My research interests lie in the fields of population biology, population genetics, systematics, and the genetics of conservation. I am particularly interested in the links between patterns of geographic genetic differentiation and attributes of the ecology and life history of organisms such as mating systems, dispersal, and demography. In my research I combine field and laboratory (molecular) approaches to answer questions about organisms, their environments, and their histories.


My research can be divided into three broad areas of investigation:

  1. 1)studies of mating systems and sexual selection

  2. 2)evolutionary genetics of reptiles and amphibians at the level of populations, lineages or species.

  3. 3)application of my basic research to conservation, with emphasis on the study of population genetic consequences of anthropogenic landscape change and emergent infectious disease.





E209 Corson Hall                                 Ithaca NY 14853-2701                       607.254.4212 (Office)                607.255.8088 (Fax)


        Kelly Zamudio         C.V.        Publications           Prospective Students            Courses Taught

Genetic characterization of mating systems and sexual selection:

Reptiles and amphibians are highly diverse in mating system, making them an ideal group to examine the costs and benefits of mating strategies and choices. Despite the diversity of mating systems and the behavioral intricacies of ectotherm reproductive behavior, sexual selection in reptiles and amphibian lineages has not received the same degree of attention as in endotherms. This “clade bias” is changing rapidly. The absence of extended parental care in most ectotherms makes it easier to estimate the cost-benefit ratio of mate choice. Likewise, it is now feasible to establish reproductive success (via paternity typing) of large numbers of offspring, allowing us to accurately quantify the outcome of male-male competition and female choice (intra- and inter-sexual selection).

My research has focused particularly on determining the ecological and evolutionary contexts for the evolution of alternative mating strategies, identifying the determinants of reproductive fitness, especially in systems with high variance in reproductive success, and quantifying the  population-level consequences (genetic) of high variance in reproductive success within populations.

I use field experiments and behavioral observations coupled with laboratory studies for molecular assessment of paternity and maternity rates in natural populations. As is often the case in science, the complexity of mating systems and reproductive fitness has surprised us, underscoring the importance of exploring a variety of mating systems before drawing general conclusions about their evolution.

Phylogenetic systematics: population differentiation, phylogeography, and species relationships

My primary focus is understanding microevolutionary processes that contribute to differentiation among populations, with particular attention on how species-specific traits (such as demography, dispersal capacity, reproductive skew) influence the rate or direction of population differentiation. In systematic studies at larger geographic scales I focus on the patterns and inferred processes of historical diversification among populations and species.

I am specifically interested in discovering how do limits to dispersal and changes in habitat availability (due to past climatic changes) interact to determine the pattern of evolutionary diversification of population lineages, whether co-occuring species exhibit similar patterns of population-level diversification (i.e. similar phylogeographic patterns), and how species- specific characteristics (such as life-history, behavior, mating system) influence phylogeographic patterns.

Landscapes, Genetics, Disease, and Conservation of reptiles and amphibians

As an organismal biologist, I find it impossible to conduct research without consideration of the threats to habitats and biodiversity of the organisms I study. Many of my research initiatives have direct implications for understanding, and perhaps mitigating, current threats to amphibian and reptile biodiversity.

I am interested in how is genetic variability is partitioned among populations of endangered or threatened species that inhabit patchy or fragmented landscape.  Specifically, I am interested in how  fragmentation impedes historical levels of population connectivity through limits on gene flow at different geographic scales.

More recently, I have been studying the population genetic consequences of chytridiomycosis, an emergent infectious disease of amphibians that has caused population declines worldwide,  I am interested in species and population-level variation in disease susceptibility, and the role that host immunogenetic variability in the outcome of an epidemic disease.

Populations must persist in landscapes that are becoming increasingly disturbed, and fragmented. A recent focus in my lab has been trying to understand specific attributes of landscapes that might increase or decrease probability of persistence of species with different life histories, and how anthropogenically-modified landscapes interact with population genetic variability and disease epidemiology.

Kelly R. Zamudio | Cornell University | Ecology and Evolutionary Biology |

E209 Corson Hall | Ithaca  NY 14853 | phone 607.254.4212 | fax 607.255.8088 |

kelly.zamudio (at) |