Outreach and Media Teaching


Principal Investigator

Ylenia Chiari

I am fascinated by the diversity of life and I cannot think of a better way to study this diversity than by using an evolutionary approach. I am interested in many aspects of vertebrate evolution, but my work mainly focuses on morphological and physiological evolution in reptiles and on vertebrate conservation.

I performed my undergraduate studies and Masters graduate work at the University of Pisa in Italy. I obtained my PhD from the University of Konstanz in Germany. I have worked in many different countries and in many different labs.
As a woman scientist and as an academic mom, I am committed to increase participation of women - including the ones with children - in STEM. As a foreigner who has experienced discrimination because of this, I am committed to promoting and supporting diversity in the working environment.

In my free time, I love traveling and learning languages, reading, dancing, looking for animals, hiking, and practicing almost any kind of outdoor sport (on land or in water).
Finally, I love dry humor and I am very sarcastic!

E-mail (remove spaces):
ychiari @ gmu.edu 

Research Assistant

Christopher Klein

I received my Bachelors of Science in Marine Biology from the University of South Florida in 2017. Shortly after I began working for a non-profit organization in Maui, HI. I was employed as a Naturalist and a Research Assistant studying cetaceans. My work consisted of long hours in the field, capturing photos of humpback whale flukes to identify new individuals, as well as cataloguing returning individuals that would migrate from Alaska during the winter. I then received my Master of Science in Conservation Biology at the University of South Florida. My MSc thesis focused on analyzing maternal investment throughout the order of Cetacea. I am now working as a Research Assistant on a project focused on the conservation genetics of a critically endangered sea turtle species. In my free time, I enjoy free-diving, hiking, and being outdoors.

Visiting students

Irlanda Gallardo

I carried out my undergraduate studies in Mexico, and got my degree in Pharmaceutical Chemical Biology with thesis work on barcoding and genetic variability of Leatherback sea turtles. Currently, I am doing a Master's in Genetics Biotechnology at the Instituto Politecnico Nacional in Mexico. For my Master's, I am working on the genetic diversity of Mexican nesting hawksbill sea turtle populations. I am a visiting scholar at GMU where I am working on conservation genetics of Kemp's ridley sea turtles.
I enjoy doing field work at the beach, traveling to new places, nature, basketball, going to church, and trying new coffee shops. I am funnier in Spanish!

Graduate students

Riley Moreau

I received my Bachelors of Art in Biology from The College of Wooster in May 2020, where I primarily studied the genetic structure of a polymorphic garter snake on and around Lake Erie. I also assisted on projects dealing with behavioral changes in mosquitoes after treatment with different natural compounds. I am currently a PhD student at George Mason University. My project focuses on investigating how captivity impacts gene expression in an endangered salmonid species. In my free time, I enjoy nature photography, kayaking, reading the pulpiest sci-fi that used book stores have to offer, and going on absurdly long hikes with friends.

Stephanie Bulls
Co-supervised with Dr. Glaberman, ESP

I am an untraditional student, having first received an Associate of Applied Science in Veterinary Technology in 2009 from Cedar Valley College, Texas. I have worked for six years in an equine veterinary hospital before deciding to return to school for further higher education. I received a Bachelor's of Arts in Biology from the University of South Alabama in 2018 and went on to pursue a Master's in Biology from the same institution. As an undergraduate, I worked on identifying local Amanita mushrooms using molecular genomics. My overall interest is in evolutionary biology, with a focus on how disease interactions affect diversity. For my MS, I am currently working on a project to identify mechanisms that support large body sizes, longevity and tumor suppression in tortoises using cellular assays and comparative genomics. In my free time, I enjoy reading, gaming, kayaking, mushroom foraging, traveling and exploring new places, and going on wilderness adventures with my dogs.

Brandon Hastings

I received my Bachelors of Science from Longwood University in May 2020, where I studied the maneuverability and territoriality of dragonflies and birds. I am currently a Master's student at George Mason University. My project focuses on how color contrast between the outer and inner portions of flower petals may function to attract vertebrate pollinators using geckos as a model species. I am also investigating if preferences for certain floral color traits exist across different vertebrate pollinator classes. I am also interested in incorporating machine learning into existing data collection and analysis workflows. In my free time, I like hiking, playing the piano, and learning anything about computers.

Erik Maki

I received my BS in Finance with a minor in Accountancy from Western Illinois University in May 2016. Following graduation, I worked in finance for two years. I realized that finance was not for me and decided to go back to school and get a second bachelor's degree. I received my second BS in Biology from Northeastern Illinois University in July 2021, where I studied morphological evolution of painted turtles in Northern Wisconsin. During this time, I also worked at the Brookfield Zoo near Chicago. I am currently a MS student at George Mason University. I am interested in continuing research on morphological evolution. In my free time, I enjoy nature, hiking, skiing, reading, taking care of my herps and sport.

Emma White

I received my undergraduate degree in Biology at Virginia Tech with a concentration in evolution, ecology, and animal behavior. At Virginia Tech, I conducted research on the evolution of body temperature in mammals and squamates. My current Master's project focuses on the evolution of thermophysiology in reptiles, especially in geckos. I am also collaborating on a research looking at variation in thermal ecology in turtles. In my free time, I enjoy playing soccer, snowboarding, and hiking.

                Undergraduate students

Jason Motley

Past Members

Graduate students:

Nickolas Moreno (2019 - 2021) Biology, George Mason University

Nickolas Moreno (2016 - 2019) Biology, University of South Alabama

Nathan Katlein (2016 - 2018) Biology, University of South Alabama

Jared Elmore (2014 - 2016) Biology, University of South Alabama
Regis Burkhardt (2014 - 2018) Biology, University of South Alabama
Amber Simpson (2016) Educational Studies, University of South Alabama
Trenton O'Neal (2016 - 2017) Biology, University of South Alabama

Honor students:

Anastasiya Melnyk (2021) Biology, George Mason University

Miranda Ray (2017-2018) Biology, University of South Alabama

Undergraduate students:

Wania Ayub (2020-2021) Biology, George Mason University

Sarah Scott (2019-2020) Biology, George Mason University

Kyle Blevins (2019) Biology, George Mason University

Mary Floyd (2019) Biology, George Mason University

Emma McAllum (2019) Biology, George Mason University

Michael Chavez (2019) Biology, George Mason University

Keith Keel (2019) Environmental Science and Policy, George Mason University

Haziq Aziz (2019) Biology, George Mason University

Stephen Taglieri (2019) Biology, George Mason University

Last update April 2022
Copyright Ylenia Chiari