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Mahler lab at the EEB department holiday party 2021

D. Luke Mahler, Principal Investigator


I’m an Assistant Professor in the Department of Ecology & Evolutionary Biology at the University of Toronto. I joined our faculty in 2015.

I did my Ph.D. with Jonathan Losos at Harvard University, and held subsequent positions as the CPB Postdoctoral Fellow at UC Davis, and as postdoctoral fellow with Peter Wainwright (UC Davis) and with Rich Glor (University of Kansas). For more about me, please check out my Research page.

Current Lab Members

Alex Tinius, EEB Postdoctoral Fellow

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Despite his love for wild life and photography Alex has never caught a single anole on camera. As it turns out his study subjects avoid the cold and temperate climates that Alex calls home. Following his Ph.D. thesis under the guidance of Tony Russell (UofCalgary) his main interests lie in the form, function, and evolution of the appendicular girdles. Alex viciously exploits anole diversity to investigate causal relationships between the variation in skeletal morphology and associated differences in ecology and habitat use. A few of his more common-sense findings feature online on his website.

Graduate Students

Ken Toyama, PhD Candidate


Ken joined the lab in the Fall of 2017 to start his PhD studies. His main interests are macroevolution and ecomorphology, which he developed working mainly with squamates. Ken studied tropidurine lizards in South America and European herpetofauna of the Mediterranean basin previously, and at present he is studying the evolution of sexual dimorphism in anoles. You can find more about Ken’s research and interests on his personal website.

Jill Sanderson, PhD Candidate

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Jill began their MSc studies with the lab in the Fall of 2018 and then transferred to the PhD program in the summer of 2019.  With a keen interest in the biology of colour, macroevolution, and behavioural and sensory ecology, Jill’s research is focused on the evolution of signal diversity in Anolis lizards. While their MSc project focused primarily on quantifying dewlap pattern complexity, throughout their PhD they will be combining field-collected and comparative data on colour, pattern, and behaviour to explore the anole communicative display as a whole.

Rowan French, PhD Candidate


Rowan began her PhD in September 2019 and is working jointly in the Mahler and Rowe labs. As an undergraduate at the University of Alberta, she worked on the morphology, molecular systematics, and conservation genetics of several arthropod taxa, including spruce budworm moths, short-tailed whipscorpions, and tiger beetles. She also studied exaggerated traits in male longhorned beetles (Cerambycidae) and remains fascinated by patterns of sexual size dimorphism (SSD) in that group. In particular, she is interested in (I) how exaggerated male traits evolved in cerambycids, (II) why species vary in their degree of SSD, and (III) how the evolution of SSD might have influenced lineage diversification. Rowan plans to tackle those questions during her PhD and looks forward to using diverse morphological, comparative phylogenetic, and experimental approaches in her two host labs.

Gavia Lertzman-Lepofsky, PhD Candidate


Gavia joined the lab in the fall of 2019 and is broadly interested in how macroecology and macroevolution jointly shape patterns of diversity. For her PhD, she is working with Anolis lizards (a short taxonomic jump from her work with amphibians as an undergraduate) to unpack how macroevolutionary processes can determine the structure of local communities.  In particular, she is using trait and abundance data to ask how community structure changes across environmental gradients, the relationship between traits and rarity, and how these vary across different branches of the Anole phylogeny.

Undergraduate Students

Katie Monat

Michelle Su

Previous Lab Members

Miriam Ahmad-Gawel, MSc Student


Miriam started her MSc in the fall of 2020 following the completion of her Bachelor’s here at U of T. She investigated the effects of allometry on Anolis skull diversity and wanted to better understand the mechanisms that can constrain or facilitate phenotypic diversification on a large, macroevolutionary scale. In addition to being a field-work enthusiast, Miriam has a great interest in the history and philosophy of evolutionary biology. Miriam is working on her PhD at the University of Chicago.

Zifang Xiong


In her fourth year of undergrad, Zifang conducted an independent research project in the lab. She investigated the relationship between Anolis tooth shape within the jaw (heterodonty), body size (allometry), and ecology (ecomorphology). She also worked in the lab as a Work-Study student in 2019-2020, and participated in data collecting during the 2019 Mahler Lab field season in Ecuador. Now, Zifang is conducting her MSc Research with Hilary Maddin at Carleton University.

Siobhan Drysdale

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Siobhan was a fifth-year undergraduate student who worked on an independent research project in the lab studying the relationship between dewlap and dorsal colouration in Anolis lizards.

Daniel Zhang

Daniel Zhang Lab Photo

Daniel started working in the lab as a work-study student in Summer 2018, and in his third year conducted an independent undergraduate research project on the evolution of limb bone shape across habitat gradients within four widespread species of Anolis lizard.

Chris Boccia


Chris defended his MSc in the Fall of 2018; his thesis focused on testing for convergent evolution in semi-aquatic anoles. Chris travelled to Costa Rica, Mexico, and Colombia to observe and test the swimming performance of 4 phylogenetically distinct semi-aquatic anole species. Chris is now completing his PhD at Queen’s University with Vicki Friesen studying the adaptive potential of black-legged kittiwakes (Rissa tridactyla).

Edita Folfas


After participating in data collection during the 2018 Mahler Lab field season in Jamaica, Edita worked on an independent undergraduate research project in the lab. She explored the evolution of female-biased sexual size dimorphism in continental Anolis lizards.

Luke Frishkoff


Dr. Luke Owen Frishkoff held one of our department’s prestigious EEB Postdoctoral Fellowships, and he worked jointly with the Mahler Lab and the lab of Marie-Josée Fortin. Luke’s research focused on how species’ evolutionary histories shape their responses to human-induced habitat change, and he applied this perspective to study how communities of Caribbean Anolis lizards change as they respond to habitat modification and a warmer climate. You can find more about Luke’s work at his website.

James Boyko


James Boyko, MSc, joined the lab in Fall 2015 and pursued his interests in macroevolution by studying morphological evolution in Lesser Antillean Anolis lizards.

Michael Foisy


Michael, MSc, was an NSERC-funded Master’s student working jointly in the Mahler and Rodd Labs. Michael used phylogenetic models and experiments to explore how female mating biases may precede, and subsequently facilitate, the evolution of male ornaments in poeciliid fishes. Michael also has a fondness for bees; his favourite species is Amegilla murrayensis.

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