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:
     Rieka Yu (Ph.D.)
     Belen Alvestigui (Ph.D.)
     Giulia de Gennaro (Ph.D.)
     Jordan Hathaway (M.Sc.)
     Sebastian Forward (Ph.D.)
     Raj Prasai (Ph.D.)

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

     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     

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
(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 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. 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]

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]

Jordan Hathaway
(M.Sc. Student)

     B.S.  Saint Louis University, USA 

Jordan is interested in plant-pollinator interactions within agricultural systems. For his master's thesis, he is examining the factors which influence pollination success and fruit production within urban orchards throughout the St. Louis metropolitan area.

jnhf2m [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.Sc. 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]
Muchhala Lab Alumni    

Daniel Tarazona-Ocaña
(M.Sc. Student)

     B.S. Universidad Nacional Agraria La Molina, Peru

Daniel is interested in the taxonomy, wood anatomy and uses of the Peruvian arboreal flora. His main focus is to study the ecological diversity within Peruvian rainforests to improve the design of silvicultural systems for lumber production. For his Master's degree, he is working at the taxonomy of a monophyletic section of Anthurium.

dmtnmk [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, 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