September PhyloPizza

We’re baaack!! The first PhyloPizza event of the 2016-17 season will take place on Tuesday, September 13, at 5:30pm in the NMNH Vertebrate Zoology Seminar Room (WG-33). Prosanta Chakrabarty of Louisiana State University will kick off our season with a talk entitled “What is the Future of Systematics?” Join us!


The Braun Lab heads to Evolution!

The Braun Lab will be well represented at this year’s Evolution meeting in Austin, TX. Come see our presentations:

Noor White — “Progress in Resolving the Avian Tree of Life” during the Phylogenomics poster session, Saturday June 18th 5:45-7:45 PM.

HC Lim — “Comparative population genomics of bird species from Indo-Burma and Sundaland using UCE markers and historical DNA” during the Comparative Phylogeography I session, Monday June 20th 2:45-4:00 PM.

Andrew Gottscho — “Zoogeography of the San Andreas Fault system: Great Pacific Fracture Zones correspond with spatially concordant phylogeographic boundaries in western North America” during the Comparative Phylogeography II session, Tuesday June 21st 9:00-10:15 AM.

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June PhyloPizza

Our next PhyloPizza event will take place on Tuesday, June 14, at 5:30pm in the NMNH Executive Conference Room (ECR). Mark Simmons of Colorado State University will give a talk entitled “Theory vs. Implementation of Coalescence Methods Applied to Rooting the Angiosperms”. Join us!


May PhyloPizza

Our next PhyloPizza event will take place on Tuesday, May 3, at 5:30pm in the NMNH Executive Conference Room (ECR). Hopi Hoekstra of Harvard University will give a talk entitled “From mice to molecules: genetics of adaptive coloration”. Join us!


April PhyloPizza

Our next PhyloPizza event will take place on Tuesday, April 12, at 5:30pm in the NMNH Executive Conference Room (ECR). Emma Goldberg of the University of Minnesota will give a talk entitled “Macroevolution of Plant Reproductive Systems”. Join us!




Red Siskin Initiative featured on SIBG

The Red Siskin Initiative was recently featured in a piece on the Smithsonian Institute for Biodiversity Genomics website–check it out here. The Red Siskin Initiative is led by members of the Braun lab. Check out the ‘Red Siskin Conservation’ tab to learn more about the project.


Troy Murphy visits the Braun Lab–Related internship available!

The Braun Lab was happy to host Troy Murphy of Trinity University for a short-term visit to begin a collaboration on avian hybrid zones. You can find out more about Dr. Murphy here. See below for a description of an internship related to this project that is available through the NHRE program.

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Mike and Troy working in the NMNH collections

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Troy Murphy

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Hybrid variants


Project Title: Morphological variation across an avian hybrid zone: plumage coloration and mensural traits where two species meet.
Description: Within stable hybrid zones, there is a mix of genotypic contributions from the two parent species and hybrids often express intermediate and highly variable phenotypes. One such case of persistent hybridization is seen in avian hybrid zones in the great plains of North America. These areas of stable contact between parental species provide ‘natural laboratories’ where we are able to study phenotypic variation and the selective pressures leading to reproductive isolation. The black-crested titmouse (Baeolophus atricristatus) hybridizes with the tufted titmouse (B. bicolor) within a narrow zone in Texas and southwestern Oklahoma. Behavioral evidence indicates that the black-crested titmouse uses its large black crest as an aggressive signal during competition, while the crest of the less ornamented tufted titmouse is far smaller and grey, and we hypothesize, based on its reduced size, that the tufted’s crest plays a less important role as a signal of dominance. Body size is another variable often closely associated with dominance. We will test how titmouse hybrids, as well as the neighboring parental species, vary across the hybrid zone in body size, crest size and coloration. This will represent the first step in a project that will combine molecular and behavioral approaches to assess whether this communication signal of dominance increases reproductive isolation in this system. We will use round skins from the NMNH collection to measure crest length and coloration, as well as several variables related to body size. Crest length will be assessed via digital photography, and color will be assessed with a spectrometer paired with software that utilizes an avian visual model of color vision. By first characterizing plumage differences and body size, we will then be able to compare signal phenotypes to a genetic hybrid index (to be developed as part of a bigger project), map clinal transitions across the hybrid zone in all these traits and thus dissect introgression in fine detail.

March PhyloPizza

Our next PhyloPizza event will take place on Tuesday, March 8, at 5:30pm in the NMNH Executive Conference Room (ECR). Tandy Warnow of the University of Illinois will give a talk entitled “Species tree estimation from genome-scale data: controversies and advances”. Join us!here