Rosalyn receives NSF Graduate Research Fellowship

Rosalyn Price-Waldman, a Burns lab MS student, was recently awarded a prestigious NSF Graduate Research Fellowship. These awards provide three years of support for graduate education and are given to annually to outstanding students who are pursuing graduate degrees in science, math, technology, and engineering. Rosalyn’s thesis involves our ongoing work integrating tanager genomics with their ecology and evolution. Congrats Rosalyn!

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Congratulations Erik!

Congratulations to Erik Funk who successfully defended his MS thesis. His research involved using indices of phylogenetic diversity for conservation planning, focusing on tanagers and their relatives in a large clade known as Emberizoidea (9-primaried oscines). Erik will begin working on his PhD in Scott Taylor’s lab at the University of Colorado Boulder this fall. He will be missed and we wish him the best of luck!


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Recent Burns Lab Papers in Evolution

Two papers were published recently on tanagers in the journal Evolution. Both papers originated form data sets collected by Burns lab MS students. In Allison Shultz’s paper, she presents her massive data set on plumage color of tanagers for the first time. She shows that sexual dichromatism evolves via a mosaic of sexual and natural selection in both males and females. Nick Mason continues to use his data set on song evolution to learn more about the importance of vocal evolution in birds. In his recent paper, he compares tanagers (Thraupidae) to another large Neotropical radiation, the ovenbirds (Furnariidae) and shows that evolution bursts in rates of speciation and song evolution are coincident, with rates of vocal evolution higher in taxa with learned songs. Congrats to both Allison and Nick!

Shultz, A. J.* and K. J. Burns. 2017. The role of sexual and natural selection in shaping patterns of sexual dichromatism in the largest family of songbirds (Aves: Thraupidae). Evolution 71: 1061-1074. For pdf, you can go to the journal’s web site or just send an email request to

Mason, N. A.*, K. J. Burns, J. A. Tobias, S. Claramunt, N. Seddon, and E. P. Derryberry. 2017. Song evolution, speciation, and vocal learning in passerine birds. Evolution 71: 786-796. For pdf, you can go to the journal’s web site or just send an email request to


Rates of speciation and vocal evolution in tanagers and ovenbirds. 
Figure from Mason et al. 2017.

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Congratulations Amelia!

Congrats to Burns lab MS student Amelia Demery who was recently awarded a Sally Casanova Pre-doctoral Scholarship. These scholarships are awarded by the California State University Chancellor’s office to help students prepare to succeed in a future doctoral programs. Amelia is one of only about 70 scholars statewide this year. Way to go Amelia! More info about her award can be found at the SDSU NewsCenter.


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Welcome Rosalyn!

The Burns lab welcomes new MS student Rosalyn Price-Waldman. She received her Bachelor of Arts in Biology (with honors) from Brown University. At Brown, Rosalyn’s undergraduate thesis focused on phylogenetics and comparative wing morphology in bats. For her MS thesis, Rosalyn will be focusing on tanager phylogenetics and comparative biology. Welcome Rosalyn!

Rosalyn Price-Waldman

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Recent Burns Lab Good News

There has been lots of good news for the Burns lab over the past several months. Amelia Demery received funding from the AOU and the American Museum of Natural History to support her project on tanager morphological diversification. She spent the summer measuring tanagers at six different museums. Amelia also learned recently that she has received a Sally Casanova Pre-doctoral scholarship. Brian Myers had another successful field season and received grants from Pasadena Audubon and the AOU to continue to support his hummingbird research. Both Brian Myers and Erik Funk received travel awards to present their research at the recent AOU meetings in DC. Former Burns lab undergrad Zach Martinez was selected as one of only 9 Fulbright awardees from SDSU. In addition, another former Burns lab undergrad Allan Cabrero recently started his PhD at UC Berkeley. Congrats everyone!

Burns lab

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Burns Lab at NAOC in DC

The Burns lab recently traveled to D.C. to attend the North American Ornithological Conference, which was the largest gathering of professional ornithologists in history. Eight past and present Burns lab members were in attendance. Erik received an AOU travel award to present his talk on conservation indices of tanagers. Brian also received a travel award to present his hummingbird hybrid zone results. We were joined by Amelia who was winding up her data collection of tanager morphology at the Smithsonian. We were also able to reconnect with former Burns lab students Shannon (Walsh) Mindeman, Nick Mason, Allison Shultz, and Bill Mauck. In total, nine presentations were authored by Burns lab members past and present. Attending the meeting was a great way to cap off a busy summer for the Burns lab!


Burns lab past and present at NAOC VI, from left to right: Allison Shultz, Brian Myers, Amelia Demery, Kevin Burns, Bill Mauck, Shannon Mindeman, and Nick Mason

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