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Dr. Karen Samonds

Karen is currently an Associate Professor at Northern Illinois University. She received her B.S. and B.A. from the University of Massachusetts, and her M.A, M.Phil. & Ph.D. from the Department of Anatomical Sciences, Stony Brook University. She has worked at Mount Holyoke College, McGill University, and the University of Queensland, Australia. Her research integrates comparative anatomy, systematics, and biogeography with field paleontology to address topics in vertebrate evolution. She first travelled to Madagascar in 1998, and has participated in many different types of research there (e.g., paleontological, ecological, behavioral). Her paleontological field research aims to shed light on the origin and evolutionary history of Madagascar’s modern fauna, one of the most unique and endemic on the planet.

Graduate Students

 

Joshua Mathews - Chief Fossil Preparator & Lab Supervisor

Josh is a PhD student in the Dept. of Biological Sciences & Head of Paleontology at the Burpee Museum of Natural History. He earned his B.S. in Biology and Geology at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater and his M.S. in Geography at NIU. Prior to starting his PhD, he was chief fossil preparator at the Fryxell Geology Museum at Augustana College in Rock Island, IL. He was involved with the Transantarctic Vertebrate Paleontology Project and traveled on expedition to Antarctica in the winter of 2010-2011 to excavate and search for early Jurassic dinosaurs.

Katie Heffernan

Katie earned her bachelors in Biology at University of Wisconsin - Parkside in 2009, and then received a M.S. with a specialization in Human Anatomical Sciences in 2011 from Northern Illinois University. Her PhD thesis focuses on dental macrowear in Malagasy lemurs. She currently teaches anatomy labs at NIU while pursuing her Ph.D.

Nadia Rasolofomanana

Katie earned her Masters thesis at the University of Antananarivo in September 2016. Her work focuses on the subfossil diversity in the Sambaina Basin, central Madagascar. has conducted fieldwork with the Samonds paleontological team since 2015.

Allison Shackelton

Allison earned her Bachelor’s in geology at St. Norbert College in 2014 and her Master’s in geology at Temple University in 2016. She started the PhD program at NIU in 2017 and is currently working as a graduate assistant in Dr. Samonds’s lab.

 

Miora Christelle Andriambelomanana

Christelle began working with the Samonds team in 2016. She is currently pursuing her Masters thesis at the University of Antananarivo, and is interested in studying pollen and the paleoenrivoronmental history of the Sambaina Basin, central Madagascar.

 

Jamie Graves

Jamie is a Masters student in the Department of Biological Sciences. She earned her bachelor’s degree in Biology at Northwest Missouri State University in 2016 and subsequently pursued paleontological work in Wyoming before coming to NIU. Her research interests center on examining past interactions between Malagasy flora and bats. She currently teaches Biology labs while pursuing her degree.

Nomenjanahary Zafindratsaravelo Bototsemily

Nomena started working with the Samonds team in 2016. She is currently pursuing her thesis (Master 2) at the University of Antananarivo. Her thesis focusses on the subfossil birds of the Sambaina basin, Central Madagascar.

Ravoniaina Rakotozandry

Ravo started working with the Samonds team in 2016. He is currently pursuing research on Malagasy crocodylians at the University of Antananarivo.

Angela Reddick

Angela is currently pursuing her Masters thesis in the Department of Geology at Northern Illinois University, and is co-advised by Dr. Karen Samonds and Dr. Reed Scherer (Dept of Geology and Environmental Geosciences).

Undergraduate Students

 

Natalia Peña

Natalia Pena is an aspiring dentist pursuing a degree in Biological Sciences with a minor in chemistry. She is the secretary of the Pre-Dental Association at NIU and also a student athlete on the NIU women's soccer team. In her last year as an undergraduate student she is excited to conduct research in Dr. Samonds’ lab. 

Peyton Whiston

Peyton is a junior double majoring in Biological Sciences and Geography with a minor in Chemistry. He has previously conducted research in Dr. Jones’ lab studying the invertebrate communities of tallgrass prairies. After graduation, he plans on attending medical school. At NIU, Peyton is also involved in Best Buddies, Phi Sigma Biological Honor Society, and the Pre-Professional Association

Ellen Rosenwinkel

Ellen is a junior majoring in Biology at Northern Illinois University. She joined the Samonds Lab in Spring 2017 and primarily sorts small vertebrate fossils. In the future, she hopes to attend medical school and participate in medical research. 

Kwame Ababio

Kwame is a Biology major with a keen interest in dentistry. He is orignally from Ghana and has been in the United States for almost 4 years. He is also in the honors college and represented NIU at the recent Regional Table Tennis competition. He is also a reggae recording artist. 

Ghulam Haider Saadat

Ghulam Haider Saadat is a M.S. student in Human Anatomical Sciences at Northern Illinois University. He recently joined the Samonds Lab, and plans to work on an independent study project focusing on the musculoskeletal system with Dr. Samonds.

   

Past Students

 

Rebekah Ernat

Rebekah graduated from NIU in 20117, majoring in Biology and Anthropology and minoring in French at Northern Illinois University. Her passion for paleontology was revived at a fossil dig while she was studying in Madagascar in the sumer of 2015. She hopes to someday work at a national park, natural history museum, or some other location where she can help people to better understand and enjoy the world around them.

Kailynn Madsen

Kailynn graduated from NIU in 2017, receiving a degree in Biology at Northern Illinois University. Her work focused on acetic acid preparation of small vertebrate fossils. She is currently attending veterinary school.


Isabella Huminsky

Isabella graduated from NIU in 2017 as a Biology major studying Pre-Medicine & Spanish. She participated in honors research with Dr. Samonds for the University Honors Program and the Biological Honors Program at NIU.

Majeed Papa

Majeed took an independent study focused on Head & Neck Anatomy and Dental Anatomy with Dr. Samonds. He also conducted research in both Dr. Hagen’s and Dr. Hosmane’s labs.  

 


Harimalala Tsiory Andrianavalona

Tsiory defended her PhD at the University of Antananarivo, Madagascar in August of 2016, and her Masters degree in 2011, both of which focused on shark fossils from northwestern Madagascar. She was recently named a “National Geographic Young Explorer”and has conducted fieldwork with the Samonds paleontological team since 2010.

Tolotra Niaina Ramahangihajason

Niaina defended his PhD at the University of Antananarivo, Madagascar in August of 2016, and his Masters degree in 2011, both of which focused on newly described microfossils and the genus Kuphus (a marine bivalve) from Nosy Makamby, northwestern Madagascar. He has conducted fieldwork with the Samonds paleontological team since 2010.

Kara Coffman

Kara graduated from the Human Anatomical Sciences Masters program in 2016. She received a Bachelor’s of Science degree from Northern Illinois University in 2007. Kara completed a special studies project on the inguinal canal, incorporating a descriptive manual explaining the detailed anatomy of the inguinal region along with its clinical significance, three dissections of the inguinal canal, and a model representing the development and formation of the inguinal canal.

Morgan Hirschfield

Morgan graduated from NIU in 2016 with a Biology major emphasizing in Pre-Medicine.

Jessica Cox

Jessica was one of the 2014 "Huskie Research Rookies" and participated in mentored research in the Samonds lab.

Melissa Woodall - Lab scientific illustrator

Melissa graduated from Northern Illinois University in 2015. She has developed a passion for drawing skeletal features, insects, and a wide variety of animals, including humans, and did numerous illustrations for the Samonds Lab.

James Mateika

James graduated with a BA from Northern Illinois University in 2015, and a Masters in Human Anatomical Sciences in 2017. He undertook an independent study with Dr. Samonds focused on prosthetic limbs and related physical and occupational therapy.

Samantha Kraft

Samantha graduated from Northern Illinois University in December 2014. She worked in the Samonds lab for 2 years, and was also an SI Leader (a peer tutoring program designed to enhance student performance and academic achievement).

Meghan Timke

Meghan graduated from Northern Illinois University in December 2014. She took an intensive independent study of Head & Neck Anatomy with Dr. Samonds, and has future hopes of attending medical school with a potential focus on osteopathy.

 

Burcu Carlon

Burcu finished her PhD research on the functional morphology and biomechanics of extant and extinct felids and canids in the Fall of 2014, co-advised by Dr. Karen Samonds and Dr. Christopher Hubbard (Dept. of Biological Sciences).

Allison Reed

Allison is currently in the Physical Therapy program at Northern Illinois University. She worked with Dr. Samonds on a Capstone Project for the honors program on knee anatomy, patellofemoral pain syndrome, and rehabilitation.

Rebecca Stith

Allison is currently a dental student at Louisiana State University (New Orleans). She undertook an intensive independent study of Head & Neck Anatomy and Dental Anatomy with Dr. Samonds.

Trevor Christ

Trevor gained experience doing fossil preparation in the Samonds lab.

Caitlin Crookshank

Caitlin graduated with a BS in Biology from Northern Illinois University in 2014. She gained extensive lab experience in acetic acid preparation and fossil identification.

Kelly Fallon

Kelly is currently an instructor of Biology at McHenry County College and plans to continue educating the population of McHenry County in Biological Sciences. Kelly graduated in the Spring of 2013 with a Masters degree in Anatomical Sciences from Northern Illinois University.

Paul Regan

Paul completed an independent study with Dr. Samonds on Gorilla anatomy and specimen preparation. He entered a Nursing program in 2014.

Brittany Gerard

Brittany graduated with a Biology degree from Northern Illinois University in 2013. She completed her Capstone Honors thesis research with Dr. Samonds.

Thomas Yurek

Trevor gained experience doing fossil preparation and skeletal biology in the Samonds lab.