Mary E. Blair

Director, Biodiversity Informatics Research

Affiliated Professor, Richard Gilder Graduate School


Research Interests

Mary E. Blair, Ph.D. is the Director of Biodiversity Informatics Research at the Center for Biodiversity and Conservation at the American Museum of Natural History (AMNH). She studies the conservation biology of primates and other mammals, and has more than 15 years of field research experience in Latin America and Asia, studying the evolutionary processes that generate biodiversity to inform the spatial prioritization of conservation actions, including under climate change. Her research integrates spatial modeling and molecular genetics alongside knowledge from diverse sources and perspectives in a biocultural conservation framework, which explicitly starts with and builds upon local and Indigenous values, knowledge, and needs while recognizing the interplay between the cultural and biological parts of a system. 

She is currently leading a new project funded by NASA to support a biodiversity monitoring system for Colombia's Protected Areas, and has led related work, also funded by NASA, to expand the open-source species distribution modeling (SDM) software Wallace to facilitate biodiversity observation network assessment and reporting by conservation practitioners. She was also a co-author on the recent 2017 open-source release of Maxent, the most commonly used software algorithm for SDM. She also co-leads NSF-funded research on the evolutionary history and conservation of slow lorises and galagos using museomics, and recently led interdisciplinary research on the diversity of slow lorises in Vietnam and the patterns, scales, and drivers of illicit trade in these and other animals through an NSF Science, Engineering, and Education for Sustainability (SEES) Fellowship. In 2013, she co-edited Primate Ecology and Conservation: A Handbook of Techniques, published by Oxford University Press, and her blogs for the New York Times’ Scientist at Work and AMNH’s From the Field have reached a global audience.

Dr. Blair is Affiliated Faculty at Columbia University and the Richard Gilder Graduate School at the AMNH.She is also strongly committed towards mentoring the next generation of conservation scientists through the CBC’s Inclusive Conservation Community Initiative, focused on advancing inclusion, and equity for students and early career professionals from historically underrepresented groups in the conservation workforce.


Biodiversity and the Climate Crisis (Podcast)

Cute and Ugly Pygmy Lorises are Two Different Species

Prevent Biodiversity Loss Across Borders

Museum and Colombia’s Humboldt Institute To Collaborate on Conservation

Study on Environmental Arctic Change 

March Mammal Madness Museum Tour

The Scientist is In: Reindeer Special

Mary Blair: Creating Better Biodiversity Maps

Endangered Species and Climate Change

The Unique Biodiversity of Vietnam

Field Journal: Lorises in Vietnam

New York Times Scientist at Work Blog

SciCafe: The Search for Slow Lorises

Slow Loris Conservation in Vietnam

The Moth Radio Hour "Grey Areas"


Representative Publications:

  • Blair, M.E., Cao, G.T.H., López-Nandam, E.H., Veronese-Paniagua, D.A., Birchette, M.G., Kenyon, M., Md-Zain, B.M., Munds, R., Nekaris, K.A.I., Nijman, V., Roos, C., Thach, H.M., Sterling, E.J., Le, M.D. 2023. Molecular phylogenetic relationships and unveiling novel genetic diversity among slow and pygmy lorises, including resurrection of Xanthonycticebus intermediusGenes 14(3): 643.  
  • Kass, J., Pinilla-Buitrago, G., Paz, A., Johnson, B., Grisales-Betancur, V., Meenan, S., Attali, D., Broennimann, O., Galante, P., Maitner, B., Owens, H., Varela, S., Aiello-Lammens, M., Merow, C., Blair, M., and Anderson, R.P. 2023. Wallace 2: a shiny app for modeling species niches and distributions redesigned to facilitate expansion via module contributions. Ecography 2023(3): e06547.  
  • Galante, P.J., Chang, S., Paz, A., Aiello-Lammens, M., Gerstner, B.E., Johnson, B.A., Kass, J.M., Merow, C., Noguera-Urbano, E.A., Pinilla-Buitrago, G.E., and Blair, M.E. 2023. changeRangeR: an R package for reproducible biodiversity change metrics from species distribution estimates. Conservation Science & Practice 5(1): e12863.  
  • Merow, C., P.J. Galante, J.M. Kass, M. Aiello-Lammens, C. Babich Morrow, B.E. Gerstner, V. Grisales-Betancur, A. Moore, E.A. Noguera-Urbano, G.E. Pinilla- Buitrago, J. Velasquez-Tibatá, R.P. Anderson, and M.E. Blair. 2022. Operationalizing expert knowledge in species' range estimates using diverse data types. Frontiers of Biogeography 14.2: e53589.
  • Kass, J., N. Takashina, N. Friedman, B. Kusumoto, and M. Blair. 2022. Idea Paper: improving forecasts of community composition with lightweight biodiversity monitoring across ecological and anthropogenic disturbance gradients. Ecological Research 37(4): 466-470.
  • Blair, M.E., M.D. Le, and M. Xu. 2022. Species distribution modeling to inform transboundary species conservation and management under climate change: promise and pitfalls. Frontiers of Biogeography 14.1: e54662. doi:10.21425/F5FBG54662.
  • Trinh-Dinh, H., T.A. Nguyen, M.D. Le, X.K. Li, T.H.N. Cao, and M.E. Blair. 2022. Assessment of climate change impacts on one of the rarest apes on Earth, the Cao Vit Gibbon Nomascus nasutus. Frontiers of Biogeography 14.1: e53320.
  • Blair, M.E., T.A. Nguyen, M.D. Le, Z. Liu, T. Meng, N. Horning, E.J. Sterling, H.M. Thach, M. Xu, and P.J. Galante. 2022. Karst as an abiotic driver of the distribution of endangered François’ langurs, with predictions for biological communities on karst under climate change. Frontiers in Biogeography 14.1: e51838.
  • Hagani, J.S., S. Kross, M. Clark, R. Wynn-Grant, and M.E. Blair. 2021. Mapping and modeling human-black bear interactions in the Catskills region of New York using resource selection probability functions. PLoS ONE 16(9): e0257716.
  • Blair, M.E., Galante, P.J., Tu, N.B., Le, C.S., and H.Q. Nguyen. 2022. Climate change threatens the conservation of one of the world’s most endangered transboundary tree species: Magnolia grandis. Frontiers in Biogeography 13.4:e51059.
  • Rivera, C.J., Macey, S.K., Blair, M.E., and E.J. Sterling. 2021. Assessing Ecological and Social Dimensions of Success in a Community-based Sustainable Harvest Program. Environmental Management 67:731–746.
  • Musher, L.J., Galante, P.J., Thom, G., Huntley, J.W., and M.E. Blair. 2020. Shifting ecosystem connectivity during the Pleistocene drove diversification and gene-flow in a species-complex of Neotropical birds (Tityridae: Pachyramphus). Journal of Biogeography 47(8):1714-1726.
  • Pozzi, L., Roos, C., and M.E. Blair. 2020. Molecular Advances in Lorisid Taxonomy and Phylogeny. In: Evolution, Ecology and Conservation of Lorises and Pottos (Nekaris, KAI, Burrows, AM, Editors). Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, UK. pp 57-66. ISBN 9781108429023.
  • Urbina-Cardona, N., Londoño, M.C., Blair, M.E., Velásquez, J., Loyola, R. and H. Morales-Devia. 2019. Species distribution modeling in Latin America: a 25-year retrospective review. Tropical Conservation Science 12:1-19.
  • Kodis, M., Galante, P., Sterling, E.J., and M.E. Blair. 2018. Ecological niche modeling for a cultivated plant species: A case study on taro (Colocasia escuelenta) in Hawaiʻi. Ecological Applications 28(4): 967-977. DOI:10.1002/eap.1702.
  • Thạch, H.M., Le, M.D., Vũ, N.B., Panariello, A., Sethi, G., Sterling, E.J., and M.E. Blair. 2018. Slow loris trade in Vietnam: Exploring diverse knowledges and values. Folia Primatologica 89(1): 45-62. DOI:10.1159/000481196.
  • Phillips, S., Anderson, R.P., Dudik, M., Schapire, R., and M.E. Blair. 2017. Opening the black box: an open-source release of Maxent. Ecography 40(7):887-893. DOI:10.1111/ecog.03049.
  • Blair, M.E., Le, M.D., Sethi, G., Thạch, H.M., Nguyen, V.T.H., Amato, G., Birchette, M., and E.J. Sterling 2017. The importance of an interdisciplinary research approach to inform wildlife trade management in Southeast Asia. BioScience 67(11):995-1003. Highlighted by the Editor:
  • Blair, M.E., Le, M.D., Thạch, H.M., Panariello, A., Vũ, N.B., Birchette, M., Sethi, G., Sterling, E.J. 2017. Applying systems thinking to inform studies of wildlife trade in primates. American Journal of Primatology 79(11): e22715. DOI: 10.1002/ajp.22715.
  • Barrowclough, G., Groth, J., Muck, W., 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.
  • Foster, M.J., Blair, M.E., Bennett, C., Bynum, N. and E.J. Sterling. 2014. Increasing the Diversity of U.S. Conservation Science Professionals via the Society for Conservation Biology. Conservation Biology 28:288-291. DOI:10.1111/cobi.12182.
  • Blair, M.E., Sterling, E.J., Dusch, M., Raxworthy, C., and R.G. Pearson. 2013. Ecological divergence and speciation in Eulemur sister species. Journal of Evolutionary Biology 26(8):1790-1801. DOI:10.1111/jeb.12179.
  • Sterling, E.J., Bynum, N., and M.E. Blair, editors. 2013. Primate Ecology and Conservation: A Handbook of Techniques. Series in Techniques in Ecology and Conservation. Oxford University Press, Oxford, UK.
  • Blair, M.E., Rose, R.A., Ersts, P., Sanderson, E.W., Redford, K.H., Didier, K., Sterling, E.J., and R.G. Pearson. 2012. Incorporating climate change into conservation planning: Identifying priority areas across a species’ range. Frontiers in Biogeography 4(4): 157-167.
  • Blair, M.E. and D.J. Melnick. 2012. Scale-dependent Effects of a Heterogeneous Landscape on Genetic Differentiation in the Central American Squirrel Monkey (Saimiri oerstedii). PLoS ONE 7(8): e43027. DOI:10.1371/journal.pone.0043027.
  • Bett, N., Blair, M.E., and E.J. Sterling. 2012. Ecological niche conservatism in doucs (genus Pygathrix). International Journal of Primatology 33(4): 972-988. DOI:10.1007/s10764-012-9622-3.
  • Blair, M.E. and D.J. Melnick. 2012. Genetic evidence for dispersal by both sexes in the Central American Squirrel Monkey, Saimiri oerstedii citrinellus. American Journal of Primatology 74(1): 37-47. DOI:10.1002/ajp.21007. Selected as a featured article:
  • Blair, M.E., Sterling, E.J., and M.M. Hurley. 2011. Taxonomy and conservation of Vietnam’s primates: A review. American Journal of Primatology 73(11): 1093-1106. DOI:10.1002/ajp.20986.