The Houligans

David Houle
As you know, he does research.  He enjoys living in Tallahassee, where you can get out of town quickly, and still find lots of good natural habitiat.  His mental escapes from all this include gardening, board games, birding and bicycling. Want to know why I left the University of Toronto? Click here.
Jason Cassara
Jason is interested in the evolution of allometry, as well as the relationships among allometries at different scales (ontogenetic, static, and evolutionary). He works with both holometabolous (Drosophila melanogaster) and hemimetabolous insects, in particular the leaf-footed bugs (Heteroptera: Coreidae), and is interested in the use of geometric morphometrics as one of a suite of tools for analyzing size/shape relationships. A relative newcomer to evolutionary biology, his background is in geology (B.S. – Univ. of Maryland; M.S. – Univ. of Iowa), particularly stable isotope geochemistry, taphonomy, paleobiology and paleoecology. He began working in the Houle lab as a lab tech, with the personal goal of gaining additional experience with morphometrics and in learning more about genetics and microevolution. To his surprise, he enjoyed working with living organisms so much that he decided to remain in the lab as a PhD student, even if it meant going over to the dark side of “neontology.” Jason has since developed a deep and abiding love of insects and entomology. As a geologist/paleontologist, he has had the opportunity to do fieldwork in such beautiful places as Ireland, South Africa, and the American West (South Dakota, Wyoming, Utah, Montana). A native of Long Island, NY, he considers Baltimore, MD to be his adopted hometown. He has, however, adapted well to life in (too) sunny Florida. Jason enjoys coffee, writing and recording music, and playing an obscure sport called Hooverball (look it up).
David Aponte
David Aponte is about to complete his Master's degree in Fall 2014, and starts graduate school at the University of Calgary in January 2015.  He has learned just about everything we do, and his thesis includes a selection experiment, mark-release-recapture data on his selected flies, manipulations of gene expression and morphometrics on the pattern of gene expression in the developing wing disc.  David started as an undergraduate in the lab in 2008.
Brad Steiner
Brad is a recent graduate of FSU currently working full-time as lab technician. He is interested in a wide variety of biological fields and hopes to begin graduate school next year aided with the knowledge and skills he has gained in the Houle lab.

Undergraduate Assistants

Victoria Smethurst

Victoria Victoria is a biological science undergraduate at Florida State University. She wants to go to graduate school to study epigenetics. She was born to two wonderful parents who encouraged her to follow her dreams. The first dream she ever had was to become the world’s best air guitar player. That fell through due to the tight competition and her eventual fascination with books. The books consumed her life and she eventually found herself in Book Readers Anonymous. The BRA helped her turn her life around and she is now a relatively productive member of society, although she does fall off the wagon once or twice a week when her book urges overwhelm her.

Alex Jasman
I am a Florida State Seminole since 2012, currently working towards my undergraduate biology degree. I am fascinated by how many species there are all acting like "programs" coded to continue their way of life fitting into every environmental niche available. As a Seminole I enjoy attending our football games and hanging out at the Rez.
Joanne Salina
Joanne recently graduated from FSU. With no immediate graduate school plans, she is currently seeking a career that fulfills her passion for biology. Her favorite Serbian proverb is: "Be humble, for you are made of earth. Be noble, for you are made of stars."
Past Houligans
Post-doctoral researcher
Alexis Matamoro Vidal
My career goal is to understand why Raymond Poulidor never won the 'Tour de France' (he finished second three times and third five times). However, since no funding agency wanted to award this project, I turned towards evolutionary morphology. I investigate evolutionary forces responsible for patterns of morphological diversity. For this, I combine (1) phylogenetics, to describe evolutionary patterns; (2) developmental biology, to understand how morphological variation is generated; and (3) functional approaches, to test for the role of natural selection in shaping patterns of morphological variation. I have used this integrated approach to study evolution of pollen morphology and I am currently investigating developmental origins of morphological variation in the shape of the Drosophila wing. Alexis is currently working on the wing model in the lab of Barry Thompson in London. He will join the research group of Virginie Orgogozo in 2015.
Post-doctoral Researcher
Eladio Marquez
Eladio's research encompasses a variety of questions concerning the developmental and evolutionary mechanisms behind patterns of phenotypic variation. He is particularly interested in the development of novel approaches for the visualization and modeling of multidimensional variation, the broad aim being the formulation of testable hypotheses linking specific genetic and developmental mechanisms to their partial contributions to overall phenotypic variation, which is initially modeled as the cumulative aggregate of all such contributions. Thus, in a way, his research seeks to understand variation by taking a reductionistic, model- or experimentally driven approach, to ultimately use these cause-effects threads as a link between gene expression-level processes and directions of phenotypic evolutionary divergence. In addition to being author of the prgrams CPR and Lory found on this web site, he is also author of a large number of software packages for analyses of shape data available at Eladio Marquez’ personal website. Eladio is now a researcher at The Jackson Laboratory for Genomic Medicine.
Post-doctoral researcher
Rosa Moscarella
Rosa received her PhD in 2011 from Michigan State University. During her Doctoral studies, she became very interested in STEM Education Research while pursuing a Teaching Certification in College Science. After her postdoc at the Houle Lab, she moved back to Michigan to join the Automated Analysis of Constructed Responses (AACR) research group, which investigates computerized analysis of students' writing. She's now combining her broad experience in Biology and her interest in Science Education to investigate learning difficulties students have understanding Genetics.
Ph.D. graduate
Brian Hollis
Brian received his Ph.D. in 2011.  He is interested in sexual selection. In particular, why do males of so many species show such extravagance despite the clear nonsexual cost? He is using experimental evolution with Drosophila melanogaster to test predictions of theory, including whether or not there is any adaptive value to sexual selection. He is also interested in biological conflict generally, at all levels of organization. He is currently a post-doctoral researcher in the lab of Tad Kawecki in Lausanne, Switzerland. 
Ph.D. graduate
Janna Fierst
Janna received her Ph.D. in 2010.  Janna is broadly interested in evolutionary genetics, and particularly the evolution of the genetic system and the map from genotype to phenotype. Her current research uses a combination of bioinformatic, mathematical and computational models to explore these phenomena, particularly patterns of genetic interactions.  Janna is now an Assistant Professor at the University of Alabama, and the proud mother of Josephine. 

M.S. graduate
Jessica Nye
Jessica received her M.S. in 2012.  She worked on a quantitative trait locus mapping experiment that compares wing morphology to the entire genome sequence and expression profile of Drosophila Genome Reference Panel lines. She is curently living in Barcelona, Catalonia, Spain, and is looking to get back to biomedial research. 

graduate student
Don Griffin
Don is a student of evolutionary theory in general. In particular, he is interested in the construction of Genotype-to-Phenotype (G-P) maps through evolutionary processes, and the mathematical properties of G-P maps that shape evolutionary possibilities. He is also the best Agricola and Puerto Rico player in the lab, but since he does not wish to seem immodest, he lets others win sometimes.

  • Maurizio Tomaiuolo is a mathematical modeler who received his Ph.D. with myself and Thomas Hansen. He now works at the Biotechnology High-Performance Computing Software Applications Institute in Maryland. e-mail: mauriziotml at

  • Kim van der Linde worked on fly wings and a phylogeny of the Drosophilidae in the lab.  She now works in the Floirda Department of Health as an epidemiologist. e-mail: kim at

  • Chad Evers is ex-lab manager, who worked his way up from boyfriend. He departed to get his Master's degree at UCSF, and is now monitoring aquaculture in south Florida for the DEP.  

  • Ashley Carter was a post-doctoral researcher in the lab. He selected on wing shape in flies. He is now an assistant professor at Cal State Long Beach.

  • Fiona Hollis successfully moved through all the undergrad roles in the lab , got her Ph.D. with Mahmmad Kabbaj in the College of Medicine, and is now a post-doctoral researcher at the University of Lausanne.  She and Brian Hollis met over flies and are now the proud parents of Samantha and Aaron.  

  • Becky Fuller received her Ph.D. at FSU with Joe Travis Her major work is on the coevolution of the sensory system and mating display in fish. She is now a professor at the University of Illinois.

  • Jeff Birdsley worked as a technician in the lab, and was responsible for keeping fly bodies and souls together. Jeff is really an avian phylogenetic systematist, but made himself into a Dipterist.

  • Jason Mezey  was a post-doc in the lab, immersed in multidimensional geometry, and is now a professor at Cornell . e-mail:   website:

  • Paul Galpern   received his Master's degree in the lab at Toronto.  He was briefly seduced by the beauty of the fly wing - its  appearance enhanced by colored lines, its voluptuous shape, its principal warps. Paul is now a professor of landscape genetics at the University of Calgary 

  • Becca Hale was our R programmer for a while.   She is now an assistant professor at UNC Asheville.

  • Art Poon is our artist (Art's art ), and worked in the lab as an undergraduate. He got a Master's degree in population genetics with Sally Otto, and a Ph.D. with Lin Chao on beneficial mutation rate. 

  • Bob Morikawa has retired from the lab after round III with the flies. He remains undefeated. Bob has an M.S. in forestry from Michigan State, and, between rounds, is putting this expertise to excellent use in Tanzania, rural Haiti, and with Toronto parks. Bob enjoys planting trees, hackey sack, and counting sternopleural bristles.

  • Stephanie Weinstein has seen fruit flies on four continents. She was the delicate hand behind the evolution in a bottle experiments and got a Master's degree in conservation biology at the University of Florida.