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Lukas J. Musher

Portrait of Richard Gilder Graduate Student Luke Musher

Ph.D. Candidate, Richard Gilder Graduate School
Ph.D. Candidate, Richard Gilder Graduate School

Research Interests

I am an ornithologist, evolutionary biologist, and first year PhD student working in both the Smith and Cracraft Labs at AMNH. I am most generally interested in questions about how birds have diversified in South and Central America, including those on systematics, species delimitation, biogeography, and phylogeography. The Amazon rainforest is of particular interest as it is the most species-rich terrestrial ecosystem on the planet. However, the causes of its mega-diversity are still poorly understood. Nearly all hypotheses about Amazonian diversity center around the complex hydrological system, which is thought to have played a major role in generating species. I will be studying how river dynamics, including the dynamics of relatively small rivers, have contributed to the Amazon’s great diversity by using genomic data that can be compared across many different groups of birds. Museum collections are an incredibly important and irreplaceable resource for biological research. I conduct my own field work in addition to leveraging existing museum specimens to answer evolutionary questions.




Musher, L.J., and J. Cracraft. Phylogenomics and species delimitation of a complex radiation of Neotropical suboscine birds (Pachyramphus). Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 118: 204-221.


Musher, L. J., Pyle, P., Irons, D.S., and Tietz, J.R.. Identification of male Euphagus blackbirds in fresh fall plumages. Western Birds 48(3): 1–6.


Musher, L.J., David Mizrahi, Bruno Jackson Melo de Almeida, Alexander Lees, and Marcelo Holderbaum. Curlew Sandpiper Calidris ferruginea in the western Atlantic: the first and second Brazilian records in Maranhão and Ceará (2016) Rev. Bras. Ornithol. 24 (1), 62-67


Musher, L. J. Documenting Declines in Common Nighthawks: how birders can help. (2013) Birding 45 (3): 30-37


Latta, Steven C., L.J. Musher, Krista N. Latta and Todd E. Katzner. Influence of human population size and the built environment on avian assemblages in urban green spaces. (2012) Urban Ecosystems 15 (4): 773-1030

Teaching Experience

  • Teaching Assistant, Graduate Course, entitled, “Fundamentals of Evolution”, Columbia University, Dept. of Ecology, Evolution, and Environmental Biology, Instructors: Drs. Joel Cracraft and Donald Melnick, Fall 2015
  • Undergraduate Teaching Assistant, Wyoming Field Course, University of Pittsburgh, Honors College, Instructors: Mandela Lyons, Dr. Steven C. Latta, Dr. Edward McCord, Summer 2010
  • Undergraduate Teaching Assistant; Avian Ecology, University of Pittsburgh, Dept. of Biological Sciences, Instructor: Dr. Anthony Bledsoe, Summer 2009