Current Members of the Braun Lab

Michael J. Braun

Principal Investigator; cv
Research Scientist, Department of Vertebrate Zoology, National Museum of Natural History;
Adjunct Professor, Behavior, Ecology, Evolution and Systematics Program, University of Maryland

202-633-0739; braunm [at]

National Museum of Natural History-MRC 163

P.O. Box 37012

Washington, DC 20013-7012

Mike smiling w binos

“My research focuses on the use of molecular genetic data to explore the origin and maintenance of biological diversity.  Current projects include: 1) molecular phylogenetic studies on the early radiation of all living birds, as well as specific groups (raptors, nightbirds), 2) Molecular, morphological, and behavioral studies of hybrid zones as models of speciation, and 3) integrative studies of avian biogeography and conservation.”

Brian Coyle

Collaborator; cv

coyleb [at]

“I joined the Braun lab in 2013, when I started working as project coordinator for the Red Siskin Initiative, an international partnership that is focused on conservation of species and habitats in northern South America. The Red Siskin Initiative takes a holistic approach to biodiversity conservation, combining genomics, field ecology, ex situ approaches, education and development of sustainable livelihoods. It is also showcase example of cross-unit, trans-disciplinary collaboration at the Smithsonian. A core focus of our effort includes conservation of the iconic and critically endangered Red Siskin (Spinus cucullatus) and expansion of the Smithsonian Bird Friendly Coffee certification program to protect threatened habitats for Red Siskin as well as many other resident and migratory species in Venezuela and Guyana. In 2016, I also joined the pan-Smithsonian Conservation Commons, which is working to synergistically integrate the institution’s tremendous resources and disciplinary breadth and depth for unprecedented impact on global sustainability.”

Kevin Bennett

PhD Student

bennettkf [at]

“I am a PhD student at the University of Maryland – College Park. I joined the lab in fall, 2017 after finishing my MS at Fordham University in the Bronx, NY. My research interests include hybridization, sexual selection, animal migration, and conservation. For my dissertation, I am studying the dynamics of a hybrid zone in Panama between Golden-collared and White-collared Manakins, species famous for the elaborate courtship displays of the males. I am working to understand (1) the genetic basis of sexual traits that differ between species and (2) why a sexually selected trait has stopped introgressing across the hybrid zone. Are birds not dispersing across a major river? Do the light conditions of the males’ display court play a role? I am observing the birds in the wild and sequencing their DNA in the lab to find out.”


Shauna Rasband

PhD Student

rasbands [at]

“I am the newest member of the Braun lab. I joined Fall 2018 as a PhD student at the University of Maryland – College Park. I completed a bachelor’s degree in biology at Brigham Young University and subsequently worked as an editor. I then collaborated with Jessica Deichmann and postdoc Jeremy Feinberg at the Smithsonian Center for Conservation and Sustainability on frog-related research involving species delimitation in the Rana pipiens cryptic species complex.

“My interests remain related to systematics. I now aim to work in avian systems, using phylogeny to answer questions about biogeography and the evolution of complex traits such as echolocation. I am interested in building a more accurate and comprehensive swift (family: Apodidae) phylogeny based on specimens preserved in museum collections and sequences provided by collaborators. Current phylogenies show echolocation evolving in oilbirds once and swifts multiple times, and with a new phylogeny I hope to address the open question of when and how this occurred.”


Lab Alumni

Judy Blake, Associate Professor at The Jackson Labs

Jon Bollback, Institute of Science and Technology Austria

Robb T. Brumfield, Director and Roy Paul Daniels Professor of Biology at Louisiana State University

Travis C. Glenn, Associate Professor at University of Georgia

Kin-Lan Han, PhD Candidate at University of Florida

John Huelsenbeck, Professor at University of California at Berkeley

Sarah Kingston, Doherty Marine Biology Postdoctoral Scholar at Bowdoin College

Carey Krajewski, Professor at the Southern Illinois University

Haw Chuan Lim, Professor at George Mason University

Jean Mariaux, Professor at the University of Geneva

David McDonald, Professor at the University of Wyoming

Judy Rhymer, Recently retired from the University of Maine

Thomas Parsons, Scientific Director, International Commission on Missing Persons; Adjunct assistant professor at Pennsylvania State University

Ken Rosenberg, Director of Conservation Science at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology

Scott Steppan, Associate Professor at Florida State University

Noor White, National Science Foundation Postdoctoral Fellowship at the National Institutes of Health

Kevin Winker, Curator of Birds and Professor at the University of Alaska

Tamaki Yuri, Collections Specialist at Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History