Current Lab Members

Christopher Dick : Primary Investigator

Christopher Dick

Primary Investigator

Christopher Dick is a Professor in EEB and curator of vascular plants in the U-M Herbarium (MICH). Chris did his PhD at Harvard-OEB and was a postdoctoral fellow at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute. He is broadly interested in tropical plant evolution and the biogeography of neotropical rain forests.

Diana Medellín-Zabala : Doctoral Student

Diana Medellín-Zabala

Doctoral Student

Diana did a master's thesis on systematics of the tropical tree genus Garcinia (Clusiaceae). She worked at the Bogota Botanical Garden José Celestino Mutis and the Humboldt Institute in Colombia before coming to Michigan. Diana is interested in the systematics of the Brazil nut family Lecythidaceae, and especially in the Colombian centered genera Grias and Gustavia.

Raquel Pizzardo : Doctoral Student

Raquel Pizzardo

Doctoral Student

Raquel is a Brazilian botanist who graduated from the University of São Paulo and did work at Kew Gardens before coming to Michigan. She is interested in the systematics and evolution of the tropical tree family Sapotaceae, especially the subfamily Chrysophylloidea which is exceptionally diverse in neotropical rain forest. Learn more at Rachel's research website.

Priscila Souza :

Priscila Souza

Priscila (Pri) Souza is a PhD candidate at the Instituto Nacional de Pesquisa da Amazônia (INPA) in Manaus, Brazil. She did her master's degree in Ecology at INPA and is advised by Beto Vicentini and coadvised by Chris Dick. Pri is looking at species boundaries, evolutionary history and taxonomy of one of the most abundant and widespread tree species in Amazon rain forest, Eschweilera coriacea (Lecythidaceae). At Michigan is performing genetic analyses of samples she collected in the Brazilian Amazon.

Lab Alumni

Visiting Scholars and Post-Docs

Deise Gonçalves was a postdoc on the NSF funded Ericales and coadvised by Stephen Smith. Learn more about Deise’s work at her research website.

Hannah Marx was a postdoc interested in using computational phylogenetic approaches to understand Andean-Amazon tree diversification.  She worked in the Dick and Smith labs, and is a faculty member at the University of New Mexico.

Oscar Vargas obtained his PhD from the UT Austin, and did a postdoc in the Dick and Smith labs focused on the systematics of Lecythidaceae. Oscar is a faculty member at Humboldt State University.

Greg Stull completed his PhD in the Soltis lab at the University of Florida, and received an NSF post-doctoral fellowship to work in the Dick lab, Smith lab and U-M Herbarium.

James Pease was a post-doc on the Geogenomics project from 2015-2016 and was interested in genomic adaptations of tropical trees along elevational gradients. He is now a faculty member at Wake Forest University.

Ashley Thomson visited the lab as a PhD student and returned as a post-doc in 2015-2016 with funding from Dimensions of Amazon Biodiversity grant. Ashley is a faculty member at Lakehead University in Canada.

Alison Gonçalvo Nazareno was a visiting post-doc from the University of São Paulo in 2015 and 2017. Alison developed RADseq markers to test the Riverine Barrier Hypothesis as applied to Amazonian plants.

Kasso Dainou completed his PhD at the Université Libre de Bruxelles in Belgium, and was a visiting Post-doctoral Fellow in 2012. Kasso, a native of Benin, is interested in the population genetics of tropical tree species.

Juanita Choo obtained her PhD from the University of Texas at Austin. Juanita is interested in the implications of the loss of large vertebrates for the community ecology and genetic structure of tropical forest trees.

David Kenfack was a Post-Doctoral Researcher from 2008-2009. David does research on the systematics, ecology and population  genetics of tropical  forest trees. David currently coordinates activities of Center for Tropical Forest Sciences in Africa

Ikuyo Saeki was a visiting scholar from Tokyo Metropolitan University in 2008-2009. Ikuyo studied the comparative phylogeography of maples in collaboration with Emeritus Prof. Burton V. Barnes.

Hoa Tran was a visiting Scholar from the Institute of Agricultural Genetics, Hanoi, Vietnam from 2008-2009. Hoa is interested in evaluating genetic variation in economically important tropical tree species in Vietnam.

Xiao-Hong Yao is an associate professor in the Wuhan branch of the Chinese Academy of Sciences. Xiao-Hong developed genomic DNA markers for use in population genetics and phylogeography of Ficus and other Moraceae. 

Grad Students

Tamara Milton (2022 PhD co-advised by Robyn Burnham) studied the contributions of niche and neutral processes to tree species dominance and rarity in the Brazilian Amazon, with a focus on the Brazil nut family (Lecythidaceae). Tamara is doing a postdoc with Dr. Heather Alexander in the Forest and Fire Ecology Lab at Auburn University.

Drew Larson (2022 PhD co-advised by Stephen Smith) is interested in the genomic basis of plant adaptation and the interface between biogeography and phylogenomics. Drew is currently doing an NSF supported postdoc in the Matthew Hahn Lab at Indiana University.

Caroline Parins-Fukuchi  (2019 PhD co-advised by Dan Fisher) developed phylogenetic methods that incorporated continuous characters from fossil and extant taxa. Caroline was a UM undergrad (working the Smith and Dick labs) before entering the PhD program in 2015. She is a TC Chamberlin Postdoctoral Fellow in the Department of Geophysical Sciences at the University of Chicago.

Jordan Bemmels (2018 PhD) studied the historical biogeography of hickories and widespread neotropical trees. He is currently a University of Toronto Scarborough Postdoctoral Fellow.

Stephanie Alcala (2018 MSc) studied genomic differences among coffee varieties in Panama. She now works as a Junior Trader at RGC Coffee Inc. Check out this news article on Stephanie’s work.

Na Wei (2015 PhD) studied the population genetic implications of seed and pollen dispersal modes in tropical trees. She developed molecular markers for several dioecious species, and used genetic data and models to jointly infer seed and pollen dispersal parameters. Na is a Research Scientist at the Holden Arboretum in Ohio.

Brian Sedio (2013 PhD) studied the community ecology, historical biogeography, trait evolution, and chemical ecology of the hyperdiverse  tree genus Psychotria (Rubiaceae) in central Panama. He is a faculty member at the University of Texas at Austin.

Ashley Thomson (2012 PhD, Concordia University) was a visiting PhD student from Concordia University, Canada (advisor, Selvadurai Dayanandan). Her dissertation was on the comparative phylogeography of North American birches (Betula).

Katrin Heer was a visiting PhD student from the University of Ulm, Germany (advisor, Elisabeth Kalko). Katrin studied the genetics and ecology of pollen and seed dispersal in Neotropical figs (Ficus).

Sandra Yap (2010 PhD) studied comparative phylogeography of trees and vines in the Philippines (advised by Robyn Burnham)

Jess Peirson (coadvised by Tony Reznicek) got his PhD in 2009. Jess studied the Holocene biogeography of goldenrods (Solidago simplex species group) across North America.

Susan Kabat was an M.S. student in SNRE. Susan developed microsatellite DNA markers in order to study  population structure of the common milkweed (Asclepias syriacae) (advised by Mark Hunter)

Shalene Jha (coadvised by John Vandermeer) was the first PhD to graduate from the Dick lab. Shalene studied gene flow of native trees located in shade coffee farms in Chiapas, Mexico. Shalene is a faculty member at University of Texas at Austin.

Roosevelt García-Villacorta initiated studies of comparative phylogeography of figs and associated wasp pollinators in Panama and Peru. Roosevelt completed his PhD at the University of Edinburgh.

Lab Managers

Susana Pereira was our first lab manager from 2006-2007. Susana organized the lab startup and trained a large cohort of students. She is now living in Germany.

Hope Draheim was our lab manager from 2007-2009 – she trained many students in the lab and authored a paper on Virola microsatellites. Hope is now a PhD student at Michigan State University.

Saji Abraham was lab manager from 2010-2012 and is now in the UM Med School. Saji hails from India, where he coordinated germplasm resources for the rubber tree, Hevea brasiliensis.


Kathryn Anne Uckele worked with Brian Sedio in summer 2011 as an NSF REU fellow under the ED-QUE2ST program. Kate has interests in tropical biology and creative writing. Kate also did an internship at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in Panama in summer 2012.

John Schroeder came to the lab through the UROP program in 2008. He did field work in Panama in 2009 and 2010 in with REU funds from NSF and completed an honors thesis on the population genetics of the tropical tree Pouteria reticulata. John began his PhD in Biology at Stanford starting in 2013.

Melissa Cui helped develop microsatellite DNA markers for the neotropical nutmeg tree Virola surinamensis as an undergrad intern. Now she’s a PhD student in the Medical School of the University of Michigan.

Barbara Wagner performed surveys of neotropical nutmeg trees (genusVirola) in Barro Colorado Island, Panama, as part of an NSF funded research experience for undergraduates (REU).

Eben “Blake” Hogdin participated in Brian Sedio’s research on community phylogeny of the tree genus Psychotria in Panama in 2008 with REU supplement funds from NSF. Blake is a student at the University of Idaho