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  1. Staff
  2. Ph.D. Students
  3. M.Sc. Students
  4. Undergrad Thesis Students
  5. Undergrad Project Students
  6. Volunteers

See also:   Past Members    Group Photos


Sigal Balshine

Sigal's research interests are centered on evolutionary behavioural ecology with a special focus on sociality, breeding system evolution and anthropogenic impacts on behaviour. Sigal received her B.Sc. in Zoology from the University of Toronto, a Ph.D. from the University of Cambridge and conducted post-doctoral research at Tel Aviv University, the Konrad Lorenz Institute for Ethology in Vienna and the University of East Anglia in Norwich.  Sigal joined the Department of Psychology, Neuroscience & Behaviour in 2000 and was granted tenure in 2006 and full professor status in 2011. She is also an associate member of the Department of Biology at McMaster University and is a member of the Animal Behaviour Society and the International Society for Behavioural Ecology.

Postdoctoral Fellows

Ph.D. Students

Hannah Anderson

Hannah is interested in how anthropogenic environmental impacts affect the social dynamics and group stability of gregarious fish.  She received a BSc in Biology and a BA in Psychology from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville where she worked with Dr. Todd Freeberg to study the effects of road noise on songbird foraging rates and calling behaviour. Her current research project investigates how social fish adapt to fluctuating versus stable turbidity.

Adrienne McLean

Adrienne Joined ABEL in September 2016.   Her PhD work will focus on the role of behaviour in the various stages of a species invasion. She is studying how behaviour can impacts invasion success, and can be most effectively used to inform management, assessment, and reproduction of invasive species.   Her research is based on the invasive round goby, in Hamilton Harbour, at the western end of Lake Ontario, and in tributaries leading into Lake Ontario.


Adrienne received her B.Sc. in Marine and Freshwater Biology from the University of Guelph, where she worked with Dr. Beren Robinson testing direct and indirect effects of invasive spiny water flea on walleye. She also received her M.Sc. from the University of Guelph in Integrative Biology with Dr. Robert McLaughlin where she tested behavioural explanations for low trapping success of a parasitic invasive fish species, the sea lamprey.

Sina Zarini

Sina is interested in fish behaviour, its impacts on population dynamics, and how anthropogenic environmental changes (habitat alteration, invasions of exotic species) influences behaviour and populations.  Sina received his BSc in Animal Biology from the Urmia University and his MSc in Marine Biology (Marine Animals) from the Shahid Beheshti University of Tehran, Iran.  During his MSc which was supervised by Dr. Bahram Kiabi and Dr. Asghar Abdoli, Sina studied the effect of riprap, one of the most common human-made structures for coastal hardening, on gobies abundance and species composition in the southern Caspian Sea coast.   In his PhD Sina plans to focus on factors influencing the ratios of guarders and sneakers in round gobies across populations (native, established, and invasion fronts), and how the social and physical environment influence the abundance and ratio of two male reproductive tactics: guarders and sneakers.

M.Sc. Students

Ainsley Harrison Weiss

Ainsley joined ABEL officially in September 2022 but spent part of last summer on Vancouver Island, in the field working with the ABEL BC Midshipman crew.  Ainsley's MSc research will focus  of female plainfin midshipman.  We know a great deal about males  in this species but Ainsley will be examining female decision  making  and investigate the factors that influence their mate selection and nest choices.  Ainsley received a BSc from the University of British Columbia in biology, where she completed an Honours Thesis with Dr. Jeffrey Richards and Dr. Tammy Rodela on how pre-exposure to ammonia effects zebrafish tolerance to subsequent exposure.  She also received a BEd from Simon Fraser University, specializing in secondary teaching.  In her free time she loves to hike and hang out with her dogs.

Elias (Eli) Latchem

Eli is interested in animal learning and cognition, and will be working on social cognition in cichlids. He received his B.Sc. in Biology from Carleton University in Ottawa, where he completed an Honours thesis studying the behavioural effects of artificial light at night on Bluegill sunfish with Dr. Steve Cooke. His research will focus on differences in learning in various species of cichlids with various social structures and breeding strategies. Eli’s research will be co-supervised by Dr. Culum Brown from Macquirie University.

Mackenzie Woods

Mackenzie is interested in fish communication and social interactions, and how anthropogenic noise can affect behaviour and reproduction. She is studying the impact of motorboat noise on plainfin midshipman fish, specifically how it influences mate attraction, parental care, and reproductive success. Mackenzie received her B.Sc. in Biology (Marine Biology concentration) from the University of Victoria, where she completed an Honours Thesis with Dr. Francis Juanes on the effects of boat noise on plainfin midshipman aggression and territoriality. Her M.Sc. is co-supervised by Dr. Juanes and she is stationed on the West Coast, where she carries out her field-based research.

Undergrad Thesis Students

David Benbassat

David is a fourth year Biology and PNB student who joined ABEL in January 2022 as a 2QQ3 project student. He initially worked with PhD student, Sina Zarini investigating the stomach contents of juvenile round goby. This year as a thesis student, David is examining how termperature impacts growth and feeding behaviour of juvenile round goby.  David is passionate about the natural sciences and can easily spend an entire day at a museum. Outside the laboratory, he also enjoys photography, classical cinema and playing the piano.  

Emily Elsasser

Emily is a 4th year undergraduate student in the Honours Neuroscience Program, who joined the lab in September 2022 as a volunteer. Since then, she has completed a research project, where she scored videos looking at fluctuating turbidity and its effects on zebrafish behaviour. This year she is completing her undergraduate thesis in ABEL, working on understanding how turbidity influences the social behaviour of aquatic animals. Outside of the lab, she enjoys hiking, reading, and running events for the McMaster Neuroscience Society.

Hunter Herron

Hunter is a 4th year Honours Life Sciences student who is doing a 4th year thesis in the lab. Hunter is interested in the comparative biology of organisms, namely animal evolution and physiology. This year, he’ll be working with Sina Zarini to investigate the metabolism of juvenile round goby. Hunter will  be looking at how age and temperature affects the metabolic rate of these fish using respirometry. In his free time he enjoys spending time outdoors, hiking around the beautiful Hamilton escarpment.

Reyad Malakh

Reyad is a fourth-year student in the Honour Biology – Physiology program. He recently joined ABEL in the summer of 2023 as a BIOLOGY 4F06 project student where he worked on round goby population monitoring project with PhD student, Sina Zarini. He assisted in conducting fieldwork around the Hamilton Harbour as well as dissecting round goby specimens and collecting data for subsequent analysis. This year, Reyad will be continuing to work with Sina where he will be developing his undergraduate thesis in the lab with a focus on the alternative reproductive tactics in round goby. He will be working on experiments investigating the effects of sneaker presence on reproductive behaviour as well as parentage assignment experiments utilizing microsatellite markers. Apart from academic work, Reyad enjoys cooking, geocaching, and going on hikes. 

Grace Ogundeji

Grace is a 4th-year Health Sciences student who joined ABEL as an HTHSCI 3H03 project course student and volunteer in September 2022 where she studied the impact of turbidity on the aggression of zebrafish. Since then, she worked at the lab over the summer as an NSERC Undergraduate Student Researcher Award (USRA) holder. This year, she is be working on her 4th-year thesis, where she will analyze how familiarity affects social learning in a group-living cichlid fish, Neolamprologus pulcher. Outside the lab, Grace enjoys baking and running.

Undergrad Project Students

Ruth Bilyk

Ruth is a fourth year student in the Psychology, Neuroscience & Behaviour program. She joined ABEL in the spring of 2023 as a 3QQ3 project student working on cognition in cichlids. Currently, she is working as a workstudy student and helps manage  the lab.  She is also a 4QQ3 project student, studying the behavioural activity of larval goby in response to food cues. In her free time, Ruth enjoys art, video games, and fossil hunting.

Olivia Coffield

Olivia is a recent McMaster graduate from the department of biology whose love of animals and interest in environmental conservation brought her to ABEL. She joined the lab this  past summer as a PNB 3QQ3 and 4QQ3 student, and worked with PhD student Sina Zarini to better understand the mating behaviour of the invasive round goby. Her research projects focussed on the paternity of gobies and the success of alternate reproductive techniques displayed by two different morphs: sneakers and guarders.   Olivia continues to visit and volunteer in the lab, helping out Team Goby with their current work. When she’s not in the lab or in class Olivia spends her time drawing. 



Catalina Costiuc

Catalina is a third-year student in the Psychology, Neuroscience & Behaviour program who joined ABEL in January 2023 as a 2QQ3 project student and is now doing her 3QQ3 project in Fall 2023. She is working with Eli Latchem on research involving social learning in cichlid fish, more specifically taking a look at how dominance rank influences this learning.  Next year she will return to do her thesis in ABEL!  Some fun facts about Catalina are that she is on the McMaster Varsity Figure Skating Team and recently published a poetry book.

Jeremy Dykstra

Jeremy is a 3rd Year Honours Integrated Science, Biology Concentration student.  He joined ABEL this winter term of 2024.  He will be working on critical thermal maximum experiments with the Round Goby (Neogobius melanostomus) juveniles as a project student. He joins PhD student, Sina Zarini who is investigating movement ecology among juvenile round gobies. During the following summer and 2024/25 school year he will conduct my thesis in the ABEL Lab under the supervision of Dr. Sigal Balshine and Dr. Grant Mcclelland. His thesis is geared around the France Canada Research Grant which intends to investigate the constraining factors that affect the invasion and range expansion of the round goby. Phenotypic competition and plasticity will be examined through a variety of experiments. This project will compare data across continents, in both Canada and France, to better understand the invasion strategies of the round goby.
Jeremy has a passion for ecophysiology in marine organisms, in the context of human impacts and climate change. He is interested in developing more environmentally friendly, efficient, and welfare-focused food production systems, specifically in the field of aquaculture. With a growing demand for food worldwide, new approaches and methods to produce fish and marine organisms are becoming ever more important. He is also passionate about being involved in his local community and giving back as an Emergency Medical Responder on the Emergency First Response Team (EFRT) at McMaster University. In his free time, Jeremy enjoys spending time outdoors, biking, and scuba diving.

Donya Molaie Fard

Donya is a third-year student in the Human Behaviour program. She joined the lab in September 2023 as a project student working with PhD student Hannah and thesis student Emily on the social behaviour of zebrafish. She scored behavioural videos studying the impact of fluctuating turbidity on the aggression of zebrafish. In the Winter 2024 term, Donya is working with Ainsley on the sneaker decision-making of the Plainfin Midshipman.  In her free time, Donya enjoys music, baking, and spending time with friends and family.


Anna Farley

Anna is a 3rd year PNB and Arts&Science student. Since joining ABEL in January 2023, she has been working with PhD student Sina Zarini studying the round goby. As a 2QQ3 project student she studied the stomach contents of juvenile round goby. Over the summer she began working on a project to study the effects of food availability and predator detection on the vertical movement of juvenile round goby. She continued this project for a 4QQ3 over the fall.  This winter term Anna is working for the lab as a work study student who helps manages the lab.  Outside of the lab, Anna loves to dance, read, hike and swim.

Shioa-Tang (Tang Tang) Guo

Tang Tang is in her 3rd year of the Biology and PNB program. This winter, she is joining ABEL as a 4QQ3 project student. Tang Tang will be working with Eli looking at how social ranks affect learning preferences and capacity in cichlids. When she is not in the lab, Tang Tang enjoys going camping, holding bats, and trying to beat her record in the countries of the world quiz. 

Mijun Lee

Mijun is a fourth-year student in the Psychology, Neuroscience & Behaviour program. She joined the lab as a 4QQ3 student in 2023, working on the round goby team project with PhD student Sina Zarini. Her research project this semester involves scoring videos studying temperature, growth and feeding in juvenile round goby. Outside of the lab, she loves baking, spending time with her cat, and hanging out with friends.

Ethan Li

Ethan is a second-year student in the PNB program who joined the lab in January 2024. He will be working in the juvenile round goby team with PhD student Sina Zarini. He will be helping score behavioral videos related to movement ecology and dispersal of the round goby. Outside of the lab, Ethan enjoys listening to music, playing basketball, and spending time with his girlfriend, friends, and family.

Lucas Marley

Lucas is a second year Honours Biodiversity and Environmental Sciences student who joined ABEL in January 2024 as a BIO 3IR3 student. Lucas is working with PhD student Hannah Anderson looking at how fluctuating turbidity levels affect the behaviour of Zebrafish; Lucas will be scoring behavioural videos of zebrafish to understands more about environmental fluctuations and their impact on behaviour. In his free time Lucas enjoys watching movies, buying new plants, and going on walks through nature

Noah Marley

Noah is a 2nd-year Biology and Environmental Sciences undergraduate student who joined ABEL in January of 2024 as a project student. Noah is assisting PhD student Hannah Anderson with her project on monitoring the behavioural changes of zebrafish in environments of varying turbidity. In his free time, Noah enjoys taking care of his plants, baking, and playing sports like baseball and volleyball. 

Andrew Millar

Andrew is a second-year undergraduate student in the Biology and PNB program. He joined ABEL in January 2024 as a 2QQ3 project student and is excited to be working with Ainsley Harrison Weiss to study female mate choice in the plainfin midshipman. He will be looking at how the mate choice of a female may be influenced by the presence of other females in a nest, the observation of previous mate choices of other females, or the presence of eggs in a nest. In his free time Andrew enjoys reading, playing videogames, and playing tennis  

Anveshana Naidoo

Anveshana is a 4th-year Neuroscience student who joined ABEL as a volunteer in 2023. He continues to work to ensure colony health and assist with tank maintenance. This winter Anvesh has started as research project student.  He will be conducting a literature survey looking at studies that manipulate aquatic visual environments with clay versus dye.  He is working with PhD student Hannah Anderson in this work.   Outside of lab he enjoys playing and listening to music, spending time outdoors and reading.


Ben Raffell

Ben is in his second year of the Biology and PNB program.  He joined ABEL in January 2024 as a 2QQ3 project student. He is working with Sina Zarini on his investigation of predation risk in juvenile round gobies. His passions lie broadly in the field of animal behaviour, and he is especially interested in how the development of conservation programs can be informed by evolutionary biology. In his spare time, Ben likes to make science-based song parodies, go out to the movies, and listen to musical theatre soundtracks.

Yana Vaynberg

Yana is a 2nd year Honours Life Sciences student pursuing a minor in Psychology. She joined ABEL as a Lifesci 3RP3 project student in September of 2023, working with PhD student Hannah Anderson to study the behavioural impact of turbidity on Zebrafish. Yana learned to score behaviours of zebrafish. Yana will continue in the lab this term (winter 2024) working alongside PhD student, Sina Zarini. She will enumerate and identify zooplankton from Hamilton Harbour. In her free time, Yana enjoys hiking, reading books, learning to code, and spending time with family and friends”.

Emma Whittier

Emma is a 3rd year student in the Honours Biology and Psychology, Neuroscience & Behaviour program. She joined ABEL in Winter 2024 as a 3QQ3 project student.  Emma will be working with Eli looking at the social behaviour of cichlids. When Emma is not in the lab or in class she like to spend her time going for runs, reading and hanging out with friends.

Research Assistants


Nicole Grigorieva

Nicole is a fourth-year student in the Honours Biology - Physiology program. She has recently joined ABEL in the fall of 2023 as a volunteer. Nicole will be learning about and caring for the fish in the lab. In her spare time, Nicole enjoys hiking outdoors, dancing, and digital art.