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Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History

Department of Vertebrate Zoology

Division of Birds

Labrador Duck
Labrador Duck
Christina Gebhard © Smithsonian Institution
bar Image of Helen F. James, Museum Specialist
    Helen F. James
    Curator in Charge

  • Phone: (202) 633-0792
  • Fax: (202) 633-8084
  • E-mail: jamesh[at]

  • Mailing Address:
    Smithsonian Institution
    Division of Birds
    PO Box 37012, MRC 116
    Washington, DC 20013-7012

  • Shipping Address:
    Smithsonian Institution
    Division of Birds
    10th and Constitution Ave, NW
    Washington, DC 20560-0116

Related Links


PhD. Oxford University(2000)
B.A. University of Arkansas(1977)

Research Interests

Conservation Paleobiology: Understanding the causes of extinction and ecological collapse following human settlement of islands.  Understanding the consequences of those changes for terrestrial and marine ecosystems.

Evolution and Systematics: Evolution of morphological diversity in the perching birds and waterfowl (Passeriformes and Anseriformes).  Biogeograhic origins and evolutionary history of the Hawaiian avifauna.  

Evolutionary Ecology: The evolutionary history of ecological interactions between endemic island birds and plants.

Recent Publications

Hailer, Frank, James, Helen F., Olson, Storrs L. and Fleischer, Robert C. 2015. Distinct and extinct: Genetic differentiation of the Hawaiian eagle. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution, 83: 40-43. doi:10.1016/j.ympev.2014.11.005

Thomas, Daniel B., McGraw, Kevin J., James, Helen F. and Madden, Odile 2014. Non-destructive descriptions of carotenoids in feathers using Raman spectroscopy. Analytical Methods, 5: 1301-1308. doi:10.1039/C3AY41870G

Thomas, Daniel B., McGraw, Kevin J., Butler, Michael W., Carrano, Matthew T., Madden, Odile and James, Helen F. 2014. Ancient origins and multiple appearances of carotenoid-pigmented feathers in birds. Proceedings of the Royal Society B-Biological Sciences, 281(1788) doi:10.1098/rspb.2014.0806

Thomas, Daniel B., Nascimbene, Paul C., Dove, Carla J., Grimaldi, David A. and James, Helen F. 2014. Seeking carotenoid pigments in amber-preserved fossil feathers. Scientific Reports, 4 doi:10.1038/srep05226

Rocha, L. A., Aleixo, A., Allen, G., Almeda, F., Baldwin, C. C., Barclay, M. V. L., Bates, J. M., Bauer, A. M., Benzoni, F., Berns, C. M., Berumen, M. L., Blackburn, D. C., Blum, S., Bolanos, F., Bowie, R. C. K., Britz, R., Brown, R. M., Cadena, C. D., Carpenter, K., Ceriaco, L. M., Chakrabarty, P., Chaves, G., Choat, J. H., Clements, K. D., Collette, B. B., et al 2014. Specimen collection: An essential tool. Science, 344(6186): 814-815. doi:10.1126/science.344.6186.814

Ostrom, Peggy H., Wiley, Anne E., Rossman, Sam, Stricker, Craig A. and James, Helen F. 2014. Unexpected hydrogen isotope variation in oceanic pelagic seabirds. Oecologia, 175(4): 1227-1235. doi:10.1007/s00442-014-2985-8

Thomas, D. B., McGoverin, C. M., McGraw, K. J., James, H. F. and Madden, O. 2013. Vibrational spectroscopic analyses of unique yellow feather pigments (spheniscins) in penguins. Journal of the Royal Society Interface, 10(83): 20121065 doi:10.1098/rsif.2012.1065

Meijer, Hanneke J. M., Sutikna, Thomas, Saptomo, E. W., Awe, Rokhus Due, Jatmiko, Wasisto, Sri, James, Helen F., Morwood, Michael J. and Tocheri, Matthew W. 2013. Late Pleistocene-Holocene non-passerine avifauna of Liang Bua (Flores, Indonesia). Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology, 33(4): 877-894. doi:10.1080/02724634.2013.746941

Wiley, Anne E., Ostrom, Peggy H., Welch, Andreanna J., Fleischer, Robert C., Gandhi, Hasand, Southon, John R., Stafford, Thomas W., Penniman, Jay F., Hu, Darcy, Duvall, Fern P. and James, Helen F. 2013. Millennial-scale isotope records from a wide-ranging predator show evidence of recent human impact to oceanic food webs. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 110(22): 8972-8977. doi:10.1073/pnas.1300213110

Thomas, Daniel B., James, Helen F., Carrano, Matthew T. and Madden, Odile 2012. Searching for Evidence of Fossil Feather Color with Spectroscopy. Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology, 32: 183-184.

Zhang, Zihui, Huang, Yunping, James, Helen F. and Hou, Lianhai 2012. A Marabou (Ciconiidae: Leptoptilos) from the Middle Pleistocene of Northeastern China. The Auk, 129(4): 699-706. doi:10.1525/auk.2012.11227

Zhang, Zihui, Huang, Yunping, James, Helen F. and Hou, Lianhai 2012. Two Old World Vultures from the Middle Pleistocene of Northeastern China and their Implications for Interspecific Competition and Biogeography of Aegypiinae. Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology, 32(1): 117-124. doi:10.1080/02724634.2012.624146

Welch, Andreanna J., Fleischer, Robert C., James, Helen F., Wiley, A. E., Ostrom, P. H., Adams, J., Duvall, F., Holmes, N., Hu, D., Penniman, J. and Swindle, K. A. 2012. Population divergence and gene flow in an endangered and highly mobile seabird. Heredity, 109(1): 19-28. doi:10.1038/hdy.2012.7

James, Helen F. 2012. Review of: A Feather in the Cap of Science Feathers: The Evolution of a Natural Miracle, book review.. Bioscience, 62(2): 206-207. doi:10.1525/bio.2012.62.2.16

Welch, Andreanna J., Wiley, Anne E., James, Helen F., Ostrom, Peggy H., Stafford, Thomas W. and Fleischer, Robert C. 2012. Ancient DNA reveals genetic stability despite demographic decline: three thousand years of population history in the endemic Hawaiian petrel. Molecular biology and evolution, 29(12): 3729-3740. doi:10.1093/molbev/mss185

Zhang, Zihui, Feduccia, Alan and James, Helen F. 2012. A Late Miocene Accipitrid (Aves: Accipitriformes) from Nebraska and Its Implications for the Divergence of Old World Vultures. PLOS One, 7(11): 1-8. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0048842

Wiley, Anne E., Welch, Andreanna J., Ostrom, Peggy H., James, Helen F., Stricker, Craig A., Fleischer, Robert C., Gandhi, Hasand, Adams, Josh, Ainley, David G., Duvall, Fern, Holmes, Nick, Hu, Darcy, Judge, Seth, Penniman, Jay and Swindle, Keith A. 2012. Foraging segregation and genetic divergence between geographically proximate colonies of a highly mobile seabird. Oecologia, 1: 119-130 doi:10.1007/s00442-011-2085-y.

Lerner, Heather R L., Meyer, Matthias, James, Helen F, Hofreiter, Michael and Fleischer, Robert C 2011. Multilocus Resolution of Phylogeny and Timescale in the Extant Adaptive Radiation of Hawaiian Honeycreepers. Current Biology, 21(21): 1838-1844. doi:10.1016/j.cub.2011.09.039

Complete List of James' Publications and Downloadable PDFs

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