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AGA Elections October, 2021                  

The AGA Council elections are over, with over 35% of our membership casting their votes.  As usual, we had a remarkable slate of candidates, who are dedicated to advancing our mission to encourage the study of comparative genetics and genomics, and to ensure that participation in this field reflects the diversity of our broader community.

Thank you for helping to choose the representatives of your Association – your participation helps to shape our future directions.

Resuts will be available soon.

Candidates for President:

Robert C. Fleischer
Senior Scientist (2012-) and Center Head (2006-), Center for Conservation Genomics, Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute; Evolutionary Geneticist and Head (2001-2006, Genetics Program, National Museum of Natural History; Geneticist and Head (1991-2001), Molecular Genetics Laboratory, National Zoological Park. Assistant Professor (1987-1990), University of North Dakota. Assistant Researcher (1985-1987), University of Hawaii. 

Education:  PhD (1983), MPhil (1982), Systematics and Ecology, University of Kansas; BA (1978), Biological Sciences, University of California, Santa Barbara; Postdoctoral Fellow (1983-1985), Biological Sciences, UCSB.

Awards:  Brewster Medal, American Ornithologists’ Union (2012); Fellow, American Association for the Advancement of Science (2003); Stebbins Research Award, Desert Tortoise Council (2018); Smithsonian Secretary’s Research Prize (2018). 

Service:  Editorial Board, Journal of Heredity (2002-present); Associate Editor (1998-2003) and Editorial Board (2003-present), Conservation Genetics; Academic Editor, PLoS ONE (2009-2012); Associate Editor, The Auk (2001-2006); Editorial Board, Molecular Ecology (1991-1995); Council Member, American Ornithologists’ Union (2007-2010); White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, Forensic Science Committee (2009-2012); White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, Microbiome Working Group (2015-2018); National Academy of Science, Review of USGS Laboratories (2018-2019); Senior Awards Committee Chair, American Ornithologists’ Union (2013-2016), Professional Ethics Committee, American Ornithologists’ Union (2018-present); National Science Foundation review panels (1991, 1992, 1993, 1996, 2006, 2008, 2015, 2015, 2019); NSF-IOS Committee of Visitors (2014); NIH-NAIAD-Infectious Disease panel (2016). 

Research Interests:  Conservation and evolutionary genetics, molecular and behavioral ecology, primarily of vertebrates and their pathogens. Recent research includes genomics of Hawaiian birds and invasive malaria and amphibian interactions with pathogens. Also, use of genetic markers in studies of tick-borne pathogens, the role of microbiomes in animal health and ecology, genetic mating systems, and genetic structure and systematics of a range of extinct and extant terrestrial vertebrates (often using ancient DNA).


Beth Shapiro

Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, UC Santa Cruz (2016-);  Professor (2017-) and Investigator (2018-), Howard Hughes Medical Institute; Associate Director (2017-), UCSC Genomics Institute. Associate Professor, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, UC Santa Cruz, (2012- 2016); Shaffer Associate Professor, Department of Biology, The Pennsylvania State University (2011-2012); Shaffer Assistant Professor, Department of Biology, The Pennsylvania State University (2007- 2011).
Education:  DPhil (2003), Zoology, University of Oxford, MS (1999) and BS (1999), Ecology, University of Georgia. Royal Society University Research Fellow, Oxford University (2006-2007), Wellcome Trust Research Fellow, Oxford University (2004-2006).
Awards:  George Sigerson Award, University College Dublin (2019); Fellow, California Academy of Sciences (2018); AAAS/Subaru SB&F Prize for Excellence in Science Books (for How to Clone a Mammoth) (2016); Packard Fellow (2010); PopTech Science and Public Leadership Fellow (2010); National Geographic Emerging Explorer (2010); MacArthur Fellow (2009); Searle Scholar (2009); Smithsonian Young Innovator (2007).
Service:  Council, American Genetics Association (2016-2018); Council, Society of Molecular Biology and Evolution (2019-2021); Board of Reviewing Editors, Science (2018-), Associate Editor, Journal of Heredity (2017-); Associate Editor (2007-2019) and Senior Editor (2019-), Molecular Biology and Evolution; Editorial Board, STAR: Science and Technology of Archaeological Research (2014-); and PaleoAmerica (2014-). Scientific Advisory Board, Cell Genomics (2020-present). Executive Committee, California Conservation Genomics Project (2019-) and Genome 10K/Vertebrate Genomes Project (2017-). Organizing committee (2015-2019) and Co-Chair (2020-): Advances in Genome Biology and Technology. Board of Directors, Revive & Restore (2017-present); Scientific Advisory Board Member, Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History, Jena (2017-present); Member: Contamination Control and Planetary Protection Working Group; Mars 2020 Mission; NASA. (2015-2018). NSF, HHMI, NAS, and Moore Foundation review panels (2012-).
Research Interests: 
Evolutionary genomics, in particular the roles of admixture and adaptation in shaping populations and communities; Conservation genetics and genomics; Ancient DNA methods development and application; Environmental DNA as a tool for biodiversity detection and protection. My research uses genetic and genomic data to better understand how species, populations, and ecosystems are impacted by changes to their habitat, including climate changes associated with the Pleistocene ice ages and more recent impacts of human land use changes. I am also involved with public communication of science, and use ancient DNA as a platform to explore the potential roles of biotechnology in biodiversity conservation.


Candidates for Council:

Christopher (“Chris”) Irwin Smith

My lab at Willamette University focuses on the evolution of plant / insect interactions, working at the intersection of ecology, evolution, and population genetics. We use a wide variety of methodological approaches, from natural history and ecological experiments to genome sequencing and bioinformatics. I am the lead PI on ‘The Joshua Tree Genome Project’, a multi-institutional, collaborative research grant that aims to identify the genomic bases of climate adaptation in Yucca brevifolia, a keystone species of the Mojave Desert. In 2022 I will be a visiting scholar at the National Autonomous University in Mexico, supported by the Fulbright Garcia-Robles Scholarship.

I completed my PhD at the Museum of Comparative Zoology, worked as a postdoctoral scholar with Olle Pellmyr at the University of Idaho, and am now a Full Professor at Willamette University. As a professor at a primarily undergraduate institution, I am especially interested in undergraduate education, and incorporating authentic research experiences into undergraduate curricula. I teach a broad variety of courses, from biology for non-majors, to research methods courses in molecular ecology, and interdisciplinary courses that examine human population genetics and scientific racism.

I have served as an Associate Editor at Journal of Heredity since 2012. As a Council member, I would be interested in working to increase the readership and impact of JHered and to advance the goals articulated in The American Genetic Association’s 2020 Statement – “to ensure greater equity in science and to combat racism”.  I am especially interested in working to increase BIPOC participation in the AGA.   


Erica Larson

What I value most about the American Genetic Association is its support of early career scientists through unique funding opportunities, meetings and an excellent publication. I would be honored to be elected an AGA Council member and contribute to efforts to support the next generation of genetics researchers.

I study speciation and the evolution of reproductive traits using comparative genomics in closely related species that interact in hybrid zones (see for more details). I earned my PhD in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at Cornell University (2013) and completed my postdoctoral research position at the University of Montana (2013-2017). In 2017 I joined the faculty in Biology at the University of Denver as an Assistant Professor. I have authored 28 publications (h-index 18), including contributions in Genetics, Evolution, Molecular Biology and Evolution, Journal of Evolutionary Biology, Molecular Ecology and Journal of Heredity.

I have served as a graduate student mentor for the Society for the Study of Evolution and the Gordon Research Symposium on Speciation. I have been a reviewer for 36 journals and a panelist for the National Science Foundation. I have reviewed graduate student presentations and research awards through the University of Denver, Society for the Study of Evolution and the Society of Systematic Biologists. I also serve on my department’s graduate council and my college’s Justice, Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Committee. I am committed to fostering inclusivity in research and mentoring and I would bring that perspective to my role as an AGA Council member.


Heath Blackmon

My research aims to address fundamental questions about trait evolution. Our lab at Texas A&M University uses both theoretical and empirical approaches to build our understanding of the evolution of sex chromosomes and chromosome number. Our lab believes strongly in open science and we produce open-source analysis software for quantitative genetics, comparative methods, and genomics. 

I conducted graduate research in the laboratory of Jeffery Demuth (University of Texas at Arlington), followed by postdoctoral work with Emma Goldberg and Yaniv Brandvain (University of Minnesota). I am currently an Assistant Professor at Texas A&M University. Since starting my own lab in 2017, we have published 17 peer-reviewed articles, including three in the Journal of Heredity.

I serve on the board of the Texas Genetics Society and help to organize our annual conference. My own career has been positively impacted by the annual AGA conferences, which have provided unparalleled opportunities to network with more senior scientists. I also strongly believe that the AGA's support for junior scientists (grants and opportunities to communicate science on the AGA blog) are key to training our future peers.


Jesus Maldonado

Dr. Jesus E. Maldonado has been a research geneticist at the Center for Conservation Genomics at the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute since 1998. His research applies molecular genetics tools to answer basic and applied questions in the conservation and evolutionary biology of mammals. Much of his research involves assessment of genetic variation within and among populations and species to document levels of inbreeding and determine units of evolutionary, taxonomic and conservation significance of many imperiled mammals. He is also interested in studying micro-evolutionary processes that shape genetic variation and evolutionary trajectories, as well as landscape genetics and genomics.

His program follows an academic model, and most of his projects are based on collaborations established with students, postdoctoral fellows and research scientists/curators at the Smithsonian and other academic institutions and conservation communities in Latin American, India, South East Asia and Africa.

Maldonado has over 150 peer reviewed publications, including 15 book chapters, and has recently co-edited a book on Conservation Genetics in Mammals. He has also served as associate editor for several journals including the Journal of Mammalogy, Conservation Genetics, PLos ONE, Zookeys, Therya and Frontiers in Conservation Science.

Maldonado actively recruits promising Latin American students and postdocs to conduct research in his lab. He is also very active in minority outreach and education and co-developed the ERES! and the UCSB-Smithsonian Scholars programs. He received his B.S. in biology and M.S. in zoology from Shippensburg University of Pennsylvania and Ph.D. in organismic biology, ecology and evolution from the University of California, Los Angeles.



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Variable Signatures of Selection Despite Conserved Recombination Landscapes Early in Speciation
Sheela P Turbek et al.


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