Current lab members

Matt Schuler, PhD

Principal Investigator

I am an Assistant Professor at Montclair State University in New Jersey. As a community ecologist, the goal of my research group is to understand how anthropogenic factors alter ecological communities, given expected patterns of assembly, coexistence, and diversity from fundamental ecological theories. For the past few years, I have been investigating how anthropogenic stressors such as salinization, climate change, and invasive species affect freshwater environments. I also study how urban developments and environmental modifications such as roads alter the chemistry and distribution of species in ponds, lakes, and streams. This fall and winter I will be investigating if road salts increase the risk of heavy metal contamination in private drinking wells in New Jersey. 

Curriculum Vitae


Dean Bobo

Research Associate

I am currently a bioinformatician at the Sackler Institute for Comparative Genomics at the American Museum of Natural History. My current research includes estimating error rates of next-generation sequencing, tracking bacterial haplogroups in a ringtail lemur troops in Madagascar, determining how microbial communities change with freshwater salinization or pollution by human activity, and building gene annotation pipelines for use on non-model organisms. I build scalable and reusable pipelines to identify and QC genomic variants and annotations from high-throughput sequencing data on distributed computing systems. I trained at Ramapo College of New Jersey and Johns Hopkins University, and previously was a bioinformatician at the Department of Ecology and Evolution at Stony Brook University and the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai.


Arif Ahmed

PhD Student

I am a PhD student at Montclair State University working toward my degree in Environmental Science and Management. How all of nature's components function in perfect harmony has always enthralled me. My research interests include understanding how agrochemical residues affect aquatic ecosystems by lowering water and soil quality, diminishing species' diversity, upsetting food webs, altering energy flow, and changing patterns of nutrient cycling. While working with Dr. Matthew Schuler, I am gaining valuable experience and knowledge. 

Kevin Peteroy

Graduate Student

I am a graduate student in the Master's program in Coastal and Marine Sciences at Montclair State University. I've wanted to be involved in biology since I was young. Previously, I've been involved in projects involving topics ranging from Horseshoe Crabs, pesticide analysis, Combined Sewer Overflow events, zooplankton collection, and seagrass habitat analysis. Currently, I'm particularly interested in the effects of anthropogenic inputs and alterations on the species and habitats present in a given space, such as in the case of nutrient pollution, habitat degradation, etc. 

Megan Klutts

Graduate Student

I'm currently pursuing my Master's degree in Ecology and Evolution at Montclair State University, and I'm proud to be a first-generation student. Alongside my studies, I work as a graduate assistant for the biology department at the university and as an environmental educator and naturalist at The Meadowlands Environment Center. My passion for teaching spans over nine years, during which I've worked with diverse age groups in various settings. I'm also actively involved in conservation projects across NJ and have hands-on experience in banding, rehabilitating, and handling wildlife. In the future, I aspire to build my research interests around conservation, evolution biology, animal behavior, and ecology. When I'm not busy with academic or professional pursuits, I love hiking, taking pictures, reading and writing, and identifying plants and animals on my hikes.

Joseph Affinito

Graduate Student

I am currently working towards completing my Master’s degree in Ecology and Evolution at Montclair State University. My passions are birds and conservation. Whenever I find myself with free time, I am out exploring the different birding hotspots of New Jersey, hoping to glimpse something fun and exciting. In the future, I would like to dedicate myself to conservation efforts so that other people can continue to enjoy the thrills of nature as much as I have for generations to come.

Justin Howell

Graduate Student

I am a graduate student pursuing a Master’s in Biology with a focus in Ecology and Evolution. Generally, interspecies symbiosis and commensalism, including and especially anthropological interactions with other species, are the areas I find most engaging in this field. My thesis will focus on the potential ecological impacts of certain road deicing substances. Outside of academia I enjoy playing musical instruments and reading fiction.

Cris Belen

Undergraduate Student - Computer Science 

I am enlisted in the Army Reserves as a signal support specialist where I program and make sure radios, satellites, computers, and anything communications related are mission-ready and mission capable. Furthermore, I am an undergraduate student at Montclair State University studying Computer science, in a dual degree program continue my education and also graduate with a Master’s in Cybersecurity. It is essential to continue learning and furthering our knowledge. I find this a meaningful way of how we grow as people. Not just from an educational standpoint but learning about other cultures, beliefs, and personal stories. My personal goal is to help give back to the struggling communities and continue endeavors to unite all people as people.

Litzy Ponce

Undergraduate Student - Biology 

I am pursuing my undergraduate degree in Molecular Biology at Montclair State University. I plan to go to medical school after I obtain my Bachelor's degree in hopes of becoming a Pediatrician. My younger brother is my inspiration as he was born premature so I plan on specializing in Cardiology or Neonatology. I also work as an Emergency Medical Technician to gain patient care experience. I am excited to start researching with Dr. Schuler and his team and gaining research experience. 

Nicole Triana 

Undergraduate Student - LSAMP and Biology 

I graduated from the Jose Marti STEM Academy in Union City, NJ, in the summer of 2022. I decided to pursue my bachelor's in biology at Montclair State University, in hopes to go to PA school afterwards and become a Physician Assistant once I finish. I am excited to be working with Dr. Matthew Schuler and my peers to conduct research and to help me gain first hand experience with working in a lab. I've loved biology since I was younger and I am thankful to have this opportunity!

Vincent Alonso 

Undergraduate Student - Marine Biology 

I am an undergraduate student at Montclair State University majoring in Marine Biology and Coastal Sciences. I have been fascinated with the ocean and the incredible organisms in it since I was a kid. I do not yet have any research experience, but I will be gaining valuable hands-on lab experience with Dr. Schuler. In the future, I would love to study marine fauna. I am especially interested in the ecological relationships at the population and community level (intra- and interspecific interactions and how organisms react to environmental changes). While sharks have always been my favorite animals, my mind is open to studying many other options.

Faith Collier

Undergraduate Student - Biology

I am an undergraduate biology student at Montclair with a concentration in Pre- medicine. I studied Allied Health in high school and graduated from Gloucester County Institute of Technology in 2022. I have always had an interest in science as a kid especially medicine, and recently an interest in aquatic animals. I hope to go to medical school after I graduate and pursue a career in pediatrics/ neonatology. I am very excited to work with Dr. Schuler and everyone in the lab while gaining lab experience!

Justin Green

Undergraduate Student - Marine Biology 

I am an undergraduate currently in my senior year at Montclair State University majoring in Marine Biology and Coastal Sciences with hopes of continuing on with a Masters degree in the future. I loved marine life ever since I was younger and my dream is to study stingrays in some capacity in the future. I’m excited for the opportunity to work with Dr. Schuler and the entire lab first hand conducting research on topics and being able to contribute my ideas to other projects as well. 

Former lab members

Emily Stone (2020-2021) - Graduate Student

Samantha Aaron (2021-2022) - Graduate Student

Darius Chisolm (2020-2022) - Graduate Student

Sarah Hajjar (2022-2023) - Undergraduate Student - Biology

Yousef Dimian (2021-2023) - Undergraduate Student - Exercise Science

Jared Vigil (2021-2023) - Undergraduate Student - Biology

Thara Polanco-Diaz (2021-2022) - Undergraduate Student - Biology

Nazar Kravchuk (2021-2022) - Undergraduate Student - Exercise Science

Marwha Kayali (2021-2022) - Undergraduate Student - Biology 

Erin Tyll (2021) - Senior summer technician - Biology

Stephanie Zapata (2021) - Senior summer technician - Biology

Colleen Potocki (2021) - Summer technician - Environmental Science 

Alexis Garofalo (2020-2021) - Undergraduate Student - Biology

Lisbeth Roa (2021) - Undergraduate Student - Biology

Lindsey Montas (2021) - Undergraduate Student - Biology

Khaled Elzokm (2020) - Undergraduate Student - Biology