Terry Chesser, Ph.D.


I am USGS Research Zoologist and Curator of Birds at the National Museum of Natural History, having previously held positions with the American Museum of Natural History (New York) and the Australian National Wildlife Collection (Canberra).  My research focuses on the systematics and diversity of birds of the Americas, and I am responsible for curation of the National Museum’s collection of North American birds.  My contributions to avian taxonomy and conservation also include chairmanship of the AOU Committee on Classification and Nomenclature (North and Central America), more commonly known as the AOU Checklist Committee, which provides a standardized avian taxonomy for use by public agencies and private individuals and organizations.

Current projects include studies of:

  • genomic variation in birds of the Channel Islands, as part of a larger project informing management of Channel Islands National Park and private lands on multiple scientific issues
  • a comprehensive revision of the subspecific taxonomy of the birds of North America, for use by policy makers and wildlife managers as well as by scientists and NGOs
  • genetic variation in the North American white-headed gull complex, to aid in post-airstrike identification and to provide insight into the population genetics of recently diverged or hybridizing species
  • genomic variation in the Akikiki (Oreomystis bairdi) and Akekee (Loxops caeruleirostris), two critically endangered birds endemic to Kauai, so that genetically diverse, viable captive breeding programs can be established
  • genetics of Red Knot (Calidris canutus), Sanderling (Calidris alba), and Ruddy Turnstone (Arenaria interpres) at Delaware Bay, three species reliant on migration stopovers there, to assist management of these species
  • phylogenetic relationships and species status of Procellariiformes seabirds, which include the albatrosses, petrels, and shearwaters, many of which are endangered or otherwise of conservation interest
  • genetic variation and phylogeography of selected seabirds breeding in the Caribbean and Pacific regions, to determine the conservation status of geographically isolated populations and understand factors promoting genetic isolation in marine environments
  • phylogenetic relationships and species status of Chimney Swift (Chaetura pelagica) and other species of Chaetura swifts, morphologically conservative species that are prime candidates for cryptic speciation
  • patterns of distribution and seasonal movements of Neotropical austral migrant tyrant-flycatchers, to better our understanding of the biology and conservation requirements of these migratory birds
  • the systematics, biogeography, and evolution of hyper-diverse suboscine birds, to understand the systematics and taxonomy of the group and the processes that contributed to its radiation in the Americas
  • comparative genetic, vocal, and morphological variation in Neotropical antwrens and antpittas, to understand patterns of speciation and determine species diversity in these cryptic groups