Graduate Students


Ph.D. Candidate, Graduate Group in Population Biology, University of California, Davis (2019-present)

M.S., Biology, California State University, Long Beach (2019)

B.S., Biology – Marine option, California State University, Northridge (2015)

Research Interests: I am interested in the relationships among morphological diversity and behavioral ecology in fishes. Specifically, I would like to address the ways in which morphology limits technique in feeding, swimming, and other behaviors. During my undergraduate research I focused primarily on the relationship among size and courtship and feeding behaviors in fish, and my masters thesis addressed local adaptation in behavior as a product of geographic isolation and spatial variation in fishing pressure among populations. I think that now it would be interesting to measure how morphological and behavior correlations may be impacted by selective pressures such as fishing which vary over space.

Recent publications:

Satterfield, D.R., Claverie, T., and Wainwright, P.C. (2023). Body shape and mode of propulsion do not constrain routine swimming in coral reef fishes. Functional Ecology, 37, 343-357.

Satterfield, D.R., Johnson, D.W. (2020). Local adaptation of antipredator behaviors in populations of a temperate reef fish. Oecologia 194(4), 571-584. doi: 10.1007/s00442-020-04757-y

Johnson, D.W., Stirling, B.S., Paz, J., and Satterfield, D.R. (2019). Geographic variation in demography of black perch (Embiotoca jacksoni): Effects of density, food availability, predation, and fishing. Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology. doi: 10.1016/j.jembe.2019.04.008

Satterfield, D.R., and Steele, M.A. (2019). Effects of size and sex on the courting success and foraging behaviour of Embiotoca jacksoniJournal of Fish Biology. doi: 10.1111/jfb.13981

For more information about Darien’s research, visit her website or contact her at



Ph.D. Student, Graduate Group in Population Biology, University of California, Davis (2021-present)

M.S., Biology (Ecology, Behavior, Evolution), Boston University (2021)

B.S., Environmental Sciences, Duke University (2020)

Research Interests: I am interested in exploring the evolution of jaws and teeth in fishes. More specifically, I am interested in combining ecological, morphometric, and genomic data to explore trophic diversification in adaptive radiations. I have a particular interest in the haplochromine cichlids of Lake Victoria. As a member of the Wainwright lab, I hope to learn more about macroevolutionary patterns and explore new ways to quantify fish tooth traits such as shape.

Recent Publications:

Okechi, J.K., Peoples, N., Nyamweya, C.S., Glaser, S. & Kaufman, L. (2022). The ecological health of Lake Victoria (Kenya) in the face of growing cage aquaculture. Conservation Science and Practice. doi: 10.1111/csp2.12826

For more information about Nick’s research, contact him at



Ph.D. Student, Graduate Group in Population Biology, University of California, Davis (2021-present)

B.S., Biology, College of William & Mary (2021)

Research Interests: I am interested in the relationship between morphology and ecology, the role of phenotypic plasticity in this relationship, and how it relates to outcomes of species introductions. I am particularly fascinated by the remarkable morphological plasticity, history of rapid speciation, and widespread invasive success of the family Cichlidae. My undergraduate work examined morphological differences between native and introduced cichlid populations using geometric morphometric methods. In the future, I would like to explore variation in morphological plasticity among fish families and its potential role in adaptive radiations and in determining invasive success.

For more information about Khalil’s research, visit his LinkedIn or contact him at


Postdoctoral Researchers


Postdoctoral Researcher, University of California, Davis (2022-present)

Ph.D., James Cook University (2022)

M.Sc., Marine Biology and Ecology, James Cook University (2016)

B.S., Biology, University of Copenhagen (2014)

Research Interests: My research interest is anything relating to the Ecology and Evolution of coral reef fishes. I am primarily interested in the functional ecology of species, how these fishes swim and feed, and how they interact with their environment. I investigate these aspects through functional morphology, animal behavior, and community-wide approaches.

Recent Publications:

Mihalitsis, M., D.R. Bellwood, P.C. Wainwright. (2023). Sit and survive: predation avoidance by cryptobenthic coral reef fishes. Marine Biology 171(7)

Hemingson, C. R., Mihalitsis, M., & Bellwood, D. R. 2022. Are fish communities on coral reefs becoming less colourful?. Global Change Biology 28(10): 3321-3332.

Muruga, P., Bellwood, D. R., & Mihalitsis, M. (2022). Forensic odontology: Assessing bite wounds to determine the role of teeth in piscivorous fishes. Integrative Organismal Biology 4(1): obac011.

Mihalitsis, M., & Bellwood, D. R. (2021). Functional groups in piscivorous fishes. Ecology and Evolution 11(18): 12765-12778.

Mihalitsis, M., & Bellwood, D. R. (2019). Morphological and functional diversity of piscivorous fishes on coral reefs. Coral Reefs, 38(5), 945-954.

Mihalitsis, M., & Bellwood, D. (2019). Functional implications of dentition-based morphotypes in piscivorous fishes. Royal Society open science, 6(9), 190040.

For more information about Mike’s research, contact him at



Postdoctoral Researcher, University of California, Davis (2022-present)

Edward W. Rose Postdoctoral Fellow, Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Cornell University (2019-2022)

Postdoctoral Researcher, Western Michigan University (2018-2019)

PhD, Oregon State University (2018)

M.S., University of Hawaii at Manoa (2012)

B.S., Southern Illinois University, Carbondale (2008)

Research Interests: My research takes a multidisciplinary approach to understand the evolutionary processes that gave rise to the exceptional diversity of fishes. Specifically, I am interested in understanding how morphological diversity arises at large geographic scales and over deep evolutionary time. I do this by reconstructing phenotypic evolution across global radiations that encompass hundreds to thousands of fish species. Using a big data approach, I combine phylogenomics, quantitative comparative anatomy, and phylogenetic comparative methods to compare hundreds of replicated evolutionary events across independent lineages and diverse geographies.

Recent Publications:

DeHaan, L.M., M.D. Burns, J.P. Egan, D.D. Bloom. (2023). Diadromy Drives Elevated Rates of Trait Evolution and Ecomorphological Convergence in Clupeiformes (Herring, Shad, and Anchovies). The American Naturalist 202(6)

Burns, M.D., J.H. Knouft, C.B. Dillman. (2023). The role of abiotic and biotic factors in the unequal body shape diversification of a Gondwanan fish radiation (Otophysi:Characiformes). Evolution qpad203

Burns, M.D., M.L. Collyer, B.L. Sidlauskas. (2023). Simultaneous integration and modularity underlie the exceptional body shape diversification of characiform fishes. Evolution 77(3): 746-762

de Brito, V., R. Betancur-R, M.D. Burns, T.J. Buser, K.W. Conway, J.P. Fontenelle, M.A. Kolmann, W.T. McCraney, C.E. Thacker, D.D. Bloom. (2022). Patterns of Phenotypic Evolution Associated with Marine/Freshwater Transitions in Fishes. Integrative Comparative Biology 62(2): 406–423.

Melo, B.F., B.L. Sidlauskas, T.J. Near, F.F. Roxo, A. Ghezelayagh, L.E. Ochoa, M.L.J. Stiassny, J. Arroyave, J. Chang, B.C. Faircloth, D.J. MacGuigan, R.C. Harrington, R.C. Benine, M.D. Burns, K. Hoekzema, N.C. Sanches, J.A. Maldonado-Ocampo, R.M.C. Castro, F. Foresti, M.E. Alfaro, C. Oliveira. (2022). Accelerated Diversification Explains the Exceptional Species Richness Tropical Characoid Fishes. Systematic Biology 71(1): 78-92.

Sidlauskas, B.L., M.D. Burns, T.J. Buser, N. Harper, M. Kindred. (2021). Teaching Ichthyology Online with a Virtual Specimen Collection. Ichthyology & Herpetology 109(2): 407-423.

Egan, J.P., T.J. Buser, M.D. Burns, A.M. Simons, P.J. Hundt. (2021). Patterns of body shape diversity and evolution in intertidal and subtidal lineages of combtooth blennies (Blenniidae). Integrative Organismal Biology 3(1): obab004.

Burns, M.D. (2021). Adaptation to herbivory and detritivory drives the convergent evolution of large abdominal cavities in a diverse freshwater fish radiation (Otophysi: Characiformes). Evolution 75(3): 688-705.

For more information about Mike’s research, visit his website or contact him at