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Department of Vertebrate Zoology

Division of Birds

Labrador Duck
Labrador Duck
Christina Gebhard © Smithsonian Institution
bar Image of Helen F. James, Museum Specialist
    Helen F. James
    Curator in Charge

  • Phone: (202) 633-0792
  • Fax: (202) 633-8084
  • E-mail: jamesh[at]

  • Mailing Address:
    Smithsonian Institution
    Division of Birds
    PO Box 37012, MRC 116
    Washington, DC 20013-7012

  • Shipping Address:
    Smithsonian Institution
    Division of Birds
    10th and Constitution Ave, NW
    Washington, DC 20560-0116

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PhD. Oxford University(2000)
B.A. University of Arkansas(1977)

Research Interests

Conservation Paleobiology: Understanding the causes of extinction and ecological collapse following human settlement of islands.  Understanding the consequences of those changes for terrestrial and marine ecosystems.

Evolution and Systematics: Evolution of morphological diversity in the perching birds and waterfowl (Passeriformes and Anseriformes).  Biogeograhic origins and evolutionary history of the Hawaiian avifauna.  

Evolutionary Ecology: The evolutionary history of ecological interactions between endemic island birds and plants.

Recent Publications

Linderholm, Anna, Spencer, Daisy, Battista, Vincent, Frantz, Laurent, Barnett, Ross, Fleischer, Robert C., James, Helen F., Duffy, Dave, Sparks, Jed P., Clements, David R., Andersson, Leif, Dobney, Keith, Leonard, Jennifer A. and Larson, Greger 2016. A novel MC1R allele for black coat colour reveals the Polynesian ancestry and hybridization patterns of Hawaiian feral pigs. Royal Society Open Science, 3(9) doi:10.1098/rsos.160304

Thomas, Daniel B. and James, Helen F. 2016. Nondestructive Raman spectroscopy confirms carotenoid-pigmented plumage in the Pink-headed Duck. The Auk, 133(2): 147-154. doi:10.1642/AUK-15-152.1

Danner, Raymond M., Gulson-Castillo, Eric, James, Helen F., Dzielski, Sarah A., Frank, David C., Sibbald, Eric T. and Winkler, David W. 2016. Habitat-specific divergence of air conditioning structures in bird bills. The Auk, 134(1): 65-75. doi:10.1642/AUK-16-107.1

Hailer, Frank, James, Helen F., Olson, Storrs L. and Fleischer, Robert C. 2015. Distinct and extinct: Genetic differentiation of the Hawaiian eagle. Molecular phylogenetics and evolution, 83: 40-43. doi:10.1016/j.ympev.2014.11.005

Langenwalter, P. E. and James, Helen F. 2015. Extinct and extirpated birds and other vertebrates in the faunal assemblage of Halawa Cave, a rockshelter in North Halawa Valley, O`ahu, Hawai`i. Hawaiian Archaeology, 14: 65-78.

Meijer, Hanneke J. M., Tocheri, Matthew W., Due, Rokus Awe, Sutikna, Thomas, Wahyu Saptomo, E. and James, Helen F. 2015. Continental-style avian extinctions on an oceanic island. Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology, 429: 163-170. doi:10.1016/j.palaeo.2015.03.041

Thomas, Daniel B., McGraw, Kevin J., James, Helen F. and Madden, Odile 2014. Non-destructive descriptions of carotenoids in feathers using Raman spectroscopy. Analytical Methods, 5: 1301-1308. doi:10.1039/C3AY41870G

Ostrom, Peggy H., Wiley, Anne E., Rossman, Sam, Stricker, Craig A. and James, Helen F. 2014. Unexpected hydrogen isotope variation in oceanic pelagic seabirds. Oecologia, 175(4): 1227-1235. doi:10.1007/s00442-014-2985-8

Thomas, Daniel B., McGraw, Kevin J., Butler, Michael W., Carrano, Matthew T., Madden, Odile and James, Helen F. 2014. Ancient origins and multiple appearances of carotenoid-pigmented feathers in birds. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 281(1788) doi:10.1098/rspb.2014.0806

Rocha, L. A., Aleixo, A., Allen, G., Almeda, F., Baldwin, Carole C., Barclay, M. V. L., Bates, J. M., Bauer, A. M., Benzoni, F., Berns, C. M., Berumen, M. L., Blackburn, D. C., Blum, S., Bolanos, F., Bowie, R. C. K., Britz, R., Brown, R. M., Cadena, C. D., Carpenter, K., Ceriaco, L. M., Chakrabarty, P., Chaves, G., Choat, J. H., Clements, K. D., Collette, Bruce B., et al 2014. Specimen collection: An essential tool. Science, 344(6186): 814-815. doi:10.1126/science.344.6186.814

Thomas, Daniel B., Nascimbene, Paul C., Dove, Carla J., Grimaldi, David A. and James, Helen F. 2014. Seeking carotenoid pigments in amber-preserved fossil feathers. Scientific Reports, 4 doi:10.1038/srep05226

Meijer, Hanneke J. M., Sutikna, Thomas, Saptomo, E. Wahyu, Awe, Rokhus Due, Jatmiko, Wasisto, Sri, James, Helen F., Morwood, Michael J. and Tocheri, Matthew W. 2013. Late Pleistocene-Holocene non-passerine avifauna of Liang Bua (Flores, Indonesia). Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology, 33(4): 877-894. doi:10.1080/02724634.2013.746941

Wiley, Anne E., Ostrom, Peggy H., Welch, Andreanna J., Fleischer, Robert C., Gandhi, Hasand, Southon, John R., Stafford, Thomas W., Penniman, Jay F., Hu, Darcy, Duvall, Fern P. and James, Helen F. 2013. Millennial-scale isotope records from a wide-ranging predator show evidence of recent human impact to oceanic food webs. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 110(22): 8972-8977. doi:10.1073/pnas.1300213110

Thomas, D. B., McGoverin, C. M., McGraw, K. J., James, Helen F. and Madden, Odile 2013. Vibrational spectroscopic analyses of unique yellow feather pigments (spheniscins) in penguins. Journal of The Royal Society Interface, 10(83): 20121065 doi:10.1098/rsif.2012.1065

Wiley, Anne E., Welch, Andreanna J., Ostrom, Peggy H., James, Helen F., Stricker, Craig A., Fleischer, Robert C., Gandhi, Hasand, Adams, Josh, Ainley, David G., Duvall, Fern, Holmes, Nick, Hu, Darcy, Judge, Seth, Penniman, Jay and Swindle, Keith A. 2012. Foraging segregation and genetic divergence between geographically proximate colonies of a highly mobile seabird. Oecologia, 168(1): 119-130. doi:10.1007/s00442-011-2085-y.

Zhang, Zihui, Huang, Yunping, James, Helen F. and Hou, Lianhai 2012. Two Old World Vultures from the Middle Pleistocene of Northeastern China and their Implications for Interspecific Competition and Biogeography of Aegypiinae. Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology, 32(1): 117-124. doi:10.1080/02724634.2012.624146

Zhang, Zihui, Huang, Yunping, James, Helen F. and Hou, Lianhai 2012. A Marabou (Ciconiidae: Leptoptilos) from the Middle Pleistocene of Northeastern China. The Auk, 129(4): 699-706. doi:10.1525/auk.2012.11227

Zhang, Zihui, Feduccia, Alan and James, Helen F. 2012. A Late Miocene Accipitrid (Aves: Accipitriformes) from Nebraska and Its Implications for the Divergence of Old World Vultures. PLOS One, 7(11): 1-8. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0048842

Welch, Andreanna J., Wiley, Anne E., James, Helen F., Ostrom, Peggy H., Stafford, Thomas W. and Fleischer, Robert C. 2012. Ancient DNA reveals genetic stability despite demographic decline: 3,000 years of population history in the endemic Hawaiian petrel. Molecular biology and evolution, 29(12): 3729-3740. doi:10.1093/molbev/mss185

Thomas, Daniel B., James, Helen F., Carrano, Matthew T. and Madden, Odile 2012. Searching for Evidence of Fossil Feather Color with Spectroscopy. Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology, 32: 183-184.

Welch, Andreanna J., Fleischer, Robert C., James, Helen F., Wiley, A. E., Ostrom, P. H., Adams, J., Duvall, F., Holmes, N., Hu, D., Penniman, J. and Swindle, K. A. 2012. Population divergence and gene flow in an endangered and highly mobile seabird. Heredity, 109(1): 19-28. doi:10.1038/hdy.2012.7

James, Helen F. 2012. Review of: [Book review:] A Feather in the Cap of Science Feathers: The Evolution of a Natural Miracle, book review.. Bioscience, 62(2): 206-207. doi:10.1525/bio.2012.62.2.16

Complete List of James' Publications and Downloadable PDFs

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