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HWEC Alumni

Where are they now?

Our alumni will always be near (and dear!) to our hearts, but their journeys can take them quite far from Saint Louis. The following is an ever-growing directory to who they are and what they've been up to.

(Hey alumni, we love hearing from you! Don't see yourself on this list, or think it needs updating? Send us an email and we'll add your info!)


Dr. Samoa Asigau
PhD, 2018 (Parker Lab)
Papua New Guinea
Current Position: Scientist, Biomerieux, St. Louis
Research Interests: Population genetics and spatial and demographic patterns of mosquitoes in implicating avian malaria in the Galapagos Archipelago.
"Besides providing funding for research and conferences, Harris Center provides scientific expertise from UMSL, Saint Louis Zoo and the MO Botanical Garden. The Center provides a think-tank type of environment where ideas are shared, discussed and collaborations are developed to advance scientific research. One thing I love about the center is the opportunities to meet many vibrant scientists/students from around the world who are passionate about research and conservation. I consider Harris Center scientists as world-changers more than capable of influencing humanity for the better through science, research, education and even through environmental policies that protect/manage our natural world."


Dr. Rani Asmarayani
PhD, 2018 (Stevens Lab)
Research Interests: Systematic study of Asian Piper (Piperaceae).


Dr. Meghann Humphries
PhD, 2019 (Ricklefs Lab)
Research Interest: Phylogeography, population genetics, host/parasite coevolution.
Contact: mhn83@mail.umsl.edu

Dr. Mari C. Jaramillo
MS, PhD, 2018 (Parker Lab)
Current Position: Associate Researcher at Calidris Association (NGO), Cali, Columbia
Research Interests: Disease Ecology of malaria (Plasmodium) parasites in Galapagos avifauna.
"The Harris Center played a key role in boosting my confidence and my abilities as a researcher. But most importantly, I think, it gave me a sense of community, of a unique scientific community that supported each other with work, ideas, feedback and constructive criticism in every stage of our careers. Something that I will always try to carry on to other research and conservation groups in my professional life." 

Eastern Red Bat

Vona Kuczynska
MS, 2015 (Marquis Lab)
Wildheart Ecology, Founder


Dr. Lúcia Lohmann
MS, PhD, 2003 (Stevens Lab, Kellogg Lab)
Current Position: Professor, University of São Paulo (Brazil) & Executive Director, Association for Tropical Biology and Conservation (ATBC)
"The Harris Center played a key role in the development of my research on the “Origin and Evolution of the Neotropical Biota” through various research grants and opportunities that were provided to me at very early stages of my career. These are the hardest years in Academia and I will be eternally grateful for the support received."


Dr. Heritiana Ranarivelo
PhD, 2017 (Parker Lab)
California Academy of Sciences, Botany Department, Research Associate


Dr. Fidisoa Rasambainarivo
PhD, 2018 (Parker Lab)
Research Interests: Conservation medicine, health and diseases at the human and wildlife interface.
Current Position: Mahaliana Lab, Founder


Dr. Diego Salazar Amoretti
PhD, 2013 (Marquis Lab)
Costa Rica
Current Position: Assistant Professor at Florida International University
"The Harris Center was fundamental for both my carrier and my personal life. It is hard for me to quantify the impact the center has had on who I am today and who I will be tomorrow, but without a doubt, it has played a critical role in my personal and professional life. The center not only made it possible for me to secure the funds necessary to reach my life's dream of getting a Ph.D. in biology but also, the community of students, professors that the center has to build around it made feel welcome from the very first day. During my Ph.D., the center represented much more than just the opportunity to apply for the economic resources for my studies and research, the center also made me and my fellow Ph.D. students feel like someone believed in us, in our ideas, and our potential. Every time the center honored me with a scholarship or traveling funds, I felt both a sense of accomplishment and a sense of responsibility, of the need to make sure that the opportunity was not going to be wasted.  Most notably, the center embodied the center of our student and faculty community, it was the fabric that weaved all of us.

In practical terms, the Harris Center granted me the opportunities to implement my research ideas. Ideas that, at that time, were considered by most 'very risky'. Nevertheless, the center fund these ideas that led to publications in very high impact journals. These publications made it possible to secure a post-doctoral fellowship at the University of California Berkeley, and in turn, this fellowship made possible for me to secure my current position in Florida as an assistant professor."


Dr. Noah Whiteman
PhD, 2006
Current Position: Associate Professor, Integrative Biology, University of California, Berkeley
"Early funding during my graduate career for trips to Galápagos from the Harris Center enabled me to jump-start my research on co-evolution between Galápagos hawks and their parasites."


Dr. Felipe Zapata
PhD, 2010
Current Position: Assistant Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of California, Los Angeles
"The Harris Center was critical during my years at UMSL in multiple ways. I received support to conduct my research via grants, I was awarded a Christensen Fellowship that allow me to focus on my research without teaching responsibilities, and I had to chance to participante in my first panel to review proposals. I am deeply grateful to all the opportunities and support I received from the center while I was a graduate student at UMSL."


Dr. Letícia Soares
PhD, 2016
Current Position: Postdoctoral Associate, Advanced Facility for Avian Research, University of Western Ontario, Canada
“The Center was an inspiring community hub for students passionate about conservation biology and provided crucial funding for my graduate studies and professional development. Besides financial support for field work, scientific meetings and book purchases, I had the amazing opportunity to work with the St. Louis Zoo through the Whitney R. Harris Community Scholarship."


Dr. Iris Levin
PhD, 2012
Current Position: Assistant Professor of Biology & Environmental Studies, Kenyon College, Gambier, Ohio
"Science is a global endeavor, and the Harris Center was a major reason why my graduate work was done internationally, with international colleagues and collaborators, in a lab group (Parker) that deeply cares about tackling global conservation challenges while moving basic research forward. I continue to draw on what I learned from my Harris Center mentors and peers in my current work training the next generation of biologists and conservation scientists."


Dr. José Luis Rivera-Parra
PhD, 2013
Current Position: Associate Professor - Facultad de Ingeniería en Geología y Petróleos - Escuela Politécnica Nacional - Quito, Ecuador
"Thanks to a Harris Center Scholarship I was able to complete my field work in Galapagos to obtain key samples that were later analyzed in the lab."


Dr. Diego Santiago-Alarcon
MS, 2003, PhD, 2008
Current Position: Staff Scientist at Instituto de Ecología, A.C. - CONACYT
"I am truly grateful to the Whitney R. Harris World Ecology Center because they supported through various grants both my Master and Ph.D. research projects, gave me the opportunity to participate in one of the ecology courses of the OTS, and awarded me with the Peter H. Raven World Ecology Research Scholarship to dedicate full time to the writing of my Ph.D. dissertation during my last semester at UMSL." 


Dr. Christina Baer
PhD, 2017
Current Position: Postdoc at University of Connecticut (Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology)
"The Harris Center provided a partial scholarship for me to take the Organization for Tropical Studies tropical biology field course in 2012 (which is where I met my postdoc advisor, among other things), provided seed grants for my independently funded dissertation research in Costa Rica (which helped me get other grants, including one from National Geographic)."


Dr. Kate Huyvaert
PhD, 2004
Current Position: Professor, Colorado State University
"The Harris Center fosters a sense of community that, for me, provided a 'home' to exchange ideas and broaden my appreciation of the tropics The Harris Center also offered me opportunities to share my work with the St. Louis community, deepening in me a commitment to outreach as an important way to conserve our world's biodiversity."


Dr. Karina Boege
PhD, 2004
Current Position: Full time Professor, Universidad de Nacional Autónoma de Mexico
"The Harris Center was fundamental for me as I received the Peter raven Felñowships that cover my tuition fees, and thanks to the center  I was able to fund  the initial steps of my PhD dissertation work.  Equally  important, during the application for those grants, I learned how to write proposals, which has been fundamental for the rest of my career." 


Dr. Raul F. Medina
PhD, 1996
Current Position: Professor, Department of Entomology, Texas A&M University
"The Harris Center was instrumental in my career. The holistic education I got at the Center planted seeds that grew strong in me. I can see the roots of several of my current research goals branching off those early seeds planted by a team of excellent professors and role models at the Center. The passion for conservation biology and the excitement every member of the center felt for research impacted my life deeply. I am thankful for the opportunity the Harris Center gave me and for its contribution to the development of my worldview when it comes to the role of basic and social sciences working together to achieve conservation biology goals."


Dr. Armand Randrianasolo
PhD, 1998
Current Position: Curator – William L. Brown Center (WLBC) –Missouri Botanical Garden
"The University of Missouri St Louis, the Whitney R. World Ecology Harris Center and the Missouri Botanical Garden are the pillar institutions that provided me with solid scientific knowledge base I needed to get to where I am today.  I offer my most sincere gratitude to these three institutions because without them, I would not have succeeded in the accomplishments I was able to achieve."


Luis Abdala Roberts 
MS, 2005
Current Position: Assistant Professor, University of Yucatan
"Both the Harris Center (called the International Center for Tropical Ecology at the time I did my master's studies at UMSL) and the UMSL Biology Department contributed in fundamental ways to my development as an ecologist. The general atmosphere in the Department and in many of the labs was very inspiring and certainly had (and still has) long-lasting effects on my perspectives about research in ecology and evolution, as well as my attitude towards science in general. In addition, at a more personal level, I have very fond memories of the social and academic environment promoted by the Center and the Department, and recall many teachings from faculty and rich interactions with other graduate students in the Biology program, most of which were international students like me. It always seemed to me there was, aside from a high academic level, a special type of energy among students, a sense of belonging and unity despite being outside of our country of origin. I have not been able to experience these sensations in other institutions, and for this I am grateful, both at a personal and academic level."


Dr. Nick Barber
PhD, 2009
Current Position: Assistant Professor of Biology, San Diego State University
"The Harris Center made it possible for me to work and take classes with scientists from all over the world. This not only exposed me to exciting new scientific knowledge and ideas, but also broadened my worldview. I believe this has helped me to become both a better scientist and a better educator as I work with students from a variety of backgrounds and cultures."


Dr. Kevin Matson
PhD, 2006
Current Position: Assistant Professor, Resource Ecology Group, Wageningen University, Netherlands
"In 2001, I received funding from the Harris Center that supported my research ambitions. I am still grateful for that scholarship since it allowed me to capitalize on the support and encouragement that I was receiving from my UMSL supervisors to really make my PhD research my own. Ultimately, I was able to take some small risks to try new techniques at new field sites. (Good news: it worked out!) The Center also played another role in my graduate education. By serving as a student member of the board, I gained insights into the operation of an academic center and other aspects of professional responsibilities within a university."


Rinchen Namgay
MSc, 2017
Current Position: Program Coordinator, Ugyen Wangchuck Institute for Conservation and Environmental Research (UWICER), Lamai-Goempa, Bhutan
"I had the privilege and the honor to undergo MSc in biology (Ecology, Evolution and Systematics) at UMSL under Harris center’s scholarship/fellowship. This has enabled me to progress academically as well as an individual to serve better in the conservation of species in my Country."


Susana León-Yánez
MSc, 2000
Current Position: Senior Professor at Escuela de Ciencias Biológicas, Pontificia Universidad Católica del Ecuador and Curator at the Herbarium
"The Harris Center supported my travel and fieldwork at the high Andes of Ecuador for my MSc. thesis research on the Ecology of Polylepis forests. After my studies at UMSL, I came back to Ecuador and continued working on high elevation ecosystems. One of the conservation projects I worked after I came back to Ecuador was the Red Book of the Endemic Plants of Ecuador, a collaborative work where we analyzed the conservation status of 4500 Ecuadorian plant species. The last years I have been working on Paleocology of Andean High Elevation Ecosystems, studying the response of the vegetation to climate change and human intervention."