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Hawkins, Melissa

Curator of Mammals

Positions

My research interest most frequently incorporates museum specimens to study of phylogeny, taxonomy, evolution and biogeography. I am most interested in diverse lineages of mammals, particularly adaptive radiations and have done biological surveys in Southeast Asia, Madagascar and the United States. I use cutting edge molecular techniques to generate large datasets from degraded DNA sources (over 100 year old museum specimens). I am also proficient in bioinformatics, and a novice with GIS.

Geographic Focus

Professional Biography

  • My research program spans a variety of fields, and integrates field work, museum specimens and genomics. I seek to explore answers related to biodiversity and biogeography, as well as population level questions. I am particularly focused on adaptive radiations of Old World mammals. I answer these questions from collaborative sampling among specimens residing in museums around the world and collecting new samples and materials to deposit in museum collections. During my dissertation I began working with high throughput sequencing, enrichment techniques, and ancient DNA methods. I have strong interests in phylogenomics, as well as applied population genomics. I also planned, obtained permits and led two field expeditions to Borneo to collect samples along an elevational gradient. From those samples I have tested isolation across sky islands in the mountain treeshrew with mitochondrial genomes and a panel of over 4,000 nuclear loci (Ultraconserved Elements). I am also using some of the tissues I collected for a large scale sciurid phylogeny. As a postdoc I worked on whole genome sequencing of Malagasy lemurs to evaluate demographic history of the greater bamboo lemur (Prolemur simus) through time, and also construct the most complete nuclear phylogenies of the sifakas (genus Propithecus), searching for genes responsible for the diverse phenotypes observed within and across species. All of the aforementioned projects have already resulted in some publications, with several more in various stages of completion. As a former faculty member at Humboldt State University I am starting to investigate the Townsend’s group of chipmunks for introgression and hybridization. This project combines museum collections, field work, microCT scanning and sexual selection to evaluate speciation dynamics in the Pacific Northwest.

Public Biography

  • I use DNA sequencing to understand relationships between various groups of mammals. My research has taken me around the world, to exotic places like Borneo and Madagascar to trap, collect samples, and evaluate why tropical forests harbor so much diversity. I incorporate museum specimens (as sources for genetic and morphological samples), climate and paleontology to predict movement of species across islands through time, and predict future ranges of those species.