Principal Investigator

Owen McMillan

Staff scientist interested in the genetic basis of adaptive variation, with an emphasis on the convergent evolution of Heliconius wing pattern development throughout the New World tropics.

Staff members

Carlos Arias

Smithsonian Biodiversity Genomics Fellow studying the evolutionary processes and mechanisms driving and constraining the origin of new species by using population genomics and bioinformatic approaches.

Cruz Batista

Research aid in charge of facilitating the field studies of incoming students and Post Docs.

Oscar Paneso

Insectaries manager overseeing all aspects of the butterfly facilities, plant houses, and field collection trips.

Rémi Mauxion

Research manager in charge of supporting the research projects and butterflies stocks for outreach projects.


Carolina Concha

Post Doc studying the genetic control and regulation of Heliconius wing color patterns to understand the genomic basis of evolutionary change.

Denise Dell’Aglio

Post Doc interested in studying different aspects of the ecology of Heliconius. Currently, she is focusing on the role of mushroom bodies in their spatial and visual memory through behavioral experiments.

Joe Hanly

Post Doc and Smithsonian Biodiversity Genomics Fellow studying the evolutionary developmental genetics of Heliconius wing patterns using single cell-omics methods.

Melanie Heckwolf

Post Doc Fellow working on speciation in sympatric coral reef fishes with a focus on functional divergence and post-zygotic barriers.

Fellows & Interns

Benita Laird-Hopkins

PhD student studying the thermoregulatory abilities of Heliconius with the aim to understand which species will be most vulnerable as temperatures increase with climate change.

Daniel Romero

Research assistant rearing butterflies, collecting digital data and helping with genetic experiments.

James Ogilvie

PhD student interested in the evolution of Heliconius color patterns and the ecological pressures that underlie local adaptation and polymorphic mimicry.

Jessie Foley

PhD student investigating Heliconius‘ extended lifespans with the aim of establishing this group as a new insect model for longevity and aging studies.

Laura Hebberecht

PhD student interested in the developmental and genomic mechanisms that facilitate adaptive innovation and aim to describe the developmental peculiarities of Heliconius expanded mushroom bodies.

Made Roger

Research intern studying Heliconius lifespan, cognition, and wing-patterning genes.

Sol Parra

PhD student working on a species comparison project on Nymphalidae mimetic species to determine the function of specific wing pattern genes previously described in Heliconius.

Sylvia Garza

Intern working on developing and coordinating outreach projects, running the lab’s social media presence, and helping create educational content.

Former members

Greta Hernández

Research intern that assisted in the maintenance of butterfly stocks, as well as behavioral and genetic experiments.

Guillaume Ghisbain

Post Doc interested in understanding the genomic mechanisms involved in generating the outstanding phenotypic convergence between Heliconius co-mimics.

Hubert Szczygiel

Research intern that studied patterns in the evolutionary response of reef fishes to climate change by looking at genetic differences between species across the Isthmus and the Pacific upwelling gradient.

Josie McPherson

Research intern that assisted with the ongoing project of Heliconius butterflies unique pollen diet and the possible relationship with their long lifespans.

Luca Livraghi

Post Doc studying the evolution of gene networks and how they control a Heliconius‘ diverse wing patterns by characterizing the alleles driving morphological evolution across species.