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  1. Staff
  2. Postdoctoral Fellows
  3. Ph.D. Students
  4. M.Sc. Students
  5. Undergrad Thesis Students
  6. Undergrad Project Students
  7. 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.

Markelle Morphet

Markelle joined the lab in January 2019, initially as a project student, then a thesis student and is now ABEL's lab manager.  She has studied the effects of wastewater effluent contamination in Hamilton Harbour, looking at both zooplankton populations and the impacts of wastewater exposure on the behaviour and physiology of fathead minnows.  In her spare time Markelle enjoys exploring Ontario’s nature hot spots.

Postdoctoral Fellows

Andy Turko

Andy is broadly interested in why and how some fishes can survive in extreme environments, while others are sensitive to even minimal habitat disturbance. After studying some incredibly resilient killifishes for his PhD work, Andy is now studying the behavioural and physiological responses to environmental disturbance in a sensitive and endangered fish, the redside dace. This work is part of a large collaborative effort with Trevor Pitcher (University of Windsor) and Graham Scott (McMaster University) to improve conservation outcomes for endangered Canadian fishes.

Ph.D. Students

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.

Hossein Mehdi

Hossein joined ABEL in September 2017. He studies the impacts of wastewater effluent contamination in the Hamilton Harbour on the physiological and behavioural responses in round goby and other freshwater fishes. He received his MSc in Biology (Water) from the University of Waterloo where he worked with Dr. Paul Craig studying the impacts of multiple stressors on energetics and stress response in fishes using lab and field approaches.  Earlier, he received his BSc in Biology at the University of Windsor where he completed an Honour’s Thesis project with Dr. Christina Semeniuk investigating Atlantic salmon behavioural plasticity in predation-sensitive context.

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

Jacqueline (Jan) Bikker

Jan will join ABEL in the fall of 2020 where she will study the impacts of pharmaceutical exposure on learning behaviour in fish. She will be co-supervised by Bob Wong (Monash University). Jan recently completed her BSc in ecology and evolutionary biology at the University of Toronto. She was involved with several projects in Chelsea Rochman’s lab looking at microplastics contamination in San Francisco Bay and the Chesapeake Bay. She completed her fourth-year project at ABEL where she studied the effects of microplastics exposure on fathead minnow behaviour.

Matthew Salena

Matthew joined ABEL in May of 2018 to help with the ongoing population monitoring of the round goby in Hamilton Harbour. In September, he will begin research on social cognition in cichlid fish using comparative analyses between cichlid species. Matthew recently completed his B.Sc. in Biology and Environmental Sciences with a minor in Sustainability from McMaster University. In his senior year, Matthew worked on a research project within the department of Biochemistry and Biomedical Sciences, at McMaster, where he furthered the development of aptamer-based biosensors for the detection of various species of pathogenic bacteria.

Caitlyn Synyshyn

Caitlyn joined ABEL in May of 2018 to help with various lab projects and the ongoing population monitoring of the round goby in Hamilton Harbour. In September, she will begin research on round goby characteristics in an invasion front verses established areas. Caitlyn completed her B.Sc in Biology at Queen’s University. She completed her undergraduate research thesis with Dr. Bruce Tufts examining the historical and seasonal changes in the Bay of Quinte fish community. Caitlyn is interested in the conservation and management of fish communities in Ontario, particularly in the Great Lakes. Outside of the lab, she just can’t get enough fish as she has her own little half-moon male betta named Saru and three neon tetras.

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

Chelsea Aristone

Chelsea is a fourth year student in the Honours Integrated Science Program at Mcmaster University. She joined ABEL in May of 2019 and has mostly focused on the effect of wastewater effluent on zooplankton populations within Hamilton Harbour.   This year as a thesis student Chelsea plans to move up  in the world and examine how wastewater influences macro-invertebrate communities along wastewater plumes in both winter and summer.

Colleen Dowling

Colleen is a fourth year BioPsych student who joined ABEL in September of 2019. She is currently a thesis student and will be examining the effects of turbidity on the behaviour of the redside dace, an endangered freshwater fish in Ontario.

Lucas Eckert

Lucas is a fourth year student in Honours Integrated Science, with a concentration in Biology. He completed his third year independent project with ABEL, looking at the evolutionary driving mechanisms of reproductive accessory gland evolution across fishes. He is now continuing with ABEL for his undergraduate thesis. 

Avani Pathak

Avani is a 4th year BioPsych student that joined the lab in April 2018. She has done a bunch of projects in  the lab and has worked as a summer research assistant on the round goby ART project. This  year she  is returning as a thesis student and will be exploring how temperature preferences  and  acclimation temperature in redside dace (a species at risk in Canada) relates to a number of important behavioural and physiological traits.  Most of her time is spent in the basement of the Psychology building working with  these amazing and sadly now rare fish.  When Avani is not working or studying she can be found making the most beautiful drawings!  

Victoria Winslow

Victoria is a fourth year Biology Discovery student who joined the lab in November 2019 as a volunteer and a project student. This summer Victoria has been working as a research assistant for the lab and has started doing her data collection for her undergraduate thesis starting in the Fall of 2020. Her research focuses on investigating the differences in temperature tolerance between guarder and sneaker males in the invasive round goby.

Undergrad Project Students

Grace Anna Burgess

Meet Grace Burgess,  a third year undergraduate student in the Integrated Science program. Grace joins the lab as a third-year project student  in January 2021. She am helping with a project aging otoliths and scales from redside dace as well as helping with fish husbandry in the lab. Grace is interested in aquatic life because she grew up around the ocean and looking in tide pools. Welcome Grace!

Isabelle Cavanagh

Isabelle is a second year Bio Psych student who joined the lab in January of 2021 as a 2QQ3 project student.  She is currently helping Matt Salena with his habituation experiments in Tanganyikan cichlids, and also Jan Bikker with her experiment of the effects of caffeine on fathead minnows." 

Eddie Chow

Eddie is a second year BioPsych student who joined the ABEL lab in January 2021 as a 2QQ3 project student. He has always been fascinated by animal communication and displays.  For Eddie  working at ABEL is an amazing opportunity where he hopes to gain insight into fish behaviour and decision making. As a project student, he is responsible for scoring activity of the round goby, a small invasive fish species common in the Hamilton Harbour which is close to McMaster University. 

Megan Cyr

Megan is a second year BioPsych student who joined the lab in January 2020. She works with benthic invertebrate samples collected from sites that vary in distance to wastewater treatment plant effluent outfalls in Hamilton Harbour. She is responsible for the identification, classification, and enumeration of zooplankton. 

Jessica Qiu

Jessica is a 2nd year Honours PNB student who joined ABEL in the winter of 2021 as a project student. She's currently working with Avani and Andy and is investigating the influence of temperature on the endangered redside dace. Her tasks include scoring videos to record the behaviour of these interesting (and adorable!) fish. Outside of the lab, Jessica loves improving her digital art and design skills

Research Assistants


Sue Vu Thu

Sue is in her second year of the Biology-Physiology program at McMaster University. She joined ABEL as a volunteer in the summer of 2020 with a keen interest in studying animal behavioural and evolutionary ecology. In her free time, she loves playing her musical instruments, volunteering to rehabilitate wild animals, and watching standup comedy!