The Muchhala Lab
University of Missouri - St. Louis
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Nathan Muchhala
(Principal Investigator)

     Ph.D. University of Miami, USA
     B.A. Earlham College, US

Curriculum Vitae

muchhalan [at]
Current Lab Members:

     Juan Moreira-Hernández (Ph.D)
     Alex Lascher-Posner (M.Sc.)
     Rieka Yu (Ph.D.)
     Belen Alvestigui (M.Sc.)
     Shawn Kelley (M.Sc.)
     Giulia De Gennaro (Ph.D.)

Lab Member Sightings in the Wild! (photo gallery)
Muchhala Lab Alumni:

     Dr. Diana Gamba (Ph.D)
     Brock Mashburn (M.Sc.)
     Dr. Justin Bagley (Postdoc)
     Dr. Serena Achá (Ph.D.)
     Dr. Camilo Calderón (Ph.D)
     Dr. Laura Lagomarsino (Postdoc)
     Dr. Simon Uribe-Convers (Postdoc)
     Dr. Monica Carlsen (Postdoc)
     Mayra Ninazunta (M.Sc.)
     Rossana Maguiña (M.Sc.)
Current Lab Members     

Juan Moreira-Hernández
(Ph.D. Student)

     M.Sc. Universidad de Costa Rica, Costa Rica
     B.S. Universidad de Costa Rica, Costa Rica

Juan is interested in tropical plant evolution and diversification and the evolutionary ecology of vertebrate pollination systems (bats and hummingbirds). For his PhD, he is studying how interspecific pollen transfer influences the evolution of reproductive isolation and patterns of hybridization among bat-pollinated Burmeistera in Ecuador.

juan.moreira [at]

Alex Lascher-Posner
(M.Sc. Student)

     B.S. University of California, San Diego, USA

Alex is interested in studying the evolutionary shifts between bat and hummingbird pollinated plant species across Campanulaceae.  Specifically, he is looking at how quickly pollination syndrome traits are acquired and which traits are necessary to elicit a shift in pollinators and which are just 'fine tuning'.  He plans to do his research in Ecuador and Costa Rica.

aelwqb [at]

Rieka Yu
(Ph.D. Student)

     B.S. Boston University, USA

Rieka is interested in the the effect of habitat destruction on bat pollination and seed dispersal systems. For her Ph.D. she plans to study the implications of these changes on the ecosystem.

rymcf [at] 
Belen Alvestigui
(M.Sc. Student)

     B.S. Universidad Mayor de San Andres (UMSA), Bolivia

Belen is interested in understanding the patterns of plant communities in the Andes of Bolivia. For her thesis, she is studying morphological traits of flowers that establish the level of specialization of a plant species to pollinators. Among these traits, the symmetry of the petals, which is amazingly diverse in the Madidi, Bolivia, could help explain species diversification. With Sebastian Tello, coadvisor from the Missouri Botanical Garden, she is also analyzing functional traits data to understand how distinctive is a species among the others present in the community and the relationship with rarity/commonness of that species.

bb7n4 [at]
Shawn Kelley
(M.Sc. Student)

     B.S. University of Missouri-St. Louis, USA

Shawn is interested in plant evolutionary biology and systematics. For his Master's degree, he is revising the genus Trilepisium in Madagascar. This will include describing new species, writing a key, and updating descriptions and ranges. Additionally, he will explore the history of diversification and dispersal within the genus.

spkvd6 [at]

Giulia De Gennaro
(Ph.D. Student)

     B.A. Bard College at Simon's Rock, MA, USA

Giulia is interested in angiosperm systematics and taxonomy as well as the broader interactions between evolutionary biology and ecology. For her PhD, she plans on researching and revising the taxonomy of Caribbean Lobelia and exploring questions about the group's evolution and phylogeny in relation to pollination and island biogeography.  

gbdegennaro [at]
Muchhala Lab Alumni    

Dr. Diana Gamba
(Ph.D. Student, 2014-20)

     M.Sc. San Francisco State University, USA
     B.S. Universidad del Valle, Colombia

Diana is interested in studying mechanisms of population differentiation in flowering plants. For her PhD she explored the mechanisms that lead to disruption of gene flow and allopatric speciation.  For multiple species in northern Ecuador, she analyzed data on the effects of asynchronic flowering phenology and pollinator shifts on population genetic structure.   Diana is now a postdoctoral fellow with Dr. Jesse Lasky at PennState University ; find out more about her research here.

dlgtk5 [at]

Brock Mashburn
(M.Sc. Student, 2018-19)

     B.S. Truman State University, USA

Brock is interested in plant evolutionary biology, systematics, biogeography, and the application of these fields to conservation actions. For his Masters degree, he updated the monograph of the Burmeistera of Ecuador which was published in 1981. This included updating species ranges and descriptions, describing new species, and writing a key. He is currently a Ph.D. student with Dr. Christine Edwards at  Washington University in St. Louis.

 btmfkb [at]

Dr. Justin Bagley
(Postdoctoral Researcher, 2018-20)

     Ph.D. Brigham Young University, USA
     M.Sc. University of Alabama, USA
     B.S. University of Alabama, USA

Justin is an evolutionary biologist whose interests include phylogeography, population genomics, adaptation, species delimitation, and integrative taxonomy. He worked on our NSF-funded project on Burmeistera, using phylogenomics to study ploidy and introgression during the adaptive radiation of the genus. He is now an assistant professor at Jacksonville State University; find out more about his research here.

bagleyj [at]

Dr. Serena Achá
(Ph.D. Student, 2014-19)

     B.S. Universidad Mayor de San Andrés, Bolivia

Serena is interested in angiosperm systematics and evolution.  She has worked with Rosaceae, Myrtaceae and Andean flora in general. For her Ph.D. project, coadvised by Dr. Christy Edwards (MOBOT), Serena studied the phylogeny, diversification patterns, and species limits in the Passiflora subgenus Decaloba.  She is now a postdoctoral scholar with Dr. Lucas Majure at the University of Florida, Gainesville, FL.

sia7vc [at]
Dr. Camilo Calderón-Acevedo
(Ph.D. Student, 2013-19)

     B.S. Universidad de Antioquia, Colombia

Camilo is interested in the diversification, evolution and biogeography of mammals.  For his PhD thesis, he studied the taxonomy and phylogenetics of the genus Anoura (Chiroptera: Phyllostomidae).  He is currently a postdoctoral associate at Rutgers University - Newark with Dr. Angel Soto; you can visit his personal website here.

cackcb [at]

Dr. Laura Lagomarsino
(Postdoctoral Researcher, 2015-17)

     Ph.D. Harvard, USA
     B.S. University of California - Berkeley, USA

Laura studies the taxonomy, phylogeny, and evolution of the Neotropical Lobelioideae, specifically the centropogonid clade (Centropogon, Siphocampylus, and Burmeistera). She is interested in patterns of character evolution, particularly of floral morphology in relation to pollinator shifts, and in diversification and biogeography in the context of Andean uplift. Laura is now an Assistant Professor at Lousiana State University.  Find out more about her research here

llagomarsino1 [at]

Dr. Simon Uribe-Convers
(Postdoctoral Researcher, 2015-17)

     Ph.D. University of Idaho, USA
     B.Sc. Universidad de los Andes, Colombia

Simon is an evolutionary biologist interested in phylogenomics, plant systematics, and speciation. He has a special interest in evolutionary processes in high elevation ecosystem in the Andes, where high rates  of diversification and intricate biogeographic movements have produced the high diversity that we see today. He is now a Data Scientist at Phylagen; you can visit his website here.

uribe.convers [at]

Dr. Mónica Carlsen
(Postdoctoral Researcher, 2014-15)

     Ph.D. Univ. of Missouri - St. Louis, USA
     M.Sc. Univ. of Missouri - St. Louis, USA
     B.S. Universidad Central de Venezuela

Monica worked on the molecular phylogenetics of Burmeistera.  She is broadly interested in the phylogenomics of rapid tropical plant radiations and the causes of diversity disparities among tropical regions. She is currently an Assistant Scientist and Education Coordinator at the Missouri Botanical Garden; you can visit her website here.  

monica.carlsen [at]

Mayra Ninazunta
(M.Sc. Student, 2015-17)

     B.S. Pontificia Univ. Católica del Ecuador, Ecuador

Mayra is interested in herbivory and the diversification of plants.  She is currently a Ph.D. student with Dr. Diego Salazar at Florida International University.

mayra.ninazunta [at]

Nick Terzich
(Undergraduate, 2017-18)


Nick worked with Juan on studies of the reproductive isolation between co-occurring species of Burmeistera. Specifically, they tested how interspecific pollen transfer affects seed production among hand-pollinated flowers.

ndt5z6 [at]

Rossana Maguiña
(M.Sc. Student, 2014-16)

     B.S. Universidad Peruana Cayetano Heredia, Peru

Rossana is interested in bat-plant interactions in montane forest ecosystems.  For her Master's project, she studied the effects of artificial nectar feeders on these interactions. She is currently a PhD student with Dr. Kathleen Kay at the University of California - Santa Cruz; visit her website here.

nrm5h4 [at]

Stephanie Mafla-Mills
(Undergraduate, 2015-16)


Stephanie worked on a project exploring the relationship between jaw morphology and diet in nectar-feeding bats, and helped Rossana with her fieldwork.  She is now a PhD student at Rutgers University.

sjmyb4 [at]
Lab Member Sightings in the Wild:

Fieldwork in Hercules Glades Wilderness, MO, 2020

Fieldwork in Ecuador 2020

Fieldwork in Colombia 2019

Not a Bat, Colombia 2019

Chicago Plant Science Symposium 2019

Muchhala Lab 2019

Juan Earns Talk Award, NASBR 2019

Fieldwork in Ecuador 2017

High School Outreach 2017

Bat Capture in UMSL! 2017

Fieldwork in Bolivia 2016

Talk at Indiana Bat Festival 2016

'Bat Cave' Setup 2015

Greenhouse Burmeistera 2015

Labwork 2015

Fieldwork in Ecuador 2014

Lab Meeting 2014

North American Symposium on Bat Research 2014