Dr. Amy L. Freestone, Principal Investigator

Dr. Freestone completed her PhD in Ecology at the University of California, Davis, exploring local and regional drivers of terrestrial plant species diversity.  As a postdoctoral fellow at the Smithsonian Institution, she expanded the geographic scope of her research to a continental scale, and shifted her primary study system to the nearshore marine environment.  She maintains active research in both marine and terrestrial ecosystems.

Dr. Freestone conducts field work in nearshore marine ecosystems on both the Atlantic and Pacific Coasts of North and Central America, and has collaborative projects that span other continents.  She is a community ecologist by training, but she uses comparative approaches to understand natural systems across continental and global scales.  Her research directions are driven strongly by an intellectual curiosity in the biodiversity of nature and a personal commitment to informing conservation science.  Her research has been funded by the National Science Foundation and the Smithsonian Institution.  She is also a Research Associate at the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center in Maryland and the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in Panama.

Email: amy (dot) freestone (at) temple (dot) edu

Note for undergraduates:  We usually have several undergraduate researchers assisting us each semester.  If this is something that interests you, there are several ways to get involved.  You can apply to CST’s Undergraduate Research Program, you can register for a research course to earn credit, or you can just volunteer!  If you are interested in joining the lab, please email Dr. Freestone with a brief description of your background, interests and why you want to get involved.

Note for prospective graduate students: If you are interested in joining the lab as an MS or PhD student, please email Dr. Freestone (1) a description of your background, research interests, and why you think the lab is a good match for your graduate training, and (2) your CV (including any relevant GPA and GRE scores).

Current Graduate Students:

Mariana Bonfim, PhD Candidate

Mariana joined the lab in Fall 2015 to focus on latitudinal variation in assembly processes, more specifically the effects of recolonization, predation and invasion resistance in marine fouling communities. She is also particularly interested in the mediators of ship-borne introductions of non-native species in a large scale. Her past research includes identification of organisms in ballast water of docked ships on northeastern Brazil, where she is originally from.  Website:


Mary Cortese, PhD Student


Mary joined the lab in Fall 2019 to look at changes in community dynamics with climate change.  Her research is aimed at understanding the interactions of communities experiencing anthropogenic range shifts. Specifically, she is interested in how climate change may be impacting community interactions across large spatial scales and the potential for changing biotic interactions to drive range shifts.




Diana Lopez, PhD Candidate

Diana joined the lab in the Fall 2015, and her major interests are to explore a latitudinal gradient of functional diversity and the effect of predation on trait distributions across latitudes to infer different community assembly processes and the potential for biotic resistance to invasions. Her prior research, conducted during her masters degree, looked at behavioral and life-history traits that may have contributed to the rapid range expansion of an invasive fish in the Everglades.    Website:


Michele Repetto, PhD Candidate

Michele joined the lab in Fall of 2015 and has a number of interests based in community ecology, with a focus on marine systems. She is particularly interested in species interactions (predation, competition, parasitism) and anthropogenic threats to biodiversity, such as the introduction of non-native species. Her research project aims to understand biogeographic patterns of competition as well as factors influencing competitive
interactions through space and time.