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Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History

Department ofVertebrate Zoology

Division of Mammals

Tarsius bancanus
bar Melissa Roberts
    Melissa T. Roberts
    Pre-doctoral Researcher

  • Phone: (202)633-1266
  • Fax: (202)633-0182
  • E-mail: robertsmt[at]

  • Mailing Address:
    Smithsonian Institution
    PO Box 37012, MRC 108
    Washington, DC 20013-7012

  • Shipping Address:
    Smithsonian Institution
    National Museum of Natural History
    1000 Constitution Ave, NW
    Washington, DC 20004


M.S. (Biology): Western Illinois University, 2009
B.S. (Zoology): Western Illinois University, 2007

Research Interests

My interests are primarily molecular phylogenetics, biogeography, conservation genetics, and evolutionary genomics. I am currently working on my dissertation research incorporating multiple bureaus of the Smithsonian Institution as well as George Mason University and the DoƱana Research Station in Sevilla, Spain. I am using ancient DNA techniques in conjunction with next-generation sequencing technologies to create a subfamily phylogeny for a group of Southeast Asian tree squirrels from sequences of the entire mitochondrial genome. I am hoping to clarify the relationships both between and within species, as the group is highly polymorphic and astonishingly understudied. I am also hoping to compare the diverse group of tree squirrels with the unrelated treeshrews to evaluate the evolutionary pressures leading to convergence. In addition, I will travel to Southeast Asia to capture and sample squirrels across altitudinal gradients, for which we will test hypotheses related to island biogeography, and specifically patterns of colonization and speciation in a geologically dynamic archipelago. We will also make direct comparisons between modern samples collected on expeditions, to those currently stored at the National Museum of Natural History to evaluate potential changes over time, due to both human occurrence and potentially alterations in climate. The results of this research could have far reaching implications for biogeography, evolutionary genomics and will likely revise the taxonomy of this polymorphic group of squirrels.

Recent Publication

Ahlering, M. A., L. S. Eggert, D. Western, A. Estes, L. Munishi, R. Fleischer, M. T. Roberts, and J. E. Maldonado. 2012. Identifying source populations and genetic structure for savannah elephants in human-dominated landscapes and protected areas in the Kenya-Tanzania borderlands. PLoS ONE, 7(12): e52288. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0052288

Ahlering, M. A., Hailer, F., Roberts, M. T., and Foley, C. 2011. A simple and accurate method to sex savanna, forest and Asian elephants using non-invasive sampling techniques. Molecular Ecology Resources, 11: 831-834.

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