Smith, Brian T. main content.

Brian T. Smith


Assistant Curator, Department of Ornithology, Division of Vertebrate Zoology
Principal Investigator, Sackler Institute for Comparative Biology
Assistant Professor, Richard Gilder Graduate School

Curriculum Vitae (short version)


  • University of Nevada, Ph.D., 2011
  • University of Nevada, B.S., 2005

Research Interests

Dr. Smith studies the evolutionary history of birds by combining specimen-based research, phylogenomics, biogeography, and statistical modeling. His overriding research goal is to understand how the extraordinary bird diversity on Earth was generated and how this diversity has evolved across time and space. He is particularly interested in the systematics and phylogeography of birds distributed in the tropical habitats of Mexico, Central, and South America. Past projects have focused on the impact of the closure of the Isthmus of Panama on avian dispersal and diversification, the role of Andean uplift and the formation of the Amazon Basin on speciation, and the significance of niche conservatism on the formation of the latitudinal species diversity gradient. His current studies employ massively parallel sequencing to generate thousands of genetic markers to obtain an unprecedented picture of the temporal and spatial patterns of avian diversification.


  • Amei A, Smith BT. 2014. Robust estimates of divergence times and selection with a Poisson Random Field model: a case study of comparative phylogeographic data. Genetics, 196: 225-233.
  • Gawin DF, Rahman MA, Ramji MFS, Smith BT, Lim HC, Moyle RG, Sheldon FH. 2014. Patterns of avian diversification in Borneo: The case of the endemic Mountain Black-eye (Chlorocharis emiliae). The Auk, 13: 86-99.
  • Bryson RW, Chaves J, Smith BT, Miller M, Winker K, Pérez-Emán J, Klicka J. 2014. Diversification across the New World within the “blue” cardinalids (Aves: Cardinalidae).  Journal of Biogeography, 41: 587-599.
  • Smith BT*, Harvey MG*, Faircloth BC, Glenn TC, Brumfield RT. 2014. Target capture and massively parallel sequencing of ultraconserved elements (UCEs) for comparative studies at shallow evolutionary time scales. Systematic Biology, 63, 83-95.* co-first authors
  • Harvey MG, Smith BT, Glenn TC, Faircloth BC, Brumfield RT. 2013. Sequence capture versus restriction site associated DNA sequencing for phylogeography. arXiv, arXiv:1312.6439
  • Pulgarín-R PC, Smith BT, Bryson RW, Spellman GM, Klicka J. 2013. Multilocus phylogeny and biogeography of the New World Pheucticus grosbeaks (Aves: Cardinalidae) Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution, 69: 1222–1227.
  • Whittaker A, Alexio A, Whitney BM, Smith BT, Klicka J. A distinctive new species of gnatcatcher in the Polioptila guianensis complex (Aves: Polioptilidae) from western Amazonian Brazil. In: Handbook of the Birds of the World. Special volume: new species and global index [J. del Hoyo, A. Elliott e D. Christie, eds.]. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona, Spain, pp. 301–305.
  • Smith BT, Klicka J. 2013. Examining the role of effective population size on mitochondrial and multilocus divergence time discordance in a songbird. PLoS ONE, 8: e55161.
  • Smith BT, Bryson RW, Chua V, Africa L, Klicka J. 2013. Speciational history of the North American Haemorhous finches (Aves: Fringillidae) inferred from multilocus data. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution, 66: 1055-1059.
  • Bryson RW, Riddle BR, Graham MR, Smith BT, Prendini L2013. As old as the hills: montane scorpions in southwestern North America reveal ancient associations between biotic diversification and landscape history. PLoS ONE, 8: e52822. 
  • Smith BT, Ribas CC, Whitney BW, Hernández-Baños BE, Klicka J. 2013. Identifying biases at different spatial and temporal scales of diversification: a case study using the Neotropical parrotlet genus Forpus. Molecular Ecology, 22: 483-494. 
  • Smith BT, Bryson RW, Houston D, Klicka J. 2012. An asymmetry in niche conservatism contributes to the latitudinal species diversity gradient in New World vertebrates. Ecology Letters, 15:1318-1325.
  • Ribas CC, Maldonado MC, Smith BT, Cabanne GS, D’Horta FM, Naka LN. 2012. Towards an integrated historical biogeography of the Neotropical lowland avifauna: combining diversification analysis and landscape evolution. Ornitología Neotropical, 23: 189-208.
  • Smith BT, Amei A, Klicka J. 2012. Evaluating the role of contracting and expanding rainforest in initiating cycles of speciation across the Isthmus of Panama. Proceedings of the Royal Society: Biological Sciences, 279:3520-3526.
  • Smith BT, Escalante P, Hernández-Baños BE, Navarro-Sigüenza AG, Rowher S, Klicka J. 2011. The role of historical and contemporary processes on the phylogeography of the Northern Cardinal, Cardinals cardinalis. BMC Evolutionary Biology, 11:136.
  • Klicka J, Spellman GM, Winker KS, Chua V, Smith BT. 2011. Phylogeography and population-genetic analysis of a widespread, sedentary North American bird: The Hairy Woodpecker (Picoides villosus). The Auk, 128:346-362.
  • Smith BT, Klicka J.2010. Late Pliocene Panamanian uplift has profound affect on the exchange, diversification, and distribution of New World birds. Ecography, 33: 333-342.

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