Michael Hickerson

Associate Professor Department of Biology City College and The Graduate Center City University of New York Research Associate Division of Invertebrate Biology American Museum of Natural History


Ph.D., 2003, Duke University



Website: hickerlab.wordpress.com/

Overview of Research


My research involves developing computational tools that use powerful statistical modeling to analyze genetic sequence data from many (i.e., 5 - 500) individuals of many (i.e., 50 - 500) species simultaneously, with the goal of estimating rates of range expansion, colonization, and divergence that will be used to test models of community assembly and evolution. These tools must be computationally efficient so that analyses of large data sets are possible using widely available computer hardware, and they must incorporate uncertainty and variability in estimates of dispersal, mutation, and evolutionary divergence. Continued development of our modeling framework is helping stimulate research at the interface of ecology, evolutionary biology, and conservation biology.

The field of phylogeography draws on population genetics, community ecology, and systematics to understand the evolutionary history of species and communities. Analysis of genetic variability within species and communities can provide insights into how communities established and how species within those communities evolved. It can also suggest how species and communities may respond to changes in climate, invasions, and possible outcomes of combining species into communities that have no current or historic analogs. Our lab now includes two PhD students and four undergraduates who contribute to this tool development as well as conduct their own empirical research in comparative phylogeography. 


2015     Boehm, J.T. , J. Waldman, J.D. Robinson, and M.J. Hickerson. “Population Genomics Reveals Seahorses (Hippocampus Erectus) of the Western Mid-Atlantic Coast to Be Residents Rather than Vagrants.” PloS One 10 (1): e0116219.
2015    Emerson B.C. and M.J. Hickerson. Lack of support for the time-dependent molecular evolution hypothesis. Molecular ecology, 24, 702–709.
2014    M.J. Hickerson. All models are wrong. Molecular ecology, 23, 2887–2889.
2014    J.D. Robinson2, A. J. Coffman, M. J. Hickerson, and R. N. Gutenkunst. Sampling strategies for frequency spectrum-based population genomic inference. BMC Evol. Biol. 14:254. biomedcentral.com.
2014  Smith, B. T., McCormack, J. E., Cuervo, A.,  Hickerson, M. J., Aleixo, A., Cadena, C. D., ... & Brumfield, R. T. The drivers of tropical speciation. Nature.
2014   J.D. Robinson, L. Bunnefeld, J. Hearn, G.N.Stone, and M.J. Hickerson (2014). ABC inference of multi‐population divergence with admixture from un‐phased population genomic data. Molecular Ecology.  23 (18), 4458-4471
2014   Y.L. Chan, D. Schanzenbach and M.J. Hickerson. Detecting concerted demographic response across community assemblages using hierarchical approximate Bayesian computation. Molecular Biology and Evolution. doi: 10.1093/molbev/msu187
2014   T.C. Demos, J.C. Kerbis Peterhans, B. Agwanda, M.J. Hickerson. Uncovering cryptic diversity and refugial persistence among small mammal lineages across the Eastern Afromontane biodiversity hotspot. Molecular phylogenetics and evolution 71, 41-54
2014    M.J. Hickerson, G. N. Stone, K. Lohse, T. Demos, X. Xie, C. Landerer and N. Takebayashi. Recommendations for using msBayes to incorporate uncertainty in selecting an ABC model prior: A response to Oaks et al. Evolution 68 (1), 284-294
2013  T.C. Demos, B. Agwanda, M.J. Hickerson. Integrative taxonomy within the Hylomyscus denniae complex (Rodentia: Muridae) and a new species from Kenya Journal of Mammalogy 95 (1), E1-E15
2013 Boehm J.T, , L. Woodall, P. Teske, S. Lourie, J. Waldman, and M. J. Hickerson. Marine dispersal and barriers drive Atlantic seahorse diversification. Journal of Biogeography; doi: 10.1111/jbi.12127
2013 Waltari, E. and M.J. Hickerson. Late Pleistocene Species Distribution Modeling of North Atlantic Intertidal Invertebrates. Journal of Biogeography; 40: 249-260
2012 Stone, G.N., K. Lohse, J. A. Nicholls, P. Fuentes-Utrilla, F. Sinclair, K. Schönrogge, G. Csóka, G. Melika, J-L. Nieves-Aldrey, J. Pujade-Villar, M. Tavakoli, R. R. Askew and M. J. Hickerson. Reconstructing Community Assembly in Time and Space Reveals Enemy Escape in a Western Palearctic Insect Community. Current Biology; 22: 532-537
2012 Bell, R.C., J.B. MacKenzie, M.J. Hickerson, K.L. Chavarria, M. Cunningham, S. Williams, and C. Moritz. Comparative multi-locus phylogeography confirms multiple vicariance events in co-distributed rainforest frogs. Proc. R. Soc. B: doi: 10.1098/rspb.2011.1229
2011 Huang, W. , N. Takebayashi, Y. Qi and M. J. Hickerson, MTML-msBayes: Approximate Bayesian comparative phylogeographic inference from multiple taxa and multiple loci with rate heterogeneity. BMC Bioinformatics; doi:10.1186/1471-2105-12-1
2010 Ilves, K., W. Huang, J.P. Wares, and M. J. Hickerson. Colonization and⁄or mitochondrial selective sweeps across the North Atlantic intertidal assemblage revealed by multi-taxa approximate Bayesian computation. Molecular Ecology; 19: 4505-4519  PDF
2010 Beaumont, M., Nielsen, R, Robert, C., Hey, J., Gaggiotti, O., Knowles, L., Estoup, A., Panchal, M., Corander, Hickerson, M., Sisson, S., Fagundes, N., Chikhi, L., Beerli, P., Vitalis, R., Cornuet, J.-M., Huelsenbeck, J., M., Foll, M., Yang, Z., Rousset, F., Balding, D., and Excoffier, L., In defense of model-based inference in phylogeography (Reply: Templeton 2009). Molecular Ecology. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-294X.2009.04515.x
2010 Hickerson, M. J., B. C. Carstens, J. Cavender-Bares, K. A. Crandall, C. H. Graham, J. B. Johnson, L. Rissler, P. F. Victoriano, and A.D. Yoder. Phylogeography’s past, present, and future: 10 years after Avise 2000. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution;doi.org/10.1016/j.ympev.2009.09.016
2009 Lozier J. D., Aniello P., and M.J. Hickerson. Predicting the distribution of Sasquatch in western North America: anything goes with ecological niche modeling. Journal of Biogeography. 10.1111/j.1365-2699.2009.02152.x (press)
2009 Carnaval, A.C., M.J. Hickerson, C.F.B. Haddad, M.T. Rodrigues, and C. Moritz. Stability predicts genetic diversity in the Brazilian Atlantic forest hotspot. Science; 323: 785-789 (press)
2009 Waldman, J., R. Daniels, M. Hickerson, and I. Virgin. Mitochondrial DNA Analysis Indicates Sea Lampreys Are Indigenous to Lake Ontario: Response to Comment. Transactions of the American Fisheries Society; 138: 1190-1197. doi: 10.1577/T08-035R.1
2008 Hickerson, M.J., and C.P. Meyer. Testing comparative phylogeographic models of marine vicariance and dispersal using a hierarchical Bayesian approach. BMC Evolutionary Biology. 8: 322. doi:10.1186/1471-2148-8-322.
2008 Riddle, B.R. M.N. Dawson, E.A. Hadley, D.J.Hafner, M.J. Hickerson, S.J. Mantooth, and A.D. Yoder. The role of molecular genetics in sculpting the future of integrative biogeography. Progress in Physical Geography.32: 173-202.