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:
     Ajith Ashokan  (Postdoc)
     Belen Alvestegui (Ph.D.)
     Giulia de Gennaro (Ph.D.)
     Jordan Hathaway (M.Sc.)
     Sebastian Forward (Ph.D.)
     Raj Prasai (Ph.D.)
     Lindsey Dennison (M.Sc.)
     Andrea Caicedo (M.Sc.)

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

     Rieka Yu  (M.Sc.)
     Jordan Hathaway  (M.Sc.)
     Shawn Kelley (M.Sc.)
     Daniel Tarazona-Ocaña (M.Sc.)
     Juan Moreira-Hernández (Ph.D)
     Alex Lascher-Posner (M.Sc.)
     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     
Ajith Ashokan
(Postdoctoral Researcher) 

     Ph.D. Indian Inst. Sc. Ed. & Research (IISER), Bhopal
     M.Sc. Mahatma Gandhi University, India
     B.Sc. University of Kerala, India 

Ajith is a botanist who is interested in the biogeography and floral evolution of tropical plants. Currently, he is working on our NSF-funded project that focuses on the trait evolution in Burmeistera .

aanbz [at]
Belen Alvestigui
(Ph.D. Student)

     B.S. Universidad Mayor de San Andres, Bolivia
     M.Sc. University of Missouri - St. Louis, USA

Belen is interested in understanding the diversification of Andean of Bolivia. For her M.Sc. thesis, she studied the relationship between floral symmetry and abundance in Madidi, Bolivia . For her Ph.D., she is studying the influence of bat and hummingbird pollinators on the diversification of Symbolanthus (Gentianaceae).

bb7n4 [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]

Sebastian Forward
Ph.D. Student)  

     B.S. Humboldt State University, USA

Sebastian is interested in the evolution of bat and hummingbird pollination in the genus Burmeistera. Across multiple pollination syndrome shifts, he will examine how floral traits such as nectar composition, scent, and color evolve. He will also study how the bat-adapted flowers vary across the genus in the volatile compounds they produce to attract bats.

smf3kv [at]

Raj Prasai
(Ph.D. Student)

    B.S. Pokhara University, Nepal
    M.N.S. Southeast Missouri State University, USA

Raj is interested in studying the foraging behavior of nectar bats and evolution of floral traits that attract these bats. For his Ph.D., he plans to conduct experiments to understand the role of sensory cues that nectar bats use to detect flowers. 

rp2dq [at]

Lindsey Dennison 
(M.Sc. Student)

    B.S. Southern Oregon University

Lindsey is interested broadly in plant/pollinator interactions and more specifically in the sensory ecology of nectar bats and how floral traits and environmental conditions influence foraging behavior. For her master's thesis, she is investigating the role of vision in flower detection by Anoura caudifer, a neotropical nectar bat. 

rdvf2 [at]

Andrea Caicedo
(M.Sc. Student)

    B.S. Pontificia Universidad Católica del Ecuador

Andrea is interested in the ecology of Neotropical bats . For her master's thesis, co-advised by Dr. Santiago Burneo at the Pontificia Universidad Católica del Ecuador, she is studying the sensory role of vibrissae and the influence of the hovering behavior of nectarivorous bats in the cloud forests of Ecuador. 

andreasalomel [at]
Muchhala Lab Alumni    

Dr. Rieka Yu
(Ph.D. Student, 2018-23)

     B.S. Boston University, USA

Rieka is interested in the effect of habitat destruction on pollination systems. For her Ph.D. she studied how pollinators differ in their response to habitat degradation and in the pollination services they provide, and how this can influence plant fitness. She is now completing a fellowship with the Missouri Science and Technology (MOST) Initiative.

rieka [at]

Jordan Hathaway
(M.Sc. Student, 2022-23)

     B.S.  Saint Louis University, USA 

Jordan is interested in insects and pollination systems. For his master's thesis, he examined the factors which influence pollination success and fruit production within urban orchards throughout the St. Louis metropolitan area. He is now working with Dr. Christine Edwards in the Missouri Botanical Garden.

jnhf2m [at]

Daniel Tarazona-Ocaña
(M.Sc. Student, 2020-22)

     B.S. Universidad Nacional Agraria La Molina, Peru

Daniel is interested in the taxonomy, wood anatomy and uses of the Peruvian arboreal flora. For his Master's degree, co-advised by Dr. Mónica Carlsen, he  studied the taxonomy of a monophyletic section of Anthurium. He is now working as a data processor with the Missouri Botanical Garden.

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, Shawn revised the genus Trilepisium in Madagascar. This included descriptions of new species, a bifurcating key, and updated descriptions and ranges. Additionally, he studied the history of diversification and dispersal within the genus.

spkvd6 [at]

Dr. Juan Moreira-Hernández
(Ph.D. Student, 2016-22)

     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. For his PhD, he studied how interspecific pollen transfer influences the evolution of reproductive isolation and patterns of hybridization among bat-pollinated Burmeistera in Ecuador. Juan is now a postdoctoral fellow with Dr. Oystein Opedal at Lund University.

juan.moreira [at]

Alex Lascher-Posner
(M.Sc. Student, 2018-21)

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

Alex studied the influence of pollinator behavior on pollen dispersal in two disparate systems: bat pollination of tropical plants and insect pollination of milkweeds (Asclepias) in Missouri.  Results of the former showed that bat grooming can impact pollen transfer, and female bats tend to groom much more frequently, while results of the latter found that different insects differ in their effect on geitonogomous (within-plant) pollen transfer.

aelwqb [at]

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

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

For her PhD, Diana explored the mechanisms that lead to disruption of gene flow and allopatric speciation among flowering plants.  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