Galen, Spencer main content.

Spencer Galen

Richard Gilder Graduate School student Spencer Galen in brush field with a bird perched on his fingertips.

PhD Student, Richard Gilder Graduate School
PhD Student, Richard Gilder Graduate School


  • Ph.D. Candidate in Comparative Biology, Richard Gilder Graduate School at the American Museum of Natural History. Expected 2018.
  • M.S. in Biology, Degree with Distinction, University of New Mexico, Albuquerque. Thesis title: Diversification and adaptation in the Andes: Insights from phylogeography, malaria, and hemoglobin of the house wren (Troglodytes aedon). May 2014.
  • B.S. in Wildlife Ecology, Degree with Distinction, Magna Cum LaudeUniversity of Delaware, Newark. Thesis title: Long-term reproductive success of the wood thrush (Hylocichla mustelina) in an isolated forest fragment. May 2010.

Research Interests

I am interested broadly in the evolution of host-symbiont interactions across spatial and temporal scales. My research largely encompasses studies on: 1) systematics and phylogeography of symbionts and their hosts; 2) molecular evolution of host-symbiont co-evolutionary interactions; and 3) symbiont community and trait diversity, with an emphasis on host specificity. I use birds and their parasitic and mutualistic microbes as a model system with which to study these processes. My current research is focused on higher-level systematics, species delimitation, and host specificity of avian malaria parasites, as well as avian gut microbiome diversity, distribution, and function. I have previously published on avian phylogeography, hemoglobin evolution, and natural history, and I maintain research interests in these areas. My research is heavily dependent on scientific collections, and I strive to actively contribute to these resources.



Gadek, C., Newsome, S., Beckman, E., Chavez, A., Galen, S.C., Bautista, E., and C.C. Witt. 2017. Why are tropical mountain passes ‘low’ for some species? Genetic and stable-isotope tests for differentiation, migration, and expansion in elevational generalist songbirds. Journal of Animal Ecology. doi: 10.1111/1365-2656.12779.


Clark, W. S., S. C. Galen, J. Hull, & C. C. Witt. 2016. Contrasting molecular and morphological evidence for the identification of an anomalous Buteo: a cautionary tale for hybrid diagnosis. PeerJ. 5: e2850.


Galen, S.C., C. Natarajan, H. Moriyama, R.E. Weber, A. Fago, Z.A.Cheviron, J.F. Storz, and C.C. Witt. 2015. Contribution of a mutational hotspot to hemoglobin adaptation in high-altitude Andean house wrens. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences doi:10.1073/pnas.1507300112.

Wilbert, T.R., D.A. Woollett, A. Whitelaw, J. Dart, J.R. Hoyt, S.C. Galen, K. Ralls, D.E. Meade, J.E. Maldonado. 2015. Non-invasive baseline genetic monitoring of the endangered San Joaquin kit fox on a photovoltaic solar facility. Endangered Species Research 27: 31-41.


Baumann, M. J., S. C. Galen, N. D. Pederson, and C. C. Witt. 2014. Simple technique for distinguishing Yellow-bellied Flycatchers from Cordilleran and Pacific-slope flycatchers. Journal of Field Ornithology 85: 391-396.

Galen, S.C. and C.C. Witt. 2014. Diverse avian malaria and other haemosporidian parasites in Andean house wrens: evidence for regional co-diversification by hostswitching. Journal of Avian Biology 45: 374-386.