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Robert C. Fleischer, Ph.D.

Senior Scientist and Center Head
B.S., University of California, Santa Barbara; Ph.D., University of Kansas

Rob Fleischer is Senior Scientist and Head of the Center for Conservation and Evolutionary Genetics at Smithsonian's Conservation Biology Institute (SCBI). His primary fields of interest are evolutionary and conservation biology. He conducts individual and collaborative research in population and evolutionary genetics, systematics, and molecular and behavioral ecology, mostly on free-ranging bird and mammal species, and their pathogens. Most of his more recent projects use genomic, transcriptomic and microbiome methods.

Fleischer is author or co-author of more than 230 peer-reviewed contributions to the scientific literature. His center’s research programs are supported primarily via competitive grant and contract funding from National Science Foundation, National Institutes of Health, and other federal and state agencies and foundations. He has particular interests in the use of ancient DNA methods to document changes in genetic variation through time and phylogenetic relationships of extinct or endangered organisms (especially of the recently extinct Hawaiian avifauna); the use of highly variable genetic markers to measure genetic structure and relatedness, and to ascertain mating systems, in natural populations; and the use of genetics to study the evolutionary interactions between hosts, vectors and infectious disease organisms (e.g., major projects on introduced avian malaria in native Hawaiian birds, invasive chytrid fungus in amphibians, and tick-transmitted pathogens).
Fleischer grew up in Southern California and attended the University of California, Los Angeles and the University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB). He earned a Bachelor of Arts in biology from UCSB in 1978 and received his doctorate in 1983 from the University of Kansas, in evolutionary biology. After two years doing postdoctoral work at UCSB working on cowbird vocal dialects and genetic structure, he worked for six years as university faculty before moving to the Smithsonian's National Zoo in 1991 to develop the Zoo’s program in conservation genetics.
A rabid birder and naturalist from the age of 13, Fleischer took a very illuminating and exciting genetics course while an undergrad at UCSB. He then decided to try to merge his interests in bird ecology and evolution with molecular genetics, combining population genetic theory, fieldwork, and molecular lab analyses. This synergy lead to a career conducting and guiding students and postdocs in conservation genomics research.
Recent Publications: 
Campana, Michael G., Corvelo, André, Shelton, Jennifer, Callicrate, Taylor E., Bunting, Karen L., Riley-Gillis, Bridget, Wos, Frank, DeGrazia, Justin, Jarvis, Erich D. and Fleischer, Robert C. 2020. Adaptive Radiation Genomics of Two Ecologically Divergent Hawai'ian Honeycreepers: The 'akiapōlā'au and the Hawai'i 'amakihi. Journal of Heredity, 21-32. https://doi.org/10.1093/jhered/esz057
Gillespie, Rosemary G., Bennett, Gordon M., De Meester, Luc, Feder, Jeffrey L., Fleischer, Robert C., Harmon, Luke J., Hendry, Andrew P., Knope, Matthew L., Mallet, James, Martin, Christopher, Parent, Christine E., Patton, Austin H., Pfennig, Karin S., Rubinoff, Daniel, Schluter, Dolph, Seehausen, Ole, Shaw, Kerry L., Stacy, Elizabeth, Stervander, Martin, Stroud, James T., Wagner, Catherine and Wogan, Guinevere Ou. 2020. Comparing Adaptive Radiations Across Space, Time, and Taxa. Journal of Heredity, 1-20. https://doi.org/10.1093/jhered/esz064
Lim, Haw Chuan, Shakya, Subir B., Harvey, Michael G., Moyle, Robert G., Fleischer, Robert C., Braun, Michael J. and Sheldon, Frederick H. 2020. Opening the door to greater phylogeographic inference in Southeast Asia: Comparative genomic study of five codistributed rainforest bird species using target capture and historical DNA. Ecology and Evolution, 3222-3247. https://doi.org/10.1002/ece3.5964