Smith, Brian T. main content.

Brian T. Smith


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



  • University of Nevada, Las Vegas, Ph.D., 2011
  • University of Nevada, Las Vegas, 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.



Richard Gilder Graduate School

Smith Lab


  • Provost KL, Mauck WM, Smith BT. 2018. Genomic divergence in allopatric Northern Cardinals of the North American warm deserts is associated with behavioral differentiation. Ecology and Evolution, 8, 12456–12478.
  • Smith BT, Bryson Jr RW, Mauck III WM, Chaves J, Robbins MB, Aleixo A, Klicka J. 2018. Species delimitation and biogeography of the gnatcatchers and gnatwrens (Aves: Polioptilidae). Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution, 126, 45-57.
  • Andersen MJ, McCullough JM, Mauck WM III, Smith BT, Moyle RG. 2018. A phylogeny of kingfishers reveals an Indomalayan origin and elevated rates of diversification on oceanic islands. Journal of Biogeography, 45, 269–281.
  • Provost KL, Joseph L, Smith BT. 2018. Resolving a phylogenetic hypothesis for parrots: implications from systematics to conservation. Emu – Austral Ornithology, 118, 7-21.
  • Andersen MJ, Fatdal L, Mauck WM II, Smith BT. 2017. An ornithological survey of Vanuatu on the islands of Éfaté, Malakula, Gaua, and Vanua Lava. Check List, 13, 755–782.
  • Harvey MG, Seeholzer GF, Smith BT, Rabosky DL, Cuervo AM, Brumfield RT. 2017. Positive association between population genetic differentiation and speciation rates in New World birds. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 114(24), 6328-6333.
  • Chua VL, Smith BT, Burner RC, Rahman MA, Lakim M, Prawiradilaga DM, Moyle RG, Sheldon FH. 2017. Evolutionary and ecological forces influencing population diversification in Bornean montane passerines. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution, 113, 139-149.
  • Smith BT, Seeholzer GF, Harvey MG, Cuervo AM, Brumfield RT. 2017. A latitudinal phylogeographic diversity gradient in birds. PLoS Biology 15, e2001073.
  • Oswald JA, Overcast I, Mauck WM, Andersen MJ, Smith BT. 2017. Isolation with asymmetric gene flow during the nonsynchronous divergence of dry forest birds. Molecular Ecology, 26, 1386–1400.
  • Burbrink F, Chan Y, Myers E, Ruane S, Smith BT, Hickerson M. 2016. Asynchronous demographic responses to Pleistocene climate change in Eastern Nearctic vertebrates. Ecology Letters, 19, 1457-1467.
  • Harvey MG, Smith BT, Glenn T, Faircloth BC, Brumfield RT. 2016. Sequence capture versus restriction site associated DNA sequencing for shallow systematics. Systematic Biology, 65, 910-924.
  • Bacon CD, Silvestro D, Jaramillo C, Smith BT, Chakrabarty P, Antonelli A. 2015. Reply to Lessios and Marko et al.: Early and progressive migration across the Isthmus of Panama is robust to missing data and biases. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 112, E5767-E5768.
  • Seeholzer GF, Justiniano MA, Harvey MG, Smith BT. 2015. Ornithological inventory along an elevational gradient in the río Cotacajes Valley, dptos. La Paz and Cochabamba, Bolivia. Cotinga, 37, 87-100.
  • Bacon CD, Silvestro D, Jaramillo C, Smith BT, Chakrabarty P, Antonelli A. 2015. Biological evidence supports an early and complex emergence of the Isthmus of Panama. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 112, 6110-6115.
  • Smith BT, McCormack JE, Cuervo AM, Hickerson MJ, Aleixo A, Cadena CD, Pérez-Emán J, Burney CW, Xie X, Harvey MG, Faircloth BC, Glenn TC, Derryberry EP, Prejean J, Fields S, Brumfield RT. 2014. The drivers of tropical speciation. Nature, 515, 406-409.
  • Bryson Jr R, Smith BT, Nieto-Montes A, Garcia U, Riddle B. 2014. Conflicting gene histories confound phylogeographical inference in a widespread group of Nearctic treefrogs. Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society, 172, 103-116.
  • van Els P, Spellman GM, Smith BT, Klicka J. 2014. Extensive gene flow characterizes the phylogeography of a widespread North American migrant bird: Black-headed grosbeak (Pheucticus melanocephalus). Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution, 78, 148-159.
  • Houston DD, Shiozawa DK, Smith BT, Riddle BR. 2014. Investigating the effects of Pleistocene events on genetic divergence within Richardsonius balteatus, a widely distributed western North American minnow. BMC Evolutionary Biology, 14, 111.
  • Harvey MG, Lane DF, Hite J, Terrill RS, Figueroa-Ramírez S, Smith BT, Klicka J, Campos W. 2014. Notes on bird species in bamboo in Northern Madre de Dios, Peru, including the first Peruvian record of Acre Tody-Tyrant (Hemitriccus cohnhafti). Occ. Pap. LSU Mus. Nat. Sci., 81, 1-31.
  • 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, 19, 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, 4, 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.