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Nathan Upham

Asst Research Professor
Faculty, TEMPE Campus, Mailcode 4501
Research Interests: 

I study evolution, ecology, and biodiversity from a spatial and temporal perspective, integrating data from molecules (DNA), fossils, and species traits to investigate when and where groups of species originated, at what evolutionary rates, and in relation to which paleo-environmental factors. My research is centered on mammalian evolution and has focused on unique lineages of rats and mice in the tropical Americas (spiny rats, hutias, and relatives), deserts of North and South America (kangaroo mice and vizcacha rats), and most recently across global Mammalia.

Through fieldwork and genomic and phylogenetic approaches, I ask questions that aim to uncover core dynamics of the eco-evolutionary process at biogeographic and population genetic scales. I also seek to translate our findings to wide audiences through outreach efforts and by teaching courses, always with the aim to encourage biodiversity conservation in the tropical and arid ecosystems where I work.


* = co-first authors

preprint. Upham, N. S., Esselstyn, J. A., and Jetz, W. Ecological causes of speciation and species richness in mammals. BioRxiv:

2019. Upham N. S., Esselstyn J. A., Jetz W. Inferring the mammal tree: species-level sets of phylogenies for questions in ecology, evolution, and conservation. PLOS Biology. 17(12): e3000494.

2019. McDonough, M. M., Upham, N. S., and Ferguson, A. W. Nurturing the generations: the role of the American Society of Mammalogists in supporting students and early career scientists. Journal of Mammalogy 100: 690-700.

2019. Maestri, R., Upham, N. S., and Patterson B. D. Tracing the diversification history of a Neogene rodent invasion into South America. Ecography 42: 683-695.

2018. *Burgin, C. J., *Colella, J. P., and Upham, N. S. How many species of mammals are there? Journal of Mammalogy 99: 1-14.

2017. (alphabetical) *Cooke, S. B. *Dávalos, L. M., *Mychajliw, A. M., *Turvey, S. T., and *Upham, N. S. Anthropogenic extinction dominates Holocene declines of West Indian mammals. Annual Review of Ecology, Evolution, and Systematics 48: 301-327.

2017. Upham, N. S. and Borroto-Páez, R. Molecular phylogeography of endangered Cuban hutias within the Caribbean radiation of capromyid rodents. Journal of Mammalogy 98: 950-963.

2017. Upham, N. S. Past and present of insular Caribbean mammals: understanding Holocene extinctions to inform modern biodiversity conservation. Journal of Mammalogy 98: 913-917.

(full publications listed here)




Instructor of record

Yale University, Postdoctoral Teaching Scholar, Foundations in Biology: Evolution & Ecology (Fall 2019).

Yale University, Scientific Teaching Fellow, Biological Sciences (Spring 2016).

McMaster University, Primary Lecturer, introductory-level class of ~700 students: Biodiversity, Evolution & Humanity, Department of Biology (Fall 2014)


Invited seminars

2020. Yale University, Lab of Ruslan Medzhitov. Mammalian tree of life as an essential tool for comparative biology.

2020. Yale University, Yale Institute for Biospheric Studies (YIBS) seminar series. Ecological causes of uneven mammalian diversity.

2019. Universidade de São Paulo, Departamento de Ecologia. Ecological causes of birth and death in the mammal tree of life.

2019. Yale-CAPES Seminars in Biomedical Sciences, Porto Alegre, Brazil. Mammalian tree of life as an essential tool for comparative biology.

2019. University of Rutgers Newark, Biological Sciences. Ecological causes of speciation and species richness in the mammal tree of life.

2019. Western Connecticut State University, Department of Biological and Environmental Sciences. Why are there so many rodents? And other (r)evolutionary questions.

2019. Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of Natural History. Uniting micro- and macro-evolution in the Mammalia tree of life.

2019. Field Museum of Natural History, A. Watson Armour seminar series. Ecology unites micro- and macro-evolution in the mammal tree of life.

2019. Portland State University, Department of Biology seminar series. Mammalian tree of life and the inverse latitudinal gradient of speciation rates.

2019. Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County, Research & Collections seminar series. Mammalian tree of life from ancient lineages to modern backyards.

2019. Columbia University, E3B Department seminar series. The ecology of species diversification in the mammal tree of life.