American Museum of Natural History

Department of Invertebrate Zoology

Central Park West at 79th Street

New York, NY 10024

©2017 by Black Coral Lab. Proudly created with


MISSION: Empower underrepresented minorities from NYC College of Technology (CUNY) by leveraging priceless support from colleagues and generous funding from the City University of New York, the American Museum of Natural History, the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of Natural History, the National Oceanographic & Atmospheric Administration, and the Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary.

STUDY ORGANISM: Black corals (Cnidaria: Anthozoa: Hexacorallia: Antipatharia) inhabit all the world’s oceans; however, they are a predominantly deep-water group with ~75% of the 247 currently recognized species occurring at depths >50 m (max: 8,600 m). Given their depth range, and that only a few shallow-water populations are known, black corals have historically been understudied. The age (4,265 years) and radial growth rate (<5 μm/yr) of the deep-sea black coral Leiopathes highlight the extreme longevity of these important habitat-forming species. Our lab uses DNA and morphology to reveal the identity and relationship of these deep-sea denizens.



I am an Associate Professor at NYC College of Technology (CUNY), which ranks #1 in ethnic diversity among northern regional colleges. In collaboration with Dr. Estefania Rodriguez (Curator of Marine Invertebrates), I run a molecular lab at the American Museum of Natural History where high school students and undergraduates are submerged in deep-sea evolutionary biology. I am also an adjunct Assistant Professor at NYU's School of Professional Studies (Division of Applied Undergraduate Studies), an adjunct Lecturer for Columbia University's E3B Program, and a Research Associate at the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of Natural History (Washington DC). You can access my CV here.

EDUCATION: I earned a Bachelor of Science in Marine Biology at the University of Miami, Florida (1997-2001), a Master of Science in Marine Biology at the College of Charleston’s Grice Marine Laboratory (South Carolina, 2001-2004), and a Doctor of Philosophy in Environmental and Evolutionary Biology at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette (2004-2011). I was also a Gerstner Scholar and Postdoctoral Fellow at the American Museum of Natural History's Sackler Institute for Comparative Genomics (2011-2014).



Access the Undergraduate Mentoring Handbook here



View publications here


Download publications here

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Linear mitochondrial genome in Anthozoa (Cnidaria): A case study in Ceriantharia (Scientific Reports

Phylogenetic relationships of Mediterranean black corals (Cnidaria: Anthozoa: Hexacorallia) and implications for classification within the order Antipatharia (Invertebrate Systematics)

An EPIC journey to locate single-copy nuclear markers in sea anemones (Zoologica Scripta)





CUNY Hunter College (Pre-Health Track)

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City Tech (Biomedical Informatics Program)

City Tech (Biomedical Informatics Program)


Medgar Evers College (CUNY)


For Undergraduates at NYC College of Technology (CUNY)


Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation (LSAMP)

LSAMP is an alliance of 17 CUNY colleges and the CUNY Graduate Center. The goal of the program is to significantly increase the number of underrepresented students from minority groups who pursue and graduate with a baccalaureate and graduate degrees in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM). Since its inception in November 1992, the Alliance has been at the forefront of a concerted effort to increase annual minority STEM enrollment and graduation at the City University of New York. The Alliance provides academic scholarship support to CUNY students majoring in STEM fields.

Bridges to the Baccalaureate Program (Bridges)

The Bridges to the Baccalaureate Program, funded by the National Institutes of Health, provides support to underrepresented students make transitions at a critical stage in their development as scientists. In partnership with Brooklyn College (CUNY), the program provides a variety of services including intensive academic advisement, peer mentoring and paid authentic research experiences. The program targets students earning an associate degree (LAS, LAA, unclassified or unclassified health) at City Tech and facilitates their transfer to Brooklyn College to earn their Bachelor’s degree in biomedical or behavioral sciences (Biology, Chemistry, or Psychology). The program is designed for underrepresented students (minority, low-income).

Scholarships in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (S-STEM)

This National Science Foundation (NSF) grant provides academic institutions with funds for student scholarships to encourage and enable academically talented students demonstrating financial need to enter the STEM workforce or STEM graduate school following completion of an associate, baccalaureate, or graduate degree in fields of science, technology, engineering, or mathematics. Because retention and graduation rates in Computer Science and Applied Mathematics reveal a profound underrepresentation of women, this grant will place a heavy emphasis on enrolling greater numbers of female students in these programs and in providing evidence-validated interventions to support their retention, graduation, and workforce entry. 

Emerging Scholars Program (ESP)

The Emerging Scholars Program provides students with an opportunity to apply what was learned in the classroom to discover new knowledge, solve real-world problems and develop professionally while working with faculty to advance their scholarly endeavors. The program includes specially designed workshops for students offered by Honors Scholars, the Undergraduate Research Committee and others, preparation of an abstract and participation in the Honors/Emerging Scholars poster session. 

CUNY Research Scholars Program (CRSP)

The CUNY Research Scholars Program provides funded laboratory experiences for associate degree students over a one-year period. The goal of the program is to encourage undergraduate students enrolled in associate degree programs to participate in authentic research and to increase persistence in STEM disciplines. 

Collegiate Science & Technology Entry Program (CSTEP)

CSTEP is a student success initiative designed to provide transfer students from underrepresented groups with the support needed to succeed in college.



#TeamBlackCoral at the AMNH

November 11, 2017


#TeamBlackCoral & the Open ROV Trident Underwater Drone

March 13, 2018


#TeamBlackCoral at The Explorers Club in NYC

June 7, 2018


#TeamBlackCoral at City Tech’s 16th Annual Poster Session

November 15, 2018



City Tech Alumnus

Current: University of Maryland, Eastern Shore

City Tech Alumnus

Current: University of Louisiana at Lafayette

City Tech Alumnus

City Tech Alumnus

City Tech Alumnus

Current: Brooklyn College

City Tech Alumnus

Current: Brooklyn College

University of Maryland Alumnus

Current: Cornell University

Raven Johnson

City Tech Alumnus

Naomi Chery

City Tech Alumnus

NYU & City Tech Alumnus

Current: Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies

Danny M. Vasquez

NYU Alumnus

Emmanuelle Sanon

City Tech Alumnus

Daniel Kourehjan

Rutgers University

Michelle Yip

NYU Alumnus

Myisha Thasin

City Tech Alumnus

Gurjot Nijjar

City Tech Alumnus

Annie Horowitz

Irvington High School Alumnus

Ben Short

Fairfield Prep High School

The City College of NY (CUNY)

Abraham Setiawan

City Tech Alumnus

Clyde Harris

City Tech Alumnus

Freddy Castro

City Tech Alumnus

Robert Marino

City Tech Alumnus

City Tech Alumnus

Magda Voiklis

University of Chicago

Nadia Alomari

City Tech Alumnus

Katherine Parra

City Tech Alumnus

Horia (Lee) Popa

Former: Stony Brook University

Current: Kingsborough Community College

Associate Professor at NYC College of Technology




July 19-24, 2015: City Tech student Craig Dawes and Dr. Dennis Opresko explore the Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary (NW Gulf of Mexico) aboard NOAA's Research Vessel Manta

Sept 3-8, 2016: City Tech students Sheila Moaleman & Nicole BellaFlores-Mejia conduct video and collection-based surveys outside of the FGBNMS in an effort to expand the current boundaries and protect newly-discovered communities

FGBNMS 2017: Nadia Alomari (City Tech) sailed from Sept 21-26 while Samantha Goldman (University of Maryland, College Park) & Colin Joseph (City Tech alumnus) sailed from Sept 28-Oct 3.

FGBNMS 2018: Raven Johnson & Rachael Ross sailed from July 21-26 and Katherine Parra & Naomi Chery sailed from Sept 4-9.

FGBNMS 2019: Eliza Gonzalez & Craig Dawes participated in a telepresence-enabled cruise from Aug 28 - Sept 1.



Rachael & Raven

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Katherine & Naomi

Eliza & Craig


Library Exhibit Featuring the FGBNMS Expeditions

Showcased outside of the library at NYC College of Technology (CUNY). Created by Team Black Coral.



Do not do what I do; rather, take whatever I have to offer and do with it what I could never imagine doing and then come back and tell me about it.
-Mark C. Taylor


Craig Dawes

NYC College of Technology (CUNY) Alumnus

Current: University of Maryland, Eastern Shore

Craig conducted ocean science research aboard WHOI's R/V Tioga (part of WHOI's Partnership Education Program)

Sheila Moaleman

NYC College of Technology (CUNY) Alumnus

Sheila participated in an NSF funded REU summer research experience in Cathy McFadden's octocoral lab at Harvey Mudd College (Claremont, CA)

Annie Horowitz

Irvington High School Alumnus

Annie is a 2019 Society for Science Regeneron STS Scholar, the nation’s oldest and most prestigious science and math competition! Annie & Irvington High School each received a $2,000 award.


Associate Curator of Marine Invertebrates, American Museum of Natural History

Research Coordinator, Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary

Research Associate, Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of Natural History

Curator of Corals, Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of Natural History

Dr. Daniel Wagner

NOAA/NOA – National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science (Charleston, SC)

P.P. Shrishov Institute of Oceanology (Moscow, Russia)

Di Tracey

Fisheries Scientist, New Zealand's National Institute of Water & Atmospheric Research

Strategic & Regulatory Sciences, Fisheries & Oceans Canada

University of Louisiana at Lafayette (Lafayette, LA)

Dr. Bob Stone

Auke Bay Laboratories , Alaska Fisheries Science Center, NOAA Fisheries

Università degli Studi di Genova, Corso Europa, Genova, Italy

The Ohio State University (Columbus, OH)

NOAA National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science (Charleston, SC)

Research Specialist, Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary

Associate Professor at New York City College of Technology

PhD Candidate at James Cook University (Australia)



September 20, 2016

Bell House (Brooklyn, NY)

December 4, 2016

American Museum of Natural History

April 10, 2017

New York Aquarium (in collaboration with the Wildlife Conservation Society)

April 27, 2017

SLC Conference Center

September 16, 2017

Hudson River Park (Pier 26)

February 25, 2018

American Museum of Natural History - Milstein Hall of Ocean Life

March 29, 2018

American Museum of Natural History

Also starring venomous sea snail whisperer Mandë Holford

New York Taste of Science Festival - "Hidden Depths"

April 28, 2018

Flagship Brewery, Staten Island

39th Annual New York State Marine Education Association (NYSMEA) Conference

May 19, 2018

Lighthouse Auditorium, Kingsborough Community College (CUNY)

Unseen Oceans Trivia Night

May 31, 2018

American Museum of Natural History (in collaboration with the World Science Festival)

World Oceans Week 2018 - Coral Reefs Panel (Moderator)

June 7, 2018

The Explorers Club

Biology on Tap - Commotion Under the Ocean!

August 15, 2018

The Way Station (Brooklyn NY)

Into the Deep: An Immersive Oceans Course

Five Tuesdays, January 15 - February 12, 2019

American Museum of Natural History (in the Unseen Oceans Exhibit)

Oceans Sci Viz Course

April 22-26, 2019

American Museum of Natural History

Image courtesy of Vicki Ferrini (Columbia University's Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory)

Queens College Biology Colloquium

September 18, 2019

Queens College (CUNY), Science Building D-139, 11:00am

Mysteries of the Ocean

September 20, 2019

Felicity House (a free social community space just for women with autism)

Stony Brook's School of Marine & Atmospheric Sciences Colloquium

November 8, 2019

Stony Brook University (SUNY), Endeavour Hall 120, 12pm