I am an evolutionary biologist interested in social insects and their fossil record. The projects I am involved in are typically centered around understanding patterns of diversity, ecological impact, and the evolution of complex behavior in some of nature’s greatest success stories: ants and termites. More broadly, I use social insects as a system for testing concepts related to the integration of paleontological and genetic data, as well as novel imaging pipelines. [CV] [Webpage]


Ciara Mae Mendoza - Laboratory Technician

A native of New Jersey, Ciara received her bachelor's degree in Biology from Rutgers–Newark in 2015 and is an experienced researcher with a background rooted in curation, morphology, and molecular techniques. While she has spent many hours with insect specimens (including work assisting with the description of a new cockroach species you can read about here), her ultimate research goals relate to molecular biology and genomics of multiple organisms.


Hajar Elalam – Undergraduate Researcher

Hajar is a fourth-year student completing a Bachelor of Science degree in Biology with a mathematics minor at Rutgers University – Newark. In the lab, her research interests relate to imaging techniques and the analysis of extinct species morphology. Hajar was born and raised in Brooklyn and plans to pursue a career in biomedical engineering.



Chloe grew up in both Nebraska and New Jersey and is currently pursuing a bachelor’s degree in Biology at NJIT. She is involved in specimen preparation and curation, and her long-term interests lie in evolutionary biology, paleontology, and anthropology. In addition to her work in the lab, Chloe is an accomplished student athlete and represents the University in distance events as part of the NJIT Track and Field team.



Carlos is a recent graduate of Passaic County Community College and a current student at Rutgers University – Newark pursuing a bachelor's degree in Biology. He is broadly interested in evolutionary and environmental biology. Most recently, Carlos has been working to better understand how social insects respond to recurrent flooding in South America. He has also worked on independent projects relating to the behavior of captive Brown Bears and the plausible conditions for life on other planets. 


Jonathan Rey A. Trinidad – Undergraduate Researcher

Jonathan is a fourth-year pre-health undergraduate at Rutgers University–Newark pursuing a Bachelor of Science degree in Biology with a double minor in Chemistry and Mathematics. He is working on an independent project working to analyze the morphology of endemic and invasive ant species. Jonathan is an active member of the Minority Association for Pre-health Students (MAPS) & National Society of Leadership and Success (NSLS) at Rutgers. In addition, he is a tenor in the Rutgers University Chorus and performed with the Montclair Operetta Club in two musicals at Bloomfield College.

Current Openings

The lab is currently expanding, with opportunities in the following positions:

  • Graduate Student (PhD/MS
  • Undergraduate Intern/Researcher
  • Postdoctoral Researcher 

If you would like to know more about joining the lab, please email barden [at] with your research interests and previous experience. If you're a student with no previous research experience, that's OK! Students and postdocs who are interested in social insects, paleoentomology, X-ray imaging, or comparative genomics are especially encouraged to apply.