Featured Student — Andrea Velez, Doctoral Program Biology

by M’Niyah Lynn

Andrea Velez, Doctoral Program Biology

Adviser: Dr. Ana C. Carnaval

Date of Thesis Defense: April 2021

Andrea Velez received two degrees from Universidad de los Andes in Bogotá, Colombia because of her interest in amphibians. She obtained her bachelor’s in Biology in 2010, where she studied the phylogeographic of the red-eyed tree frog and how the environment had an influence on the phylogeographic patterns. In 2012, she received her master’s studying the environmental and ecological determinants of population genetic divergence in amphibians of Panama. She began her doctoral studies at the City University of New York in 2015, thanks to a Fulbright Colombia fellowship and CUNY Science Scholarship. Under the guidance of Professor Ana C. Carnaval, she was able to obtain a Ph.D in biology.

Her research throughout the last few years was done in several projects and labs. While at CUNY, she focused on how environments can be used to predict different dimensions of diversity in the Brazilian Atlantic Forest. This aligns with her current interest in how remote sensing can be incorporated in biodiversity research to improve our understanding of the relationship between environments and diversity. Hopefully, her research can better biodiversity monitoring. While at City College, she went beyond focusing on her dissertation, as she was a part of the WallaceEcoMod development team, where she focused on general software development and the development of tools with conservation applications. She was awarded the Mina Rees Dissertation Fellowship for 2020-2021.

After receiving her Ph.D, she is pursuing a postdoctoral position at the Crowther Lab at ETH Zurich in Switzerland. She begins the position in July. To date, she has given numerous oral presentations, has been a part of invited presentations, and has many publications. 

Thesis Title and Impact

Understanding And Predicting The Distribution Of Biodiversity In The Atlantic Forest

The impact of her work should appeal to biologists because she found a way to describe and predict local changes in species richness and phylogenetic diversity that could help with the exploration of how environmental factors drive biodiversity patterns. Also, her work could enhance conservation efforts because she identified areas of the forest where environmental filtering, competition or contact of distinct species pools appear more relevant to the process of re community assembly.


Biodiversity patterns can be predicted at the community level based on environments.

We can predict changes in biodiversity in near real time using remote sensing and biodiversity information.

Community assembly drivers change in both latitude and elevation even within a single biome and taxonomic group.


Eight peer-reviewed publications

  1. Paz A, Brown J, Cordeiro CLO, Aguirre-Santoro J, Bacci LF, Kaehler M, Assis C, Caddah MK, Reginato M, Lyra ML, Amaro RC, Amaral F, d’Horta F, Freitas AVL, Goldenberg R, Lohmann L , Michelangeli FA, Miyaki C, Rodrigues MT, Silva-Brandão KL, Silva TS, Carnaval AC. (online early). Environmental correlates of taxonomic and phylogenetic diversity in the Atlantic Forest. Journal of Biogeography
  2. Brown J, Paz A, Reginato M, Amaro R; Assis C, Lyra M, Caddah M, Aguirre-Santoro J, d’Horta F, Raposo do Amaral F, Goldenberg R, Silva-Brandão K, Freitas A, Rodrigues M, Michelangeli F, Miyaki C; Carnaval A. Seeing the forest through many trees: multi-taxon patterns of phylogenetic diversity in the Atlantic Forest hotspot. Diversity and Distributions. 26(9) :1160-1176
  3. Betancourth-C M, Palacios-R P, Mejía D, Paz A, Amézquita A. 2020. Genetic differentiation and overexploitation history of the critically endangered Lehmann Poison Frog: Oophaga lehmanni. Conservation Genetics. 21:453-465
  4. Prates I, Paz A, Brown JL, Carnaval AC. 2019. Effects of prey turnover on poison frog toxins: a landscape ecology approach to assess how biotic interactions affect species phenotypes. Ecology and Evolution. 9(24):14317-14329. Preprint: https://www.biorxiv.org/content/10.1101/695171v3
  5. Paz A, Spanos Z, Brown JL, Lyra M, Haddad C, Rodrigues M, Carnaval AC. 2018. Phylogeography of Atlantic Forest glassfrogs (Vitreorana): when geography, climate dynamics and rivers matter. Heredity.122:545-557
  6. Gonzalez C, Leon C, Paz A, Lopez M, Molina G, Toro D, Ortiz M, Cordovez JM, Atencia MC, Aguilera G, Tovar C. 2018. Diversity patterns, Leishmania infection, and feeding preferences of Phlebotominae sand flies in rural human settlements in northern Colombia. PloS one. 13(1): e0190686
  7. Gonzalez C, Molina G, Leon C, Salcedo N, Rondon S, Paz A, Atencia MC, Tovar C, Ortiz M. 2017. Assessing the eco- epidemiology of Malaria transmission in northern Colombia through vector and parasite species identification, spatial distribution and infection rate analyses. Malaria Journal.16(1):431.
  8. Mendoza AM, Torres MF, Paz A, Trujillo-Arias N, Lopez-Alvarez D, Sierra S, Forero F, Gonzalez MA. 2016. Cryptic diversity revealed by DNA barcoding in Colombian illegally traded bird species. Molecular Ecology Resources. 16(4):826-873

You may also like