Burke Museum Home



Genetic Resources Manager, Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture, University of Washington, Seattle, WA 98195 

Research Interests
The evolution of birds, with an emphasis on reproductive behavior, mating systems, and the use of molecular techniques - especially within the avian family Megapodiidae (the megapodes).

Ph.D., Animal Behavior, Cornell University, January 1996, thesis title: "Reproductive Behavior and Paternity in the Australian Brush-turkey, Alectura lathami

B.S. in  Zoology, University of Washington, magna cum laude, 1986 

Genetic Resources Manager, Zoology Division, Burke Museum, University of Washington, 1998 - present 

Alfred P. Sloan Postdoctoral Fellow in Molecular Evolution, Department of Zoology, University of Washington; Scott V. EdwardsÍ lab, (evolution of megapode birds using a nuclear and mitochondrial DNA phylogeny), 1996-1998 

Graduate Student, Section of Neurobiology and Behavior, Cornell University; advisors: S. T. Emlen and P. W. Sherman, C. Aquadro supervised molecular lab work. DNA fingerprinting techniques used to study reproductive behavior in a megapode bird, 1987-1996. 

Field Experience

Burke Museum Collecting Expedition to Panama: March 2002. Surveyed and collected birds from a remote forest locations along the Chagras and Esperanza Rivers.

Burke Museum Collecting Expedition to Primor'ye, Russia: May-June 2002. Surveyed and collected birds in cooperation with scientists from the Moscow State University Museum.

Ambrym and Efaté Islands, Vanuatu, South Pacific: surveyed nests and collected tissue and blood samples from endemic megapode bird, November 1996

Tamborine Mountain, Southeast Queensland, Australia: studied paternity and reproductive behavior of Australian Brush-turkeys, June-December, 1989 - 1992

Potholes National Wildlife Refuge, Washington: studied Red-winged Blackbird reproductive behavior, took blood samples for hormonal assays, March - June, 1985 and 1987

La Selva Biological Research Station, Costa Rica: studied leaf-cutting ant ecology, January 1987

Research Awards, Grants and Fellowships:

1998 National Science Foundation Grant for Collection Improvement for Genetic Resources at the Burke Museum

1995 National Science Foundation and Alfred P. Sloan Postdoctoral Fellowship in Molecular Evolution

1993 American Association of University Women Fellowship

1990 American Ornithologists Union Research Award

1990 American Museum of Natural History Frank M. Chapman Award

1989 Sigma Xi Grants in Aid of Research (local and national branches)

1989 National Science Foundation Graduate Fellowship

1989 NIMH Integrative Training Grant

1989 Explorer's Club Exploration Fund Grant


Kerr, K., S. Birks, M. Kalyakin, Y. Red'kin, E. Koblik, and P. Hebert. 2009. Filling the gap - COI barcode resolution in eastern Palearctic birds. Frontiers in Zoology, 6:13.

Edwards, S. V., S. Birks, R. T. Brumfield, and R. Hanner. 2005. Future of avian genetic resources collections: archives of evolutionary and environmental history. The Auk, 122:979-984.

Birks, S. M., and S. V. Edwards. 2002. A phylogeny of the megapodes (Aves: Megapodidae) based on nuclear and mitochondrial DNA sequences. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution, 23:408-421.

Birks, S. M. 1999. Unusual timing of copulations in the Australian Brush-turkey, Alectura lathami. The Auk 116(1):169-177.

Birks, S. M. 1997. Paternity in the Australian Brush-turkey, Alectura lathami, a megapode bird with uniparental male care. Behavioral Ecology 8(5): 560-568.

Birks, S. M. 1996. Reproductive Behavior and Paternity in the Australian Brush-turkey, Alectura lathami. Ph.D. thesis, Cornell University, Ithaca.

Jones, D. and Birks, S. 1992. Megapodes: Recent ideas on origins, adaptations and reproduction. Trends in Ecology and Evolution 7(3): 88-91.