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Museum Staff



Director: Dr. James Ackerman Ph.D

Recently, I have become the Director of the UPRRP Zoology Museum.  We are making great strides to bring the collection up to modern standards by databasing and reorganizing the collection, curating the specimens, and upgrading the facilities. 

My primary interests rest with questions pertaining to the evolution and maintenance of orchid diversity. This journey has led to a series of papers on the relationship between orchids and euglossine bees, the evolution and mechanisms of deception pollination, specificity in orchid-mycorrhizal associations, genetic structure of orchid populations, taxonomy of Caribbean orchids, the biogeography of the West Indies and Orchidaceae, land use history and the local distribution of native species, demography of small populations, and most recently the ecology of naturalized orchids. We are currently studying the reproductive biology and population dynamics of invasive, non-native orchids such as Dendrobium crumenatumArundina graminifolia and Spathoglottis plicata, and how they may affect populations of native species. In addition, we have begun a study on the invasion biology of non-native pines in Puerto Rico, and pollination networks of naturally unstable beach dune vegetation.

The issues I address span taxonomy, evolution, ecology, conservation, and environmental science which means that virtually none of my work has been done without the collaborative efforts of my undergraduate and graduate students, and colleagues within the UPR system and elsewhere.

Although my passion is directed towards the biology of orchids, I encourage my students to work on systems that create passion in their hearts. Some have studied orchids, but others have worked on quite different model systems including Bignoniaceae, Bromeliaceae, Cactaceae, Cucurbitaceae, Fabaceae, Malvaceae, Myrsinaceae, Pinaceae, Zamiaceae, karst vegetation, plant viruses, rust diseases, invasive species biology, and floral fragrances, all asking a variety of ecological and evolutionary questions employing a marvelous array of approaches and tools.


Collections ManagerMontana M. Atwater M.Sc. 


I am a PhD Student of Biology under the direction of Dr. James Ackerman at the University of Puerto Rico, Río Piedras (UPRRP). As collections manager of the UPRRP Zoology Museum, I aim to ensure the preservation of the biological collections while promoting the development of collections-based research. I am an entomologist, so much of my work is focused on the curation of the Entomological Collection. My research interests include the diversity, natural history, and evolutionary history of the Lepidoptera, particuarly relating to moths and moth pollination. For more about my research, see my website.



Outreach coordinator: Rayza M. Hernández Muñiz


I’m a MSc student at the UPR-RP from the Environmental Sciences Department. I work at the Zoology Museum as Outreach coordinator and museum technician. My duties include and has the objectives of promoting the universities Zoology Museum facilities for: learning experiences for students and non-students of all ages; for investigation work and experience; and to provide information to the university community among others. My interests involve: biodiversity, bio-conservation, and population ecology. I’m currently working with a small, endangered epiphytic orchid, Lepanthes eltoroensis, which is endemic to Puerto Rico with populations restricted to El Yunque National Forest.





Graduate Student Associates:


Orlando A. Acevedo-Charry (acevedocharry[at]gmail.com)



I am a Biologist from Colombia, and a graduate student from the University of Puerto Rico of Río Piedras (UPRRP). I am interested in the biology of conservation, mainly Neotropical biodiversity. Likewise, several themes in Ornithology have occupied a large space in my professional profile. Bioacustics and the relationship between fauna and people are major aspects of my education.





Kevin Avilés (kar_pr90[at]gmail.com)


Kevin is pursuing a Master's Degree in Ecology and Ecosystem Science at the University of Rhode Island. He received his BS ('12) in Integrative Biology from the University of Puerto Rico, Río Piedras. He is interested in herpetology, conservation biology and invasive species. As a sub-graduate, he co-founded the study group that works with invasive species such as the common toad (Rhinella marina), green iguana and lionfish. This work with invasive species is mainly focused on having model organisms for high school students as a learning tool and motivation to increase interest in science. He is fascinated by amphibians and reptiles, and he loves working with Anolis lizards, especially because they make him come back to fantastic places for his field work.


 Zuania Colón-Piñeiro (zcolonp[at]gmail.com)


Zuania is a masters student of the University of Puerto Rico, Río Piedras, her main focus is herpetology and conservationist. Her research is focused on the factors that affect the development of amphibians, especially on how temperature and other climatic factors affect skeletal development in frogs through fragmented forests in Puerto Rico. She earned her degree as a Biologist at the University of Puerto Rico, Bayamón, where she did research with populations of hermit crabs in disturbed and undisturbed areas.
The title of his thesis is "Subtle skeletal abnormalities in two species of Eleutherodactylus increase with the fragmentation of forests in Puerto Rico: exploring the causes in the laboratory and in the field."




Undergraduate Assistant Curators: 

Stephanie Amarante:

Vilmarys Figueroa:

Keishla Marrero:

Jonathan Morales:

Marimar Morales:

Axuel Negron;


Victor Ramos:

Wilmarilys Ramos:

Kevin Rivera:

Leean Staufenberger:



Andrea Gomez:

Regina Castejon:

Christopher O. Rojas:

Maureen Canario:

Estefania Medina: