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Blow-drying a sea otter (Enhydra lutris) pelt

(N.B. No animals were harmed in the process of making any of the specimens displayed on this website and were all collected with proper permits. When animals of conservation concern die, especially in zoos or monitored habitats, their remains are often sent to museums so their skeletons, pelts, and genetic material can be further studied by scientists.)

Madeleine A. Becker

PhD Student in Biosciences:
Biocomplexity & Evolutionary Biology

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I'm a fourth-year PhD student at George Mason University and fellow at the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute's Center for Conservation Genomics at the National Zoo. My research interests include mammalian evolutionary and conservation genomics, but I also have experience with systematics and microbiome projects. For my thesis, I'm planning on integrating historical museum specimens and cutting-edge genomic techniques to investigate patterns of island evolution.

In my spare time, I like exploring the NoVA outdoors, solving crosswords, and attempting to knit. Post-pandemic, I'll be trying to visit as many museums as possible and getting more involved with outreach!




  • July - Presented a poster at the American Society of Mammalogists/International Mammalogical Conference: "Time series museomics" using the Channel Island 
    deer mouse (Peromyscus maniculatus subspp.)

  • April - The National Zoo's Easter Monday scavenger egg hunt featured a Genetics table, where we talked to kids about getting DNA from scat and museum specimens! Kids loved touching the animal scat models almost as much as parents loved hearing that they were fake.

  • February - Passed comprehensive exams and almost advanced to candidacy! Now back to the lab to actually do my proposed research!


  • November - Dissertation proposal, "Evolutionary Genomics of Channel Island Peromyscus", has been successfully defended! 

  • June - First day working in the CCG ancient DNA lab... Mouse toes successfully digested, extracted, and quantified: we've got DNA!

  • May - Awarded a Graduate Student Research Award by the Society for Systematic Biologists. Thanks SSB!

  • May - Awarded a grant-in-aid and the Horner Award for best grants-in-aid proposal by the American Society of Mammalogists. Thanks ASM! 

  • April - Finished P. maniculatus study skin sampling at museums. Thanks to mammal/vertebrate zoology departments at Los Angeles County Natural History Museum, Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History, and Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History for access to their amazing collections!

  • April - Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History profiled me and my research on island deer mice. Check it out!

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