas A&M University while I was a postdoc in Kirk Winemiller's lab. She has since also visited Toronto to conduct research with me at the Royal Ontario Museum, has joined me on expeditions to ColombiaEcuador, Peru and Venezuela, has coauthored three papers with me, and is now studying loricariid systematics for her PhD with Roberto Reis in Porto Alegre, Brazil.

Brice is a herpetologist most well-known for his evolutionary research on poison arrow frogs of the Guiana Shield. He and I first started developing collaborative research ideas during a 2011 expedition to study environmental impacts of a proposed hydroelectric project in Guyana. One of these ideas – to use restriction associated DNA sequencing (RADseq)  to study gene flow within populations of fishes in the rapids of the lower Xingu River in Brazil – was funded by NSF. That project (the iXingu Project) allowed me to spend a year working in Brice's lab to refine RADseq methods and apply them to tissues being collected in the Xingu River by Mark Sabaj (ANSP), myself and other colleagues. In addition to a number of Xingu-related projects, Brice and I are also now working together with Nick Mandrak and Nate Lovejoy (UTSC) on the population genomics of several Canadian fish species.

When I first joined Kirk Winemiller's lab as a post-doc, Katie (then a PhD student in Kirk's lab) and I bonded over our shared desire to understand large-scale physicochemical and productivity dynamics in North and South American river systems. Together, we developed multiple projects to study relationships between primary producers and primary consumers in Neotropical rivers. Our first study, now published, examined longitudinal gradients in water physicochemistry and aquatic community structure in an Andean tributary of the upper Amazon. Other projects have focused on similar longitudinal gradients in the Guiana Shield and on the evolutionary stoichiometry of loricariid catfishes. Katie joined me on expeditions to Ecuador, Peru and Venezuela.

Shortly before I finished my PhD, Kirk contacted me with an incredible invitation to conduct postdoctoral research with him and his students in Texas. I ended up spending two years working in an office next to Kirk gaining insights into not only Neotropical fish ecology, but also undergraduate and graduate education and the nuances of government financed scientific research. Together, we published papers on the trophic community ecology of loricariid catfishes and the aquatic community structure of an Andean tributary of the Amazon. We also studied the ecology of the lower Neches River in east Texas for the National Park Service and developed ideas that were foundational to the NSF-funded iXingu Project, on which I was a post-doc after leaving Kirk's lab. In addition to the ongoing iXingu Project, we continue to work together on projects related to the ecological diversification of loricariid catfishes.

For several years, I have collaborated with doctoral student (now graduated) Gianni Castiglioni and Gianni's PhD advisor Belinda Chang on a study of evolutionary specialization in the rhodopsin vision protein of high elevation Andean catfishes (families Loricariidae and Astroblepidae). Gianni based much of his dissertation research on data gathered from tissues and specimens that I collected during ichthyofaunal surveys of the Andes Mountains in Bolivia, Ecuador and Peru. One chapter of Gianni's dissertation was recently published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences and we continue to plan additional papers together.

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