Principle Investigator

Dr. John Klicka
Much of John’s research involves using DNA sequences to reconstruct phylogenetic hypotheses of avian relationships.  Such phylogenies, the cornerstone of modern comparative methods, provide a necessary framework for studying the evolution of various avian traits. Characters examined in this context can include behaviors (such as migration), morphological traits (such as size, osteological characters, or plumage coloration), or distributions through time and space (biogeography).  The latter is the focus of much of the research done in the Klicka Lab, where we begin by identifying the units of biodiversity and then attempt to understand the origin and maintenance of this diversity in an ecological and biogeographic context…. [more]

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Graduate students


Ethan Linck. PhD student. Ethan graduated from Reed College in 2013, writing his thesis on the phylogenetics of the Louisiade White-eye. Joining the Klicka lab in 2014, his primary interest is avian phylogeography in archipelago contexts, particularly in Melanesia and sky-islands systems. In his free time he enjoys running too much and ski mountaineering. [website]






Cooper French. PhD student. Cooper joined the Klicka Lab in 2014, having previously collected a MS in Chemistry from City College of New York and a BA in Biology from Reed College. Cooper is especially interested in the origin and evolution of structural color in feathers and its potential relation to biogeography and phylogeny.






CJ Battey. PhDcbattey_amkeHold student.  CJ graduated from UC Berkeley in 2010 with a double major in Integrative Biology and English, and joined the Klicka Lab in Fall 2013.  He is broadly interested in avian evolution and phylogeography. Current projects include species delimitation in the red-eyed vireo species complex using genome-wide SNP’s, and reconstructing the phylogeography of an expanding human-associated species, the great-tailed grackle. [website]



DaveDave Slager. PhD Student. Dave joined the Klicka Lab in fall 2013. His dissertation research investigates the role of mimicry in the phenotypic evolution of the Neotropical Tyrannini flycatchers using phylogenetic methods and field experiments. Other research projects include the population genomics of a crow hybrid zone in the Pacific Northwest and the phylogenetics and systematics of the Vireo family. Prior to joining the Klicka lab, Dave completed his MS at Ohio State University, where he studied the spatial ecology of warblers during spring migratory stopover. He has been birding since he was a kid and has worked professionally as a field ornithologist since 2002. In his spare time he enjoys cycling, running, birding whenever and wherever he can, and reading or writing about the natural history of birds of the Western Hemisphere. [website]




Lab Members 

KevinRevKevin Epperly. Laboratory Manager. Kevin graduated from the UW in 2007, with a major in Anthropology.  He started working in the molecular lab in the spring of 2013, and has worked in the ornithology collection at the Burke Museum for ten years.  Kevin’s research interests include phylogenetics, phylogeography, behavioral ecology, population mechanics, and emergent systems.



Former Students


Dr. Robert W. Bryson, Postdoc, UNLV/UW
Research in the lab: Biogeography of neotropical song birds, comparative phylogeography of Mexican pine-oak birds and herps
Currently: Postdoc, Moore Lab of Zoology at Occidental College & Research Affiliate, Klicka Lab at University of Washington

Dr. Jaime Chaves, Postdoc, UNLV
Research in the lab: The biology of a neotropical radiation, making sense of the Troglodytes aedon complex
Currently: Postdoc, Department of Biology, University of Miami


Graduate students

Brian Tilston Smith, Ph.D. UNLV 2011
Dissertation title: Molecular Evolution and Historical Biogeography of New World Birds
Currently: Assistant Curator, Department of Ornithology/ Assistant Professor, Richard Gilder Graduate School, American Museum of Natural History

Markus Mika, Ph.D., UNLV 2010
Dissertation title: Population Genetics and Evolutionary History of the Flammulated Owl (Otus flammeolus)
Currently: Science Director, Hawkwatch International

Garth Spellman, Ph.D., 2006
Dissertation title:  Comparative Phylogeography of Pine-Oak Birds
Currently:  Research Faculty, CCBR/Westcore and Department of Biology, Black Hills State University

Paul van Els, Ph.D. Student, UNLV
Research in the lab: Evolutionary history of Neotropical birds.
Currently: Ph.D. student at LSU

Vivien Chua, B.S., UNLV 2010
Major: Biology
Currently: Ph.D. student at LSU

Dawn Fletcher. M.S. UNLV 2009
Thesis title: Distribution and Site Selection of Le Conte’s and Crissal Thrashers in the Mojave Desert: A Multi-Model Approach
Currently: Lead researcher for the Great Basin Bird Observatory

Jeremy Batten. M.S., UNLV 2008
Thesis title: The “White-Eyed” Eastern Towhee: A Molecular Assessment of Pipilo erythrophthalmus alleni
Currently: Completed nursing school, now a RN

Jeff DaCosta, M.S., UNLV 2006
Thesis title:  Molecular Phylogenetics of Trogon: Exploring Patterns of Diversification in a Widespread Neotropical Avian Genus
Currently:  Ph.D. Student in Mike Sorenson’s lab, Boston University



Sara Wang (UW, 2013-2014)
Ross Furbush (UW, 2013-2014)
Edward Chang (UW, 2013-2014)
Michael Chung (UW, 2013-2014)
Selena Mranata (UW, 2013-2014)