Lab Members


Postdoctoral Researchers

Joshua Reece
Postdoctoral Researcher

David Collar
Postdoctoral Researcher
dccollar “at”

I am an evolutionary biologist and functional morphologist. My research goals are to identify general patterns of evolutionary diversification in vertebrates and to understand the processes that give rise to them. I apply a phylogenetic comparative approach in which I integrate morphological and functional measurements for species with information about the evolutionary relationships among those species. This approach allows me to test hypotheses about how, when and in what manner the process of diversification has changed over time and among lineages. My work has highlighted the importance of ecological and functional constraints on morphological diversification in several radiations of lizards and teleost fish.

In the Mehta Lab, I am involved in several studies centered on morphological diversification. In one study, I am investigating the adaptive and anatomical basis of elongate body form in disparate vertebrate groups. I am also testing the effects of behavioral innovation on morphological diversity in the true eels (Anguilliformes), which have evolved a novel feeding mode (biting) from the ancestral and more common suction-based strategy. To read more about my research, please click the link below.

Personal Website

Vikram Baliga
Doctoral Student
vbaliga “at”

I am broadly interested in understanding the morphological diversity of cleaner fishes. The observation that cleaning has evolved several times independently across the evolution of teleost fishes provides me with the opportunity to test hypotheses about the degree of convergence for members of this functional group. In my research, I combine functional morphology and phylogenetic comparative methods to examine the structural and functional bases of cleaning behavior in several teleost clades from an evolutionary perspective.

Personal Site

Animal Care Technician

Analisa Brown
Marine Biology

Crystal Reynaga
Marine Biology

Jeffrey Sharick


Rita S. Mehta
Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of California, Santa Cruz

Kate Galloway
Marine Biology

Doctoral Students

Leith Miller
Marine Biology

Former Members

Undergraduate Researchers

Postdoctoral Researchers

Danielle Pruitt
dpruitt "at"

I am a Senior at UC Santa Cruz majoring in Ecology & Evolution. Currently, I have been working on a project in ELVer lab involving ectotherms. I am looking at the axial skeleton to see how its morphology is affected by the environment. Along with volunteering at the Elver lab, I work at a Pet Hotel, as well as volunteer in the Veterinary clinic at the SC county animal shelter. After graduation I plan to attend veterinary school. I look forward to continue to work in the ELVer lab and expand my knowledge of functional morphology.

Lab Mascot, Public Relations

Michelle Quintero
Marine Biology

Rita S. Mehta

Assistant Professor

Undergratuate Researchers

Kathryn Pelon
kpelon "at"

I'm a second year Ecology & Evolution major at UCSC with plans to attend veterinary school after graduation and work in zoological medicine and conservation research. I'm currently a docent at the Seymour Center, a volunteer at the SC County Animal Shelter, and a student co-leader for the Academic Excellence Program (ACE). I'm new to the ELVer lab and I'm looking forward becoming involved in all aspects of research as my undergraduate career progresses!

Lisa Bang
Marine Biology

Ben Higgins
Doctoral Student
bahiggin “at”

I am an ecomorphologist interested in the relationships between the ecology and evolution of marine fishes.  I earned my Master of Science degree while working with Dr. Mike Horn at California State University, Fullerton.  My master’s thesis focused on the jaw mechanics, dietary breadth, and feeding behavior of California grunion and their relatives.  I have spent over 6 years working at the Cabrillo Marine Aquarium as the Research Supervisor in the Aquatic Nursery, where I mentored students, designed and built custom aquaria and conducted aquaculture research projects.  As a new EEB doctoral student, I plan on studying the abundance and movement patterns of California moray eels inhabiting the waters of Santa Catalina Island.  My dissertation will also include aspects of functional morphology, as well as a public outreach component to share what we learn. 

High Summer School Interns (HSSI Program)

Andrea Longoria
Watsonville High School
Advisors: Vikram Baliga and Rita Mehta

Hello, my name is Andrea Longoria. I currently attend Watsonville High School and will be a senior in the fall. I am a part of UCSC's 2013 Summer Internship Program and I am working with my mentor, Vikram. I would really like to attend college one day whether it be a four year university or a community college. I hope one day to (of course!) major in something in the sciences. I also want to pursue my dream of becoming a doctor one day, or maybe even a surgeon. I am very excited to be working this summer with the Internship Program among all the scientists! There's one more thing: I am a painter, a Nacho Libre fan, and part Hot Dog.

Bernardo Buttler
Marine Biology

Lab Technicians

Sarah Kienle
Doctoral Student
skienle “at”

I am biologist interested in the comparative feeding ecology and functional morphology of marine mammals, specifically pinnipeds (seals, sea lions, and walruses). I earned my Masters of Science degree under Dr. Annalisa Berta at San Diego State University. My master’s thesis was an investigation of the comparative feeding morphology and evolution of feeding strategies in phocids (seals). Prior to my MS degree, I taught high school and middle school biology in south Texas for three years. For my dissertation research, I am planning to conduct a comparative study of the functional feeding morphology and ecology of pinnipeds. I am interested in combining phylogenetic comparative methods with ecological data in order to understand feeding behaviors from both ecological and evolutionary perspectives.

Chris Law
Doctoral Student
cjlaw9 “at”

I am interested in using phylogenetic methods to investigate how diverse morphologies between closely related marine animals relate to distinct behaviors and ecosystem function. I previously studied the relationship between diverse morphologies and burrowing behaviors in polychaete worms (Opheliidae) with Dr. Greg Rouse and Dr. Kelly Dorgan at Scripps Institution of Oceanography, UC San Diego where I also received my Bachelor of Science in Environmental Systems. 

Camille Baettig
cbaettig "at"

My name is Camille Baettig and I am a third year marine biology major at UC Santa Cruz. Along with volunteering at ELVer, I work at the UCSC Greenhouses tending to the many plants that are a part of several research projects. However, my passion lies in the field of marine biology and I plan to continue on to graduate school to study this fascinating subject. I am looking forward to working with the ELVer lab this year and expanding my knowledge in functional morphology! 

Michellé Mac
mmac "at"

I am a Biology major at UCSC finishing up my last quarter. I am currently working as a veterinary technician at The Animal Hospital of Soquel, as well as assisting Vikram in his research and also tending to the animals in the ELVer lab. After completing my degree at UCSC, I plan to volunteer at various places and eventually apply to vet school. I am hoping to pursue a veterinary career while also being involved in animal research (thanks to ELVer!).

This program, run by Dr. Adina Paytan, affords local high school students the opportunity to work on research projects in science laboratories at UC Santa Cruz. For more information about this program, please follow this link.

UCSC CalTeach Interns

Rita is currently running a summer internship she designed for two UC Santa Cruz Cal Teach students, entitled "Introduction to Functional & Morphological Diversity". This internship will cover function, structure, and diversity in animals, mainly vertebrates.

Brandon Parks
CalTeach Intern 2013

I grew up in the small town of Valley Springs located in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada. I am currently a senior Ecology & Evolution major at UC Santa Cruz. I hope to one day become a middle school or high school science teacher here in the Santa Cruz area. I have completed internships in classrooms at Pacific Collegiate, Aptos High School, and Harbor High School as part of the UCSC Cal Teach Program. I am looking forward to using what I learn here in the ELVer lab in my classroom in the future.

Michaela Tondi
CalTeach Intern 2013

Michaela is a 4th year Marine Biology major with a STEM Education minor. She grew up in NJ, always within walking distance of the ocean. Her love of the mysterious marine environment, as well as her family and teachers, inspired her to become a science teacher. While attending UC Santa Cruz for college, she became interested in the UCSC CalTeach program. Michaela has completed 3 internships at Santa Cruz schools. Michaela jumped at the chance to work with Calteach again, especially when the unique opportunity to work in a lab was offered. This is Michaela’s first time in a research lab, and she is very excited to be a part of ELVer.

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