Melanie J. Hopkins

Division Chair; Curator-in-Charge, Invertebrate Paleontology, Division of Paleontology

Associate Professor, Richard Gilder Graduate School



  • University of Chicago, Ph.D., 2010
  • Stanford University, B.S., 2002

Research Interests

Dr. Hopkins’s research focuses on the study of morphological evolution in the fossil record. She is interested in the quantification and analysis of complex morphology; analysis of within-lineage tempo and mode of evolution; the influence of covariation and ontogenetic variation on the long-term evolution of lineages; the interaction between morphological change and environmental change; and the importance of scale and hierarchy in understanding long-term patterns of evolutionary change and the processes underlying them.

Dr. Hopkins’s taxonomic interest lies with arthropods. Most of her research focuses on the paleobiology and early evolutionary history of trilobites, but she has also studied variation in extant fiddler crabs. Her research makes use of a variety of quantitative methods, including geometric morphometrics, phylogenetic comparative methods, and time series analysis. Many projects are specimen based and rely on the extensive use of museum and new field collections. Other projects have made use of community databases, such as the Paleobiology Database. She is active in field work, particularly the Gerat Basin, New York, Quebec and Norway.


Division of Paleontology

Richard Gilder Graduate School


(Selected, last five years)

  • Hopkins MJ, To R. 2022. Long-term clade-wise shifts in trilobite segment number and allocation during the Palaeozoic. Proceedings of the Royal Society B 289(1989): 20221765.
  • Vargas-Parra E, Hopkins MJ. 2022. Modularity in the trilobite head consistent with the hypothesized segmental origin of the eyes. Evolution & Development 24(6), 177-188.
  • Cole SR, Hopkins MJ. 2021. Selectivity and the effect of mass extinctions on disparity and functional ecology. Scientific Advances 7(19), eabf4072. DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.abf4072.
  • Hou J-B, Hughes NC, Hopkins MJ. 2021. The trilobite upper limb branch is a well-developed gill. Sciences Advances 7(14), eabe7377. DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.abe7377.
  • Hopkins MJ, St. John K. 2021 Incorporating hierarchical characters into phylogenetic analysis. Systematic Biology 70(6): 1163-1180. Doi: 10.1093/sysbio/syab005.
  • Hopkins MJ. 2020. Ontogeny of the trilobite Elrathia kingii (Meek, 1870), and comparison of growth rates between Elrathia kingii and Aulacopleura koninckii (Barrande, 1846). Papers in Palaeontology. Doi: 10.1002/spp2.1331
  • Hopkins MJ. 2020. A simple generative model of trilobite segmentation and growth. PaleoXiv v. 3, peer-reviewed by PCI Paleo. Doi: 10.31233/

Teaching Experience

Courses Taught

  • Co-instructor, "Geometric Morphometrics", 2015-2023
  • Co-instructor, MAT Program Practicum, 2019-2023
  • Instructor, "Topics in Invertebrate Paleobiology", 2021
  • Co-instructor, "Extinctions Science", 2018
  • Co-instructor, "Evolution", 2014-2019
  • Co-instructor, “RGGS Comparative Biology Seminar Series", 2014-2017