George F. Barrowclough

Curator Emeritus, Vertebrate Zoology, Ornithology



  • University of Minnesota, Ph.D, 1980
  • Brown University, Sc.M, 1972
  • Brown University, Sc.B, 1970


Research Interests

Dr. Barrowclough uses mitochondrial and nuclear DNA sequences, along with computer analyses, to investigate the evolution and systematics of birds. This research includes phylogenetic studies of avian genera, families, and orders, as well as intraspecific studies of population genetics and phylogeography. The latter investigations have included species, such as the spotted owl and California gnatcatcher, which are of conservation concern.

Determining the evolutionary relationships (phylogeny) of birds has ben a long-standing, difficult problem; Barrowclough and his colleagues have used slowly evolving and easily aligned nuclear exons for this purpose. This also has led to general investigations of molecular evolution, particularly aspects of base composition.

Traditional studies of geographic variation used plumage color and skeletal measurements to describe spatial patterns. These now have been replaced by DNA surveys of population samples distributed across a species' range. DNA sequences enable the description of geographic patterns of the distribution of genetic variation, as well as the inference of historical processes, such as population growth, range expansion, and of population interactions, including gene flow and hybridization.



Perktas, U., J.G. Groth, and G.F. Barrowclough. 2020. Phylogeography, species limits, phylogeny, and classification of the turacos (Aves: Musophagidae) based on mitochondrial and nuclear DNA sequences. American Museum Novitates 3949: 1-61.

Barrowclough, G.F., J.G. Groth, W.M. Mauck, and M.E. Blair. 2019. Phylogeography and species limits in the red-shouldered hawk (Buteo lineatus): characterization of the Northern Florida Suture Zone in birds. Ecology and Evolution 9(11): 6245–6258. [DOI: 10.1002/ece3.5190]

Barrowclough, G.F., J.G. Groth, E.K. Bramlett, J.E. Lai, and W.M. Mauck. 2018. Phylogeography and geographic variation in the Red-bellied Woodpecker (Melanerpes carolinus): characterization of mtDNA and plumage hybrid zones. Wilson Journal of Ornithology 130:671-683.

Barrowclough, G.F., J. Cracraft, J. Klicka, and R.M. Zink. 2016. How many kinds of birds are there and why does it matter? PLOS One 11:e0166307.

Barrowclough, G.F., and M.A. Schroeder. 2016. Distribution of natal dispersal distances and the genetic structure of Spruce Grouse (Falcipennis canadensis) populations. Canadian Journal of Zoology 94:421-425.

White, N.D., G.F. Barrowclough, J.G. Groth, and M.J. Braun. 2016. A multi-gene estimate of higher-level phylogenetic relationships among nightjars. Ornitologia Neotropical 27:223-236.

Groth, J.G., I. Arbisser, N.H. Landman, and G.F. Barrowclough. 2015. The mitochondrial genome of Allonautilus (Mollusca: Cephalopoda): base composition, noncoding-region variation, and phylogenetic divergence. American Museum Novitates 3834:1-13.

Barrowclough, G.F., J.G. Groth, J.E. Lai, and S.M. Tsang. 2014. The phylogenetic relationships of the endemic genera of Australo-Papuan hawks. Journal of Raptor Research 48:36-43.

Barrowclough, G.F., R.J. Gutiérrez, J.G. Groth, J.E. Lai, and D. Rock. 2011. The hybrid zone between Northern and California Spotted Owls in the Cascade-Sierran suture zone. Condor 113:581-589.

Perktaş, U., G.F. Barrowclough, and J.G. Groth. 2011. Phylogeography and species limits in the green woodpecker complex (Aves: Picidae): multiple Pleistocene refugia and range expansion across Europe and the Near East. Biological Journal of the Linnaean Society 104:710-723.

Barrowclough, G.F., J.G. Groth, K.J. Odom, and J.E. Lai. 2011. Phylogeography of the Barred Owl (Strix varia): species limits, multiple refugia, and range expansion. Auk 128:696-706.

Zink, R.M., and G.F. Barrowclough. 2008. Mitochondrial DNA under siege in avian phylogeography. Molecular Ecology 17:2107-2121.


Teaching Experience

Faculty Appointments

  • Adjunct Professor, CUNY, 1992-present

 Courses Taught

  • Evolution, RGGS Core Course, 2013-present

 Graduate Committees

  • Kari L. Schmidt, Columbia University, 2006–2013
  • Linda Gormezano, CUNY, 2007–2013 
  • Noah Burg, CUNY, 2013-present