Lab members

Principal Investigators

Dahiana Arcila

Assistant Professor & Curator of the Marine Vertebrate Collection 

Office: Hubbs Hall 2150

Lab: Hubbs Hall 2155

Email: dkarcila "at"

Ricardo Betancur-R.

Associate Professor  

Office: Hubbs Hall 2155

Lab: Hubbs Hall 2254

Tel: 1-858-246-3446

Email: rbetancur "at"

Fish Collection - SIO Marine Vertebrate Collection

Ben Frable

Collection Manager (Arcila)

My research interests are broad and encompass many aspects of fish evolution. I am most interested in species-level relationships, phylogenetics, systematics and biogeography. What are the boundaries between species? How long have lineages been separated and why? How have groups diversified taxonomically and morphologically over geological timescales? I am not taxon specific and work/have worked on: lizardfish, rockfish, groupers, wrasses, and headstanding characins (superfamily Anostomoidea). 

Email: bfrable "at"

Postdoctoral Researchers

Melissa Rincon, Ph.D. (Betancur)

I obtained my M.Sc. from the Universidad Nacional de Colombia and my Ph.D. in Biological Sciences from the Pontificia Universidad Javeriana (Bogota, Colombia). I am interested in population genomics, comparative phylogeography, phylogenomics, and evolution of fishes. At the Fish Evolution Lab, my postdoctoral research has focused on the phylogenomics and evolutionary convergence of body shape in snappers and fusiliers along the benthic-pelagic axis. I am also involved on a project aimed at investigating the evolutionary mechanisms that have driven adaptive radiations in marine-derived freshwater fishes using whole-genome sequencing and phylogenetic comparative approaches.

Email: melissa.rincon.sandoval "at"

   Michelle Herrera, Ph.D. (Betancur)

I am interested in how nutrition and environment impact the physiology of animals, with my research spanning from overall physiology to gene expression and the gut microbiome. I am a devoted animal lover and also enjoy gardening and singing. As a Filipina-Mexicana women who has experienced barriers throughout my journey, I am passionate about increasing opportunities for underrepresented minorities in science. Throughout my graduate career, I have been implementing concrete actions to increase diversity and inclusiveness at and beyond UCI. I remain committed to anti-racism. #BlackLivesMatter ​


Email: mjherre1 "at"

Doctoral Students

Aintzane Santaquiteria – PhD Cand. (Betancur) 

I obtained the B.Sc. degree in Biology and Marine Biology at the University of Navarra (Spain) and the M.Sc. degree in Biology at UiT, The Arctic University of Norway. One of my previous projects consisted in sequencing, for the first time, the complete mitochondrial genome of the Greenland shark (Somniosus microcephalus, the oldest living vertebrate), and investigating its phylogenetic placement. I am broadly interested in conducting phylogenetic and phylogeographic analyses of Caribbean fishes, with special emphasis on conservation. My interest in fish evolution and conservation, brought me to do my PhD at OU where I will participate in different projects related to the natural history of fishes.

Email: a.santaquiteria "at"

               Emily Troyer –              PhD Cand. (Arcila)

I received a B.Sc. in Zoology from the Ohio State University and a M.Sc. in Marine Science from King Abdullah University of Science and Technology, in Saudi Arabia. I am interested in fish evolutionary biology and genomics. I love small fishes, and past projects have focused on the ecology and biodiversity of cryptobenthic species such as gobies and blennies. My current research at OU is incorporating fossil evidence to investigate the effect of past paleoclimatic changes on the evolution of body size in tetraodontiform fishes, a morphologically diverse clade.

Emily's website

Email: emily.troyer "at"

Fernando Meléndez-V   – PhD Cand. (Arcila)

I earned a B.Sc. (Biology) and M.Sc. (Biological Oceanography) degrees from The University of Puerto Rico at Mayagüez. My background includes projects focusing on areas such as ecological experimental design, statistical modeling, and data analysis of fish community compositions. My current interests reside in topics like phylogenetic and genomics analyses of pelagiarian fishes, including an exploration of the evolutionary origins of endothermy. At the Fish Evolution Lab I will pursue my scientific goals by working with an excellent team of evolutionary ichthyologists.

Email: fernando.melendez1 "at"

Ulises Rosas-Puchuri – PhD Student (Betancur)

I obtained my B.Sc. degree in Biological Sciences from the Universidad Nacional Mayor de San Marcos (Peru) and my M.Sc. degree in Biology from The George Washington University. I am broadly interested in studying the evolutionary biology of marine organisms and this interest has led me to spent most of my time developing and using bioinformatic tools. Past projects included scalable software implementation for quality control steps on phylogenomic datasets and the use of machine learning methods for dissecting the factors underlying gene tree error. For my Ph.D. at OU, I intend to explore emerging technologies for analyzing phylogenies and to collaborate in ongoing projects at the Fish Evolution Lab.

Ulises’ website

Email: urosas "at"

        Zach W. Heiple –        PhD student (Arcila)

I obtained my B.Sc in biochemistry from the University of Oklahoma. During my undergrad, I began focusing on fish biology after taking Ichthyology with Dr. Arcila. Later, I began research with Dr. Arcila which led me to an NSF REU at the University of Washington with Dr. Elizabeth Miller. While in this experience, I studied the feeding morphologies of deep-sea anglerfishes.  My work suggests that feeding modes of deep sea anglers are far more diverse than previously recognized and highlights that deep sea anglers underwent impressive morphological diversification following the colonization of the deep. Now, I am broadly interested in exploring phylogenomics as well as identifying macroevolutionary trends and the drivers of diversity within fishes. In the future I hope to integrate biochemistry and fish biology to explore the evolutionary history of biochemical adaptations. .

Email: zachheiple "at"

Emily McFarland– PhD Student (Betancur)

I earned a B.Sc. (Aquatic and Fishery Sciences) at the University of Washington, where I focused on systematics and phylogenetics, primarily on deep reef fishes. I described a new species of damselfish (Chromis vanbebberae) found on mesophotic reefs in the Caribbean and tropical west Atlantic. I then earned my M.Sc. (Biology) at San Francisco State University studying the evolution and development of novel body plan features in manta rays, gaining expertise in in situ hybridization and microsurgery. My current interests lie in the evolution and development of novel body plans in fishes and how these characteristics can inform phylogeny. I have a particular interest in sea moths (family Pegasidae) and intend to synthesize my experiences from my B.Sc. and M.Sc. to investigate the family’s unusual traits in the context of phylogeny within Syngnathiformes, an order with poor phylogenetic resolution. 

Email: epmcfarland "at"

Master Students

Solomon Chang


I earned my BS in Marine Biology from the University of California San Diego. I am currently continuing as a BS/MS in Marine Biology at the Scripps Institute of Oceanography. As I have grown to learn more about the marine sciences, I have realized that I am most interested in the biology of marine organisms from megafauna to fishes. I am currently conducting research on the evolutionary history of the fish group, Stomiatti, which spans shallow and deep-sea habitats. My research will investigate the phylogenetic relationships of the group as well as quantify jaw shape to assess connections between the depth-gradient and morphological adaptation.

Email: shc045 "at"

Undergraduate Students

Emily Ignatoff


I am obtaining a BS in Marine Biology from the University of California, San Diego.  As I have pursued research and taken more courses in my undergraduate degree, I have found myself interested in applications of genetics to understand ecology and organismal adaptations to the environment.  My past research was focused on evolutionary developmental biology in marine snails, and I aim to expand my lab experiences prior to pursuing a graduate education.  I will be conducting research under Dr. Dahiana Arcila on Triodon, a monophyletic pufferfish.  I intend to complete RNAseq and transcriptome work on the species, in order to understand genetic mechanisms contributing to the evolution of body inflation across families of fish.

Email: eignatoff "at"

Kida Bradley

(Frable & Arcila)

I am a fourth-year undergraduate student majoring in Anthropology with a concentration in climate change, human rights, and education. I am also a CollegeCorps fellow serving as a student teacher and mentor in an underserved elementary school, as well as an intern at a community garden and social justice organization. I am currently working on research relating to climate and inclusive education at the elementary level, food security, and the social struggles created from the climate crisis. I joined the lab because I have a deep love for the ocean and want to understand its organisms better. I also am interested in working in the museum industry in the future, so I am grateful to learn about how the collections are run. Working by the beach and seeing the shimmering water and beautiful sunset is also a plus.

Email: ambradle "at"

Lab Visitors

Igor C. A. Souto-Santos (Arcila

Museu Nacional, UFRJ, Brazil (2024)

Lab Alumni

Rafael Rivero - M.Sc. UPR-RP (Betancur)

Currently at U. Michigan (Ph.D. student)

Elizabeth Miller - Postdoc (Arcila)

Currently at UC Irvine (Postdoctoral Researcher)

Will Hanson-Regan - B.Sc. OU  (Arcila)

Currently at U. Tennessee Chattanooga (M.Sc. student)

Carmen Pedraza –     Ph.D. (Betancur)

Currently at UC Merced (postdoctoral researcher)

Pamela B. Hart NSF Postdoc OU (Arcila)

Currently at U. Alabama (Assistant Professor)

Emanuell Ribeiro - Ph.D. OU (Betancur)

Currently at The University of Basel (Postdoctoral Fellow)

Former Lab Visitors

Aline Medeiros, Ph.D. OU (Betancur) 

Universidade Federal da Paraiba, Brazil (2019-2020)