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Strong, Ellen

Chair of Invertebrate Zoology, Research Zoologist and Curator of Mollusks


Phylogeny and systematics of the Caenogastropoda based on morphological and molecular data; evolution of feeding biology in the Mollusca (Caenogastropoda; Bivalvia).

Geographic Focus

Public Biography

  • Ellen Strong grew up in a small town in northern California near San Francisco, where her first introduction to Zoology came through the shells she collected along the beautiful rocky intertidal shores. While a college student at UC Berkeley, she took an introductory geology course on a whim, which eventually led her to the UC Museum of Paleontology where she was employed in her first museum job. She was inspired by her teachers to look closer at fossils of invertebrates (animals with no backbones) and wrote her undergraduate honors thesis on fossil gastropods.

    In 2000, Ellen earned a PhD at The George Washington University in the field of Biology on the anatomy of living gastropods. What excited her most about studying snails and other mollusks was understanding the roles of evolutionary and functional constraints in shaping morphology. She completed two postdoctoral fellowships, one at the Museum für Naturkunde in Berlin, Germany, and a second at the Smithsonian. After two years as an Assistant Professor at the University of Minnesota and Bell Museum of Natural History, Ellen returned to the Smithsonian in 2004, as a Research Zoologist, to study the diversity and evolutionary relationships of freshwater and marine snails. Her work has taken her from the east to west coasts of the continental U.S., and as far as Hawaii, Australia, Papua New Guinea, Philippines, Vanuatu, Malaysia, Australia and New Caledonia. Ellen is contributing to documenting and describing the biodiversity of snails, and helping inform how to conserve them, even as some are on the brink of extinction.