Arilab Alumni

Benoit Guénard, Postdoctoral Researcher (2012-2014)


Through my work I try to characterize and understand what shapes diversity patterns at local, regional and global scales. I use ants as a model organism to approach questions related to regional and global diversity patterns, impact of invasive species and anthropogenic  disturbances on communities, evolution of communities and their distribution through geological times, and the evolution of foraging or nesting strategies in ants.


Béatrice Lecroq, Postdoctoral Researcher (2012-2014)

My field of interest is biodiversity, speciation mechanisms and the species concept. What makes an area rich in species? Why do some taxa display higher diversity than others? What traits characterize rare species and what is their ecological relevance?  My past research has focused on deep-sea environments.  I have investigated benthic taxa and in particular the richness and biogeography of foraminifera using environmental DNA from the ocean floor. Recently I have begun to study terrestrial systems, using ants as a model organism. I hope to take advantage of their high diversity, their numerous morphological features and their complex body surface chemistry to infer phylogeny, test evolutionary hypotheses and tackle the issue of genetic and phenotypic borders between species.


Patricia Wepfer, Visiting Student (Summer 2013)


I have recently graduated as a systematic botanist from the University of Zurich and am now here to widen my horizon by exploring new study fields and techniques. In this project I try to explain patterns of ant species richness and composition on islands in East Asia and the western Pacific. With environmental and geo-historical characterization of this region I wish to identify the factors responsible for current species distributions. Does geographic closeness play a major role or is it habitat similarity that is more important? Are ancient land bridges responsible for contemporary distributions? The study region covers a wide variation range in all these explanatory factors, making it ideal for the investigation of biogeographic questions.

Benjamin Blanchard, Visiting Student (Summer 2013)

I am interested in biodiversity, particularly the ways in which ecological factors affect ant community diversity and morphology. I recently completed my B.S. in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at the University of Michigan, where I worked on the curation and taxonomy of Pacific island ants. My previous research includes phylogenetic work on the Pacific species of the Camponotus maculatus group, and a study on the impacts of ecological factors on ant community diversity and composition on Konza Prairie, a tallgrass ecosystem. As part of my summer internship at OIST, I will be heading to China with Benoit Guénard and Cong Liu to collect ants at the Xishuangbanna Tropical Botanical Gardens in Yunnan. The collections will benefit the ongoing Pheidole project, as well as address potential impacts of anthropogenic disturbance on the ant community at Xishuangbanna.


Naomi Yuzuki, Research Assistant (2013-2014)

NaomiSince I was fascinated by the beautiful nature of Okinawa, as well as its gentle and peaceful people, I moved here from Tokyo. In the lab, my work involved expanding the main database of the GABI project by entering literature records for ant species distributions.

Sandrine Burriel, Computing Technician (2013)

SandrineI am a computer scientist who graduated with MScs from Supélec and the University of Paris-Sud. After working several years as a technical translator and writer, I joined the Arilab in 2013 to handle all computer related questions, from our 3D screen to this very website! In September 2013, I began my PhD at OIST. I am interested in theoretical/mathematical aspects of biology, such as what defines a species, or how did organisms transition from unicellularity to multicellularity.

Kyoko Tadaoka, Research Assistant (2013)

kyokoKyoko’s role in the lab ranges from helping Benoit and Béatrice to establish database for their research, as well as to give translation help with Japanese literatures. She is also a graduate of MSc in Holistic Science from Schumacher College, University of Plymouth in UK. Her interest is in the Education for Sustainability, especially the possibility of Buddhist Debate as a Sustainable pedagogy. Plays Sanshin, the Okinawan traditional instrument.

Keita Ikegami, Rotation Student (Spring 2013)

Keita’s rotation focused on consolidating GIS datasets to analyze landscape patterns of species distributions in Fiji.

Juliette Martin, Intern (August 2014)

While here, Juliette worked on segmentation of ant CT scans.

Brett Morgan, Intern (Spring 2015)


To me, biological evolution is the most fascinating phenomenon that has ever occurred and I’m interested in learning about it on both genetic and macroecological scales. In the Arilab I am investigating phylogeographic patterns in the Malagasy Pheidole, a diverse ant genus that may have colonized Madagascar through a single dispersal event from mainland Africa. I’m using GIS software to model climatic, biotic, and edaphic factors across species distributions, and will be using that information along with our Pheidole phylogeny to infer the evolution of niche differentiation within the genus.

Yafei Mao, Rotation Student (Spring 2015)

I am a Ph.D student in OIST, now, I am taking my second rotation in Economo Lab. And I am interesting on integrating ecology insights and evolution thoughts into thinking about what happened in nature. For my rotation project, I am working on the mechanism and dynamic processes of Pheidole community assembly in New Guinea.


Hitomi Shinzato, Research Administrator


Shinzato-san is an expert in the administration side of scientific research. She handles many different jobs in the lab, from keeping track of budget to helping us with Japanese. Recently she also has been participating in field work and ant collecting, and came to the jungle with us to Iriomote. As a native Okinawan with extensive local knowledge, she is an indispensable member of the team!

John Deyrup, Research Technician

After finishing my Bachelors of Science in Biology at Dickinson College, I went to Rutgers University for my Masters in Biology. At Rutgers I studied molecular phylogenetics and cellular biology. I examined developmental pathways in Diabetes, and phylogenetic methodology used to recreate the Dictyoptera lineage. At the Okinawa Institute of Science Technology I currently work as a laboratory technician.


Matti Krueger, Rotation Student (Summer 2015)

I am PhD student with a background in Cognitive Science and an interest in mechanisms that underly adaptivity.
Within the Biodiversity and Biocomplexity unit I am working on the development of algorithms for the image-based recognition of ant species which could allow non-taxonomists to identify a broad range of ants and accelerate research on species prevalence and dispersal.

Maggie Mars, Rotation Student (Summer 2015)

Yuna Hattori, Rotation Student (Summer 2015)


I am a first year PhD student and am currently doing out of field laboratory rotation in the Biodiversity and Biocomplexity unit. My background is in physics and I am working on mathematical modeling for biodiversity of coral reefs around the Western Pacific ocean.

Yuka Suzuki, Rotation Student (Fall 2015)

I am currently doing my first lab rotation at the biodiversity and biocomplexity unit. I am interested in ‘networks’ of species, materials, and so on, and I would like to learn ways to analyze networks or similar data. Even though I have studied computation before, network analysis is something new for me. I am excited to learn new techniques in this unit.


Jason Ball, PhD Rotation Student (Summer 2016)


I am currently a first-year PhD student at OIST completing my third rotation in the Economo unit. My background is in physics – I received my B.S. from the University of Michigan and my M.S. from Rice University in Houston, Texas. Before coming to OIST I worked as a high school physics teacher for two years. Given that my research background is in low-temperature and semiconductor physics, working in the BBU is quite the change. I’m currently working on analyzing song and call data from the Meliphagidae (honeyeater) family and am excited to expand my skill set with the analytic techniques used in this unit.

Aina Urano, Intern (Summer 2016)

I recently graduated from University College London with a Geography (International) degree. My interests include environmental science and management, and understanding the way humans and ecosystems interact. I am working on the OKEON Chura-mori project, an environmental observation network set up to monitor Okinawa’s biodiversity and terrestrial environment. The project involves collaboration across Okinawa’s community, from schools to museums to universities, so I am able to use my Japanese and improve my understanding of local culture and how science and research can involve collaboration outside the lab. My goal is to learn as much as possible so that in the future I can work in a capacity where I facilitate understanding across cultures and systems, environmental and societal.


Osamu Horiguchi, Student (Summer 2016)


I am a GAP term student currently, and will become a first-year PhD student from this September.I’m pleased to belong to Economo unit and have a chance to train lab-work.During my bachelor course, I was working on functional difference between workers and soldiers of termites.I’m going to work on analyzing relationship between species morphology and their habitat.

Kotaro Fujiyoshi, Intern (Summer 2016)

Kotaro Fujiyoshi is a full-time third-year undergraduate student at the University of Oxford, studying Biological Sciences. For his thesis work he has looked into potential interactions between herbivore and oak seedlings in a drought setting in an oak ecosystem. He joined the Ari lab in the summer of 2016 under the supervision of Clive Darwell to look into fig wasp morphology, distinguishing wasp species and collecting samples for further DNA analysis. Clive’s work on fig wasps is ultimately set to lead to the elucidation of speciation mechanisms of the wasps, contributing to evolutionary theory. Kotaro very much enjoyed his stay, especially the field trip with Clive to the beautful Iriomote island, dubbed the “Galapagos of Eastern Asia”.

Tori McGruer, Intern (Fall 2016)

I am a currently finishing undergraduate degrees in Biology and Environmental Science at Northeastern University in Boston, MA. At OIST I had the opportunity to use ArcGIS, the Regional Ocean Modeling System (ROMS), and NetLogo to assess the movement and extent of nearshore sediment plumes which threaten local reef ecosystems. My interests lie in understanding how environmental changes impact biological and ecosystem function and I am continuing to expand my knowledge of data management and modeling programs so I can use them in my future research.

Menglin Wang, PhD Rotation Student

I am Menglin, I just received my Masters degree from Xishuangbanna Tropical Botanical Garden, CAS on Botany. I spent three years studying reproductive biology of Bauhinia yunnanensis and Bauhinia glauca. I also focused on staminodes function in Bauhinia.
Now I am focusing on the OKEON project, looking at ant biodiversity across different habitats.


Sam Ross, Intern (Fall 2016)


I recently graduated from the University of Leeds, UK, with a Master’s degree in Ecology and Environmental Biology. My interests are in ecosystem functioning and stability, and specifically how biodiversity contributes to the structure of ecological systems. My past work has mainly been on the functional diversity of birds in tropical systems and how diversity is affected by habitat degradation. Here in Okinawa, I am working on the OKEON project, looking at variation in biodiversity across OKEON sites and determining possible drivers of any disparity. I am currently focusing on abiotic drivers such as climate and urbanisation, but may turn my attention to other factors or questions later in the project.

Gaurav Agavekar, Intern

I have broad interests in understanding and documenting the patterns and processes of ecology and evolution of biodiversity, especially insects. I recently completed an MSc in Wildlife Biology and Conservation, offered in collaboration with Wildlife Conservation Society, at the National Centre for Biological Sciences in Bangalore, India. For my master’s thesis I studied diversity and community ecology of ants in Andaman Islands, and here at OIST I am working to write it up as scientific papers. Before moving to ants for my master’s, I did a variety of research on Indian butterflies.