Welcome to My Research Website
Evolution and Conservation

About My Research

I am the Director of the Southeast Conservation Genetics Lab at U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

  • Gastropods

    Our global freshwater resources are essential for the health of human society because everyone needs clean drinking water. Freshwater gastropods, more commonly known as snails, are intergral components of healthy rivers and streams. The most important tool in conserving snails is information about these fascinating animals. I study evolution of gastropods, with a focus on the freshwater families Pleuroceridae and Semisulcospiridae. My work includes phylogenetics, genome sequencing, and life history studies. My research on freshwater snails is used to improve conservation efforts.

  • Conservation Genetics

    Genetic diversity is important for the survival of animal species. Understanding the genetics of animals at risk of extinction is also important for effective conservation. My lab studies how populations are related, estimates genetic diversity of different populations, and makes management recommendations based on our findings. We are currently working on conservation genetic studies of Lake Sturgeon, Stripped Bass, Sicklefin Redhorse, and a variety of freshwater snails and mussels.

  • Animal Evolution

    I am broadly interested in how different animals groups are realted and what traits have contributed to animal diversification. I study this at a variety of scales ranging from all of Metazoa to freshwater snail species in the family Pleuroceridae. Recent work has focused on Comb Jellies, or ctenophores, and freshwater snails, including evolution of egg-laying behaviours.

  • Bioinformatics and Phylogenetic Inference

    Modern genetics research requires a considerable amount of computational biology. Part of my lab's research includes designing novel bioinformatics pipelines. We also study the performance of different phylogenetic methods in an effort to determine which models and methods can provide the most accurate estimation of relationships.


Whelan, N.V., K.M. Kocot, T.P. Moroz, G. Paulay, C.E. Mills, L.L. Moroz, K.M. Halanych. (2017) Ctenophore relationships and their placement as the sister group to all other animals. Nature Ecology and Evolution. IN PRESS.

Whelan, N.V., P.D. Johnson, J.T. Garner, E.E. Strong. (2017) On the identity of Leptoxis taeniata – a misapplied name for the federally threatened Painted Rocksnail (Cerithioidea: Pleuroceridae). Zookeys. 697: 21-36. doi: 10.3897/zookeys.697.14060.

Tassia, M.G., N.V. Whelan, K.M. Halanych. (2017) Toll-like receptor pathway evolution in deuterostomes. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. 114: 7055–7060. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1617722114.

Costa-Paiva E.M., N.V. Whelan, D.S. Waits, S. Santos, C.G. Schrago, K.M. Halanych. (2017) Discovery and evolution of novel hemerythrin genes in annelid worms. BMC Evolutionary Biology. 17: 85. doi:10.1186/s12862-017-0933-z.

Whelan, N.V., K.M. Halanych. (2017) Who let the CAT Out of the Bag? Accurately dealing with substitutional heterogeneity in phylogenomics. Systematic Biology. 66: 232-255. doi:10.1093/sysbio/syw084.

Yuanning, Li, K.M. Kocot, N.V. Whelan, S.R. Santos, D.S. Waits, D.J. Thornhill, K.M. Halanych. (2017) Phylogenomics of tubeworms (Siboglinidae, Annelida) and comparative performance of different reconstruction methods. Zoologica Scripta. 46: 200-213. doi:10.1111/zsc.12201. (pdf)

Whelan, N.V., K.M. Halanych, K.M. Kocot, A.B. Kohn, L.L. Moroz. (2016) Miscues misplace sponges. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. 113: E946-E947. doi:10.1073/pnas.1525332113. (pdf)

Whelan, N.V., E.E. Strong. (2016) Morphology, molecules and taxonomy: extreme incongruence in pleurocerids (Gastropoda, Cerithioidea, Pleuroceridae). Zoologica Scripta. 45: 62-87.doi:10.1111/zsc.12139. (pdf)

Whelan, N.V. (2016) Radular morphology of extinct pleurocerids (Gastropoda: Cerithioidea: Pleuroceridae). American Malacological Bulletin. 33: 221-226.doi:10.4003/006.033.0202. (pdf)

Whelan, N.V., K.M. Kocot, K.M. Halanych. (2015) Employing phylogenomics to resolve the relationships among cnidarians, ctenophores, sponges, placozoans, and bilaterians. Integrative and Comparative Biology. 55: 1084-1095. doi:10.1093/icb/icv037. (pdf)

Whelan, N.V., K.M. Kocot, L.L. Moroz, K.M. Halanych. (2015) Error, signal, and the placement of Ctenophora sister to all other animals. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. 112: 5773-5778. doi:10.1073/pnas.1503453112. (pdf)

Whelan, N.V., P.D. Johnson, P.M. Harris. (2015) Life-history traits and shell morphology in the genus Leptoxis Rafinesque, 1819 (Gastropoda: Cerithioidea: Pleuroceridae). Journal of Molluscan Studies. 81: 85-95. doi:10.1093/mollus/EYU058. (pdf)

Whelan, N.V., K.M. Kocot, S.R. Santos, K.M. Halanych. (2014) Transcriptome sequencing of nemerteans reveals a diverse suite of toxin genes. Genome Biology and Evolution. 6: 3314-3325. doi:10.1093/gbe/evu258. (pdf)

Whelan, N.V., E.E. Strong. (2014) Seasonal reproductive anatomy and sperm storage in pleurocerid gastropods (Cerithioidea: Pleuroceridae). Canadian Journal of Zoology. 92: 989-995. doi:10.1139/cjz-2014-0165. (pdf)

Benstead, J.P., J.M. Hood, N.V. Whelan, M.R. Kendrick, D. Nelson, A.F. Hanninen, L.M. Demi. (2014) Dietary P-growth coupling across diverse fish taxa: a meta-analysis of experimental aquaculture studies. Ecology. 95: 2768-2777. doi:10.1890/13-1859.1. (pdf)

Johnson, P.D., A.E. Bogan, K.M. Brown, N.M. Burkhead, J.R. Cordeiro, J.T. Garner, P.D. Hartfield, D.A. Lepitzki, G.L. Mackie, E. Pip, T.A. Tarpley, J.S. Tiemann, N.V. Whelan, E.E. Strong. (2013) Conservation status of freshwater gastropods of Canada and the United States. Fisheries. 38: 247-282. doi:10.1080/03632415.2013.785396. (pdf)

Whelan N.V., P.D. Johnson, P.M. Harris. (2012) Rediscovery of Leptoxis compacta (Anthony, 1854) (Gastropoda: Cerithioidea: Pleuroceridae). PLoS One. 7:e42499. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0042499. (pdf)

Whelan, N.V., P.D. Johnson, P.M. Harris. (2012) Presence or absence of carinae between closely related populations of Leptoxis ampla (Anthony, 1854) (Gastropoda: Pleuroceridae) is not the result of ecophenotypic plasticity. Journal of Molluscan Studies. 78: 231-233. doi:10.1093/mollus/eys005. (pdf)

Whelan, N.V. (2011) Species tree inference in the age of genomics. Trends in Evolutionary Biology. 3:e5. doi:10.4081/eb.2011.e5. (pdf)

Whelan, N.V., A. Geneva, D.L. Graf. (2011) Molecular phylogenetic analysis of tropical freshwater mussels (Mollusca: Bivalvia: Unionoida) resolves the position of Coelatura and supports a monophyletic Unionidae. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution. 61:504-514. doi:10.1016/j.ympev.2011.07.016. (pdf)

E-mail me.

I'm always happy to answer questions about my research, freshwater conservation, or snails.