Lab Members

Current Lab Members:

Graduate Students:

Brian Myers - Brian received his BS in Environmental Biology at California Polytechnic State University in Pomona. For his PhD project, Brian is studying behavior, morphology, and genetics in two hummingbird species, the Rufous and Allen’s Hummingbirds. In particular, he is focusing on a hybrid zone between these two species.

Brian Myers

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

ErikFunk2 copyErik Funk - Erik received his BS in Environmental Science from SDSU. For his MS thesis, he is using next-generation sequencing to reconstruct a phylogeny of Darwin’s Finches and their close relatives. He is then using this phylogeny to better understand morphological evolution as well as the biogeographic history of the group. Many of the relatives of Darwin’s finches are found on islands in the Caribbean, while some are found in Central and South America. Like the Darwin’s finches, these species also vary in their bill size and shape. Erik is using the latest genomic techniques to provide the phylogenetic context from which the Darwin’s finches evolved.

Shannon WalshShannon Walsh - Shannon received her BS in Biology with a minor in Environmental Science Policy and Management from the University of Minnesota. For her thesis, she is studying conservation genetics of the Spotted Towhee (Pipilo maculatus) on California’s Channel Islands. Two subspecies of the towhee occur on the Channel Islands, the mainland subspecies and an island endemic subspecies. Using DNA sequence data, she is studying the evolutionary history of the towhees on the islands and evaluating their genetic distinctiveness. The island endemic subspecies, P. m. clementae, is classified as a California species of conservation concern and has been extirpated from San Clemente Island. Shannon has received funding to start her project from the Chapman fund of the American Museum of Natural History as well as a grant from SDSU.

 

Research Associates:

Lori HargroveDr. Lori Hargrove – Lori Hargrove received her PhD from the University of California at Riverside.  For her dissertation, she investigated how avian distributions have shifted along an arid elevational gradient in response to climate change.  She is currently working with colleagues at the San Diego Natural History Museum on the San Jacinto Mountain Centennial Resurvey project.  This project is surveying vertebrate species at sites in southern California, 100 years after they were documented in detail by Joseph Grinnell and colleagues from the Museum of Vertebrate Zoology at the University of California Berkeley.  In addition, Lori has a long-standing interest in the biology of the Gray Vireo (Vireo vicinior) and recently completed a study of its nesting sucess.

Lab Associates:  Casey Richart, Nira Clark

Undergrad Researchers:   Andre Nguyen is currently working in the lab this semester on a variety of projects, mostly supporting our bird collection.

Undergrad researchers

Former undergraduate researchers Annabelle Bernabe, Josh Espinoza, and Cate Threlkeld


Former Lab Members:

Former Graduate Students:

Luke Klicka – For his MS thesis, Luke studied the phylogeography of the Bell’s Vireo. The Bell’s Vireo is a widespread North American species consisting of four subspecies. However, no genetic data has been used to address the distinctiveness of these subspecies. Of particular interest is the Least Bell’s Vireo subspecies, a federally endangered subspecies that breeds in riparian habitat in southern California and northern Baja California. Luke investigated the population genetic structure across the species to better inform conservation action. Luke received support for his project from the Los Angeles Audubon Society, the American Ornithologists’ Union, and the Chapman fund of the American Museum of Natural History. Luke finished his MS at SDSU in 2014 and is currently a PhD student in Rob Moyle’s lab at the University of Kansas. His Bell’s Vireo paper is forthcoming, but Luke also published a paper as a side project that is unrelated to his thesis:

Ryan, P. G., L. B. Klicka, F. K. Barker, and K. J. Burns. 2013. The origin of finches on Tristan da Cunha and Gough Island, central South Atlantic ocean. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 69: 299-305.

 

Nick Mason – For this MS thesis, Nick studied the evolution of vocalizations in tanagers. He mapped vocalization data onto a phylogeny of tanagers to learn how, when, and why differences in vocalizations evolved with the group. His analyses provided insight into how song relates to diversification. In addition, he investigated the interplay between elaborate plumage and elaborate songs, both of which are targets of sexual selection. During his time at SDSU, he was supported in part by a Sally Casanova Predoctoral Scholarship from the California State University. Nick finished his thesis in 2012 and is currently at PhD student in Irby Lovette’s lab at Cornell University. Nick will have four publications from his MS thesis; here are the first three:

Mason, N. A., Shultz, A. J., and K. J. Burns. 2014. Elaborate visual and acoustic signals evolve independently in a large, phenotypically diverse radiation of songbirds. Proceedings of the Royal Society B, Biological Sciences 281 1788 20140967.  some links to articles about this study can be found here

Mason, N. A., P. O. Title, C. Cicero, K. J. Burns, and R. C. K. Bowie. 2014. Genetic variation among western populations of the Horned Lark (Eremophila alpestris) indicates recent colonization of the Channel Islands off southern California, mainland-bound dispersal, and postglacial range shifts. The Auk: Ornithological Advances 131: 162-174.

Mason, N. A. and K. J. Burns. 2013. Molecular phylogenetics of the Neotropical Seedeaters and Seed-finches (Sporophila, Oryzoborus, Dolospingus). Ornitología Neotropical 24: 139-155.

Pascal Title – Pascal’s MS thesis investigated the evolution of ecological niches in tanagers. Using species occurrence data and climate data, he characterized the environmental niche of different species of tanagers. He then traced this information onto the phylogeny of tanagers to understand how niches have changed through time. Among other things, Pascal looked for evidence of niche conservatism and correlations between niche evolution and species diversification. Pascal finished his thesis in 2012 and is currently a PhD student in Dan Rabosky’s lab at the University of Michigan.

 

Allison Shultz – Allison’s thesis investigated the evolution of bird coloration in tanagers using a model that accounts for avian visual abilities.  She identified numerous species with cryptic dichromatism, where males and females appear different to birds but not to humans.  She then mapped her measures of coloration onto the tanager phylogeny, comparing the role of male and female plumage changes in driving evolutionary changes in degree of dichromatism.  During her time at SDSU, she was funded by a prestigious NSF graduate research fellowship and also received grants from the American Ornithologists’ Union and the Los Angeles Audubon Society.  She finished her MS thesis in 2011 and is currently a PhD student in Scott Edward’s lab at Harvard University. Allison will have four publications from her MS thesis; the first two are here:

Shultz, A. J. and K. J. Burns. 2013. Plumage evolution in relation to light environment in a novel clade of Neotropical tanagers. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 66: 112-125.

Burns, K. J. and A. J. Shultz. 2012. Widespread cryptic dichromatism and ultraviolet reflectance in the largest radiation of Neotropical songbirds: implications of accounting for avian vision in the study of plumage evolution. The Auk 129: 211-221.

Bill Mauck – Bill studied the molecular systematics of flowerpiercers (Diglossa and Diglossopis). These tanagers have an unusual method of obtaining nectar. In most species, a hook on the end of the upper mandible is used to hold the corolla of a flower while the bird pierces the flower with its lower bill. Because they may obtain nectar without pollinating the flower, they are often called nectar thieves. Bill used molecular data to reconstruct the phylogeny of these species and then mapped the evolution of bill shape onto this phylogeny. Bill’s research was supported partly by grants from the Los Angeles Audubon Society and the American Museum of Natural History.  Bill finished his MS thesis in 2008 and currently works in the Ornithology Department at the American Museum of Natural History.  The results of his thesis were published in the Biological Journal of the Linnean Society:

Mauck, W. M. and K. J. Burns. 2009. Phylogeny, biogeography, and recurrent evolution of divergent bill types in the nectar-stealing flowerpiercers (Thraupini: Diglossa and Diglossopis). Biological Journal of the Linnean Society 98: 14-28.

Raul Sedano – Raul studied the evolutionary relationships of a large clade of tanagers that includes the mountain tanagers (Buthraupis, Bangsia, Iridosornis, Anisognathus, Dubusia, Delothraupis). Raul reconstructed a phylogeny for this group that contains 18 genera and nearly 100 species. These species are found not only in the Andes, but also in most of the zoogeographic regions of South America. Thus, with his phylogeny, Raul was able to investigate the biogeographic history of the entire continent. He was supported by a Fulbright Scholarship as well as  a Chapman grant from the American Museum of Natural History.  Raul finished his MS thesis in 2007 and in 2012 completed his PhD at UCLA in Tom Smith’s lab. He currently has an appointment in the Biology Department of the Universidad Industrial de Santander in Colombia. The results of his MS thesis were published in the Journal of Biogeography:

Sedano, R. E. and Burns, K. J. 2010. Are the Northern Andes a species pump for Neotropical birds? Phylogenetics and biogeography of a clade of Neotropical tanagers (Aves: Thraupini). Journal of Biogeography 37: 325-343.

Tiffany ShepherdTiffany Shepherd – Tiffany studied the population genetics of the Summer Tanager. The Summer Tanager is a species of special concern in California and has recently colonized new areas in the state. She studied levels of gene flow among these populations and others in the Southwest. In addition, she compared genetic and morphological differences between the eastern and western subspecies of the Summer Tanager. Her work was supported by California State Parks, a Schreiber grant from the Los Angeles Audubon Society, and a Chapman grant from the American Museum of Natural History.  She finished her MS thesis in 2004 and currently works as a biologist for the US Navy in San Diego. Her results were published in The Journal of Avian Biology:

Shepherd, T. M. and K. J. Burns. 2007. Intraspecific genetic analysis of the Summer Tanager (Piranga rubra): Implications for species limits and conservation. Journal of Avian Biology 38: 12-27.

Matt AlexanderMatt Alexander – Matt studied the phylogeography of the White-headed Woodpecker. The White-headed Woodpecker inhabits high elevation areas in California, Oregon, and Washington and shows morphological differences between individuals in the northern and southern parts of the range. He found genetic differences that correlate with these morphological differences.  Matt’s research was supported by a Schreiber grant from the Los Angeles Audubon Society and a Chapman grant from the American Museum of Natural History.  Matt also received the outstanding graduate student instructor award from the Department of Biology. Matt finished his MS thesis in 2005 and currently works as a biologist in Portland, Oregon.  He published his results in two papers:

Alexander, M. P. and K. J. Burns. 2006. Intraspecific phylogeography and adaptive divergence in the White-headed Woodpecker. The Condor 108: 489-518.

Burns, K. J., M. P. Alexander, D. N. Barhoum, and E. A. Sgariglia. 2007. A statistical assessment of congruence among phylogeographic histories of three avian species in the California Floristic Province. Pages 96-109 in Festschrift for Ned K. Johnson: Geographic Variation and Evolution in Birds (C. Cicero and J. V. Remsen, Jr., Eds.). Ornithological Monographs, no. 63.

Erik SgarigliaErik Sgariglia – Erik worked on the phylogeography of the California Thrasher (Toxostoma redivivum), a chaparral/scrub species found throughout California. Erik identified several phylogeogeographic patterns that are concordant with those of other co-distributed taxa in California.  Erik’s research was partially supported by a Frank M. Chapman grant of the American Museum of Natural History.  He finished his MS thesis in 2001 and published his results in two papers:

Sgariglia, E. A. and Burns, K. J. 2003. Phylogeography of the California Thrasher (Toxostoma redivivum) based on nested-clade analysis of mitochondrial-DNA variation. The Auk 120: 346-361.

Burns, K. J., M. P. Alexander, D. N. Barhoum, and E. A. Sgariglia. 2007. A statistical assessment of congruence among phylogeographic histories of three avian species in the California Floristic Province. Pages 96-109 in Festschrift for Ned K. Johnson: Geographic Variation and Evolution in Birds (C. Cicero and J. V. Remsen, Jr., Eds.). Ornithological Monographs, no. 63.

Dino BarhoumDino Barhoum – Dino worked on the Wrentit (Chamea fasciata), an unusual bird found in chaparral habitat of California and Oregon. He studied the phylogeography of the species as well as the evolutionary relationships of the Wrentit to other species.  His research was partially supported by a Frank M. Chapman grant from the American Museum of Natural History.  He finished his MS thesis in 2001.  After finishing his MS, he attended medical school at the University of Vermont and currently practices medicine in San Diego. He published his results in three papers:

Burns, K. J. and D. N. Barhoum. 2006. Population-level history of the wrentit (Chamaea fasciata): Implications for comparative phylogeography in the California Floristic Province. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 38: 117-129.

Barhoum, D. N. and K. J. Burns. 2002. Phylogenetic relationships of the Wrentit based on mitochondrial cytochrome b sequences. The Condor 104: 740-749.

Burns, K. J., M. P. Alexander, D. N. Barhoum, and E. A. Sgariglia. 2007. A statistical assessment of congruence among phylogeographic histories of three avian species in the California Floristic Province. Pages 96-109 in Festschrift for Ned K. Johnson: Geographic Variation and Evolution in Birds (C. Cicero and J. V. Remsen, Jr., Eds.). Ornithological Monographs, no. 63.

Bryan SharpBryan Sharp – Bryan was co-advised by Burns and by Dr. Barbara Kus of the USGS.  He studied brood parasitism of the Least Bell’s Vireo by the Brown-headed Cowbird. Bryan’s research was funded by a Peacock scholarship from the Garden Club of America and from a Chapman grant from the American Museum of Natural History.  Bryan finished his thesis in 2001 and currently teaches in Durango, Mexico.  His thesis research appeared in three publications:

Sharp, B. L. and B. E. Kus. 2006. Factors influencing the incidence of cowbird parasitism of Least Bell’s Vireos. Journal of Wildlife Management 70: 682-690.

Sharp, B. L., B. L. Peterson, and B. E. Kus. 2005. Puncture ejection of own egg by Least Bell’s Vireo and potential implications for anti-parasitism defense. Western Birds 36:64-66.

Sharp, B. L. and B. E. Kus. 2004. Sunrise nest attendance and aggression by Least Bell’s Vireos fail to deter cowbird parasitism. Wilson Bulletin 116: 17-22.

Former Undergraduate Researchers:  We have benefited from the help of many talented undergraduate students in the lab over the years.  Thank you for your help and hard work!   Allan Cabrero, Erik Funk, Cate Threlkeld, Josh Espinoza, Annabelle Bernabe, Heather Macdonald, Ryan House, Matt Faughender, Angel Dufrane, Sarah Tulley, Ashley Lane-Roberts, Ian Maunsell, Celesta Cates, Maria Gonzalez, Tommie Ebanez, Ben Tambaschi, Shannon Drake, Kimo Rogalo, Mike Guerreiro, Amanda Sommerfield, Laura Rollefson, Beth Kennedy, Matt Alexander, Mike Machado, Shera Finn, Sarah Curry, Steve Sullivan, Valda Mestas-Romero, Jamie Mascarin, Marisa Giometti, Rodolfo Figueroa, Rachel del Rio, Tara Cahill, Pam McGlynn, José Guarderas, Jason Gross, Heather Davis, Rick Combs, and Jason Bornholdt.

Former Lab Associates: Dena Emmerson, Robin Keith, Rachel Racicot, Morgan Churchill