John McCormack

Assistant Professor, Biology; Affiliated Faculty, Latino/a and Latin American Studies


Education: B.S., University of Arizona; Ph.D., University of California, Los Angeles


Dr. McCormack studies the evolution of birds and other vertebrates. His research questions involve how biodiversity is generated (speciation) and the evolutionary relationships of organisms (systematics). Another focus is how to extract and use DNA from museum specimens to answer these questions. He is the Director and Curator of the Moore Laboratory of Zoology, the world's largest collection of Mexican birds at 65,000 specimens. Most of the Mexican birds were collected at a time before the industrialization of Mexico (1930-1950), allowing comparison to a birdlife that has been dramatically altered or in some cases lost entirely.

He is an elected member of the American Ornithologists' Union and chair of the Communications Committee for the AOU and Cooper Ornithological Society. He is an Associate Editor at the journal Systematic Biology. His research is funded by the National Science Foundation, Keck Foundation, and Fletcher Jones Foundation and has appeared in the journals Science, Nature, Genome Research, Systematic Biology, Molecular Ecology, and more.

Representative publications

McCormack JE, WLE Tsai & BC Faircloth. 2016. Sequence capture of ultraconserved elements from bird museum specimens. Molecular Ecology Resources, in press. Link

McCormack JE & JM Maley. 2015. Interpreting negative results with taxonomic and conservation implications: another look at distinctness of coastal California gnatcatchers. The Auk: Ornithological Advances 132: 380-388. Link to open access article

McCormack JE, BC Faircloth, NG Crawford, PA Gowaty, RT Brumfield & TC Glenn. 2012. Ultraconserved elements are novel phylogenomic markers that resolve placental mammal phylogeny when combined with species tree analysis. Genome Research 22: 746-754. Link to open access article

Smith BT, JE McCormack, AM Cuervo, MJ Hickerson, A Aleixo, CD Cadena, J Pérez-Emán, CW Burney, X Xie, MG Harvey, BC Faircloth, TC Glenn, EP Derryberry, J Prejean*, S Fields* & RT Brumfield. 2014. The drivers of tropical speciation. Nature 515: 406-409. Link

Publications with Occidental undergradutes

Alvarez S, JF Salter, JE McCormack & B Milá. 2016. Speciation in mountain refugia: phylogeography and demographic history of the pine siskin and black-capped siskin complex. Journal of Avian Biology, in press.

McCormack JE & MX Venkatraman. 2013. A distinctive genetic footprint of ancient hybridization. The Auk 130: 469-475. Link



Evolutionary Biology - Bio 280 - Fall

Avian Biology - Bio 360 - every other Spring (usually)

Molecular Evolution & Phylogenomics - Bio 368 - every other Spring (usually)

Museum Science - Bio 310 - Spring

Senior Seminar - Bio 490 - every other year, more or less

Mentored Research - Bio 395


Major College Committee Service

Faculty Council 2014-2016