Nicholas A. Mason

Nicholas A. Mason

Post-Doctoral Researcher


  • 2017 Ph.D, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Cornell University
  • 2012 M.Sc., Evolutionary Biology, San Diego State University
  • 2008 B.A., Biology, Vassar College

Research Interests

​I am an organismal biologist with a passion for biodiversity. I seek to understand the ecological and evolutionary processes that underlie speciation, diversification, and the evolution of phenotypic diversity. Our world is rapidly changing, which imparts serious threats to many species and the habitats they occupy; I am therefore also interested in organismal responses to human-caused disturbances and improving conservation initiatives. Natural history collections are central to all aspects of my research, and I am strong proponent of the power of natural history collections to drive biological inquiry, educate the next generation of biologists, and engage the public. I primarily work on birds, while my expanding toolbox incorporates various molecular techniques, phenotypic measurements, and remote sensing data to examine avian biodiversity at different spatial and temporal scales.


  • Drury, J.P., Tobias, J.A., Burns, K.J., Mason, N.A., Shultz, A.J., and H. Morlon. In press. Contrasting impacts of competition on ecological and social trait evolution in songbirds. PLoS Biology.
  • Mason, N.A., Olvera-Vital, A., Lovette, I.J., and A.G. Navarro-Sigüenza. In press. Hidden endemism, deep polyphyly, and repeated dispersal across the Isthmus of Tehuantepec: Diversification of the White-collared Seedeater complex (Sporophila torqueola). Ecology and Evolution.
  • Mason, N.A. and P. Unitt. In press. Rapid phenotypic change in a native bird population following conversion of the Colorado Desert to agriculture. Journal of Avian Biology.
  • Goldberg, N.R.and A. Mason. 2017. Species identification of vagrant Empidonax flycatchers in northeastern North America via non-invasive DNA sequencing. Northeastern Naturalist 24:499–504.
  • Mason, N.A., Pasch, B., Burns, K.J., and E.P. Derryberry. 2017. Integrating museum and media collections to study vocal ecology and evolution. Pp. 57–74 in M. S. Webster (editor), The Extended Specimen: Emerging Frontiers in Collections-Based Ornithological Research. Studies in Avian Biology (no. 50), CRC Press, Boca Raton, FL.
  • Ballen, M.C. and A. Mason. 2017. Longitudinal analysis of a diversity support program in STEM: a national call for further assessment. BioScience 67:367–373.
  • Mason, N.A., Burns, K.J., Seddon, N., Tobias, J., Claramunt, S., and E.P. Derryberry. 2017. Song evolution, speciation, and vocal learning in passerine birds. Evolution 71:786–796.
  • Mason, N.A. Effects of wind, ambient temperature, and sun position on damselfly flight activity and perch orientation. Animal Behaviour 124:175–181.
  • Ligon, R., Simpson, R.,Mason, N.A., Hill, G., and K. McGraw. 2016. Evolutionary innovation and diversification of carotenoid-based pigmentation in finches. Evolution 70:2839–2852.
  • Mason, N.A., Butler, M.W., and J.C. Owen. 2016. Membership trends in the American Ornithologists’ Union and the evolving role of professional ornithological societies. The Auk: Ornithological Advances113:806–811.
  • Zamudio, K., Bell, R.C., and A. Mason. 2016. Phenotypes in phylogeography: species’ traits, environmental variation, and vertebrate diversification. Proceedings of the National Academy of SciencesUSA 113:8041–8048.
  • Burns, K.J., Unitt, P., and A. Mason. 2016. A genus-level classification of the family Thraupidae (Class Aves: Order Passeriformes). Zootaxa 4088: 329–354.
  • Toews, D.P.L., Campagna, L., Taylor, S.A., Balakrishnan, C.N., Baldassarre, D.T., Deane-Coe, P.E., Harvey, M.G., Hooper, D.M., Irwin, D.E., Judy, C.D., Mason, N.A., McCormack, J.E., McCracken, K.G., Oliveros, C.H., Safran, R.J., Scordato, E., Stryjewski, K.F., Tigano, A., Uy, A.J., and B. Winger. 2016. Genomic approaches to understanding population divergence and speciation in birds. The Auk: OrnithologicalAdvances 133:13–30.
  • Freeman, B.G.and A. Mason. 2015. The geographic distribution of a tropical montane bird is limited by a tree: Acorn Woodpeckers (Melanerpes formicivorus) and Colombian Oaks (Quercus humboldtii) in the northern Andes. PLoS One 10(6):e0128675.
  • Mason, N.A. and S.A. Taylor. 2015. Differentially expressed genes match bill morphology and plumage despite largely undifferentiated genomes in a Holarctic songbird. Molecular Ecology 24:3009–3025.
  • Barve, S.S.and A. Mason. 2015. Interspecific competition affects evolutionary links between cavity nesting, migration, and clutch size in Old World flycatchers. (Muscicapdae) Ibis 157:299–311.
  • Mason, N.A. and K.J. Burns. 2015. The effect of habitat and body size on the evolution of vocal displays in the largest family of songbirds (Aves: Thraupidae). Biological Journal of the Linnean Society114:538–551.
  • Freeman, B.G. and A. Mason. 2014. New Guinean passerines have globally small clutch sizes. Emu –Austral Ornithology 114:304–308.
  • Mason, N.A., Shultz, A.J., and K.J. Burns. 2014. Elaborate visual and acoustic signals evolve independently in a large, phenotypically diverse radiation of songbirds. Proceedings of the Royal Society B281:20140967.
  • Burns, K.J., Shultz, A.J., Title, P.O., Mason, N.A., Barker, F.K., Klicka, J., Lanyon, S.M., and I.J. Lovette. 2014. Phylogenetics and diversification of tanagers (Passeriformes: Thraupidae), the largest radiation of Neotropical songbirds. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 75:41–77.
  • Mason, N.A., Title, P.O., Cicero, C., Burns, K.J., and R.C.K. Bowie. 2014. Genetic variation among western populations of the Horned Lark (Eremophila alpestris) indicates recent colonization of the Channel Islands off southern California, mainland-bound dispersal, and postglacial range shifts. The Auk:Ornithological Advances 131:162–174.
  • Mason, N.A. and K.J. Burns. 2013. Molecular phylogenetics of the Neotropical seedeaters and seed-finches (Sporophila, Oryzoborus, Dolospingus). Ornitología Neotropical 24:139–155.