My lab is broadly interested in relationships among organisms, the evolutionary processes that generate biodiversity, and how environmental change influences genetic patterns.Much of our work empahsizes freshwater conservation with a focus on mollusks.This is Nathan's personal website. Visit my lab's USFWS website here.
Freshwater mollusks are the lab's primary study organisms. One reason we study mollusks is to enhance conservation efforts. The health of many freshwater ecosystems, and therefore much of society, rely on freshwater snails and mussels. Unfortunately, over 75% of freshwater mussels and snails are at risk of extinction, and the greatest barrier to effective conservation is a lack of knowledge. We use phylogenetics and conservation genomics to better understand freshwater mollusks.
My lab seeks to understand the patterns and processes that have contributed to animal diversification. Our primary study organisms are invertebrates. We have a number of ongoing projects on phylogenomics of freshwater mollusks and conservation genomics of animals ranging from freshwater snails to sturgeon. We are also interested in evolution of gene families, particulary those involved with invertebrate adaptation to freshwater environments.
A consequence of species decline is often a decline in population-level genetic diversity. Our research aims to understand how conservation efforts can maintain or increase genetic diversity of managed populations and species. We also seek to better understand the molecular ecology of threatened and endangered species. For this research, our lab collaborates with landowners and hatcheries. We also spend time in the field sampling at-risk, threatened, and endangered species, with a focus on rivers in the southeastern United States.
Modern genetics research requires a considerable amount of computational biology. Part of my lab's research includes designing new bioinformatics pipelines for evolutionary biology research. We also study the performance of different phylogenetic methods in an effort to determine which models and methods can provide the most accurate inferences about organismal relationships.
Swingle Hall, Auburn University, September 2022
Lab Director and Principal Investigator
CV available here.
Conservation genomics and hatchery program evaluation.
Evolution and Systematics of Molluscs.
Population and Conservation Genomics of Brook Floater
Former USFWS Directorate Fellow and undergraduate researcher.
Conservation genomics and genetics management of Alabama Pearlshell
Conservation genomics and genetic management of aquatic organisms.
Evolution of life history behaviors and shell shape in freshwater gastropods.
Conservation genomics of freshwater mussels. Visit Nicole's website here.
Undergraduate Researcher (2019 REU Student)
Conservation genomics of Leptoxis compacta.
Gomes-dos-Santos. A, E. Froufe, J. Pfeiffer, N. Johnson, C. Smith, A.M. Machado, L.F.C. Castro, V. Tu Do, A. Hattori, N. Garrison, N.V. Whelan, I.N. Bolotov, I.V. Vikhrev, A.V. Kondakov, M. Ghamizi, V. Prié, A.E. Bogan, M. Lopes Lima. (2023) A Novel assembly pipeline and functional annotations for targeted sequencing: a case study on the globally threatened Margaritiferidae (Bivalvia: Unionida). Molecular Ecology Resources. 23: 1403-1422.. DOI: 10.1111/1755-0998.13802
Whelan. N.V., E.E. Strong, N.S Gladstone, J.W. Mays. (2023) Using genomics, morphometrics, and environmental niche modeling to test the validity of a narrow-range endemic snail. ZooKeys. 1158: 91-120.. DOI: 10.3897/zookeys.1158.94152
Whelan. N.V., N.A. Johnson, A.S. Williams, M.A. Perkins, C.E. Beaver, J.W. Mays. (2023) Hidden in the hills: phylogeny of the freshwater mussel genus Alasmidonta (Bivalvia: Unionidae) and description of a new species. Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society. 198: 650-676.. DOI: 10.1093/zoolinnean/zlac106
Whelan. N.V., K.M. Halanych. (2023) Available data do not rule out Ctenophora as the sister group to all other Metazoa. Nature Communications. 14: 711.. DOI: 0.1038/s41467-023-36151-6
Strong, E.E., J.T. Garner, P.D. Johnson, N.V. Whelan. (2022) A systematic revision of the genus Juga from the freshwaters of the Pacific Northwest, USA (Cerithioidea, Semisulcospiridae). European Journal of Taxonomy. 848: 1-97.. DOI: 10.5852/ejt.2022.848.1993
Gladstone, N.S., N.L. Garrison, T. Lane, P.D. Johnson, J.T. Garner, N.V. Whelan. (2022) Population genomics reveal low differentiation and complex demographic histories in a highly fragmented and endangered freshwater mussel. Aquatic Conservation: Marine and Freshwater Ecosystems. 32: 1235-1248.. DOI: 10.1002/aqc.3849
Whelan, N.V., P.D. Johnson, J.T. Garner, N.L. Garrison⁑, E.E. Strong. (2022) Prodigious polyphyly in Pleuroceridae (Gastropoda: Cerithioidea). Bulletin of the Society of Systematic Biologists. 1: 8419.. DOI: 10.18061/bssb.v1i2.8419
Gladstone, N.S., M.L. Niemiller, B. Hutchins, B. Schwartz, A. Czaja, M.E. Slay, N.V. Whelan (2022) Subterranean freshwater gastropod biodiversity and conservation in the United States and Canada. Conservation Biology. 36: e13722.. DOI: 10.1111/cobi.13722
Gladstone, N.S., N.V. Whelan (2022) Pushing barcodes to their limits: phylogenetic placement of Fontigens Pilsbry, 1933 (Caenogastropoda: Littorinimorpha: Truncatelloidea) and elevation of Fontigentidae Taylor, 1966. Journal of Molluscan Studies. 88: eyab038.. DOI: 10.1093/mollus/eyab038
Whelan, N.V. (2021) Phenotypic plasticity and the endless forms of freshwater gastropod shells. Freshwater Mollusk Biology and Conservation. IN PRESS.
Garrison, N.L., P.D. Johnson, N.V. Whelan. (2021) Conservation genomics reveals low genetic diversity and multiple parentage in the threatened freshwater mussel, Margaritifera hembeli. Conservation Genetics. 22: 217-231. DOI: 10.1007/s10592-020-01329-8
Dutton, H.R., L.H. Du Preez, O. Verneau, N.V. Whelan, S.A. Bullard. (2021) First record of a polystome from the from the alligator snapping turtle, Macrochelys temminckii (Cryptodira: Chelydridae) or Mississippi; with comments on “Neopolystoma orbiculare (Stunkard, 1916)” and its junior system synonyms. Journal of Parasitology. 107: 74-78. DOI: 10.1645/20-96
Whelan, N.V., E.E. Strong. (2021) Genetic diversity and historical demography in Bellamya gastropods from the Lake Victoria ecoregion reveal early and severe population collapse. Molecular Ecology. 39: 361-363. DOI: 10.1111/mec.15711
Ksepka, S.P., B. Hickson, N.V. Whelan, S.A. Bullard. (2020) A new species of Myxobolus Bütschli, 1882 (Bivalvulida: Myxobolidae) infecting stratum spongiosum of the cryptic Sicklefin Redhorse, Moxostoma sp., (Cypriniformes: Catostomidae) from the Little Tennessee River, North Carolina, USA. Folia Parasitologica. 67: 030. DOI: 10.14411/fp.2020.030
Roop, H.J., N.V. Whelan, A.S. Williams, J. Page. (2020) First record of occurrence and genetic characterization of a population of Northern Snakehead Channa argus (Cantor 1842) in Georgia, USA. BioInvasions Records 842-852. DOI: 10.3391/bir.2020.9.4.18
Townsend, J.P., M.G. Tassia, A. Damian-Serrano, N.V. Whelan, K.M. Halanych, A.M. Sweeny. (2020) A mesopelagic ctenophore representing a new family, with notes on family-level taxonomy in Ctenophora: Vampyroctena delmarvensis gen. nov. sp. nov. (Vampyroctenidae, fam. nov.). Marine Biodiversity. 50: 34. DOI: 10.1007/s12526-020-01049-9 (PDF)
Kspeka, S.P., N.V. Whelan, C.M. Whipps, S.A. Bullard. (2020) A new species of Thelohanellus Kudo, 1933 (Myxozoa: Bilvalvulida) infecting skeletal muscle of Blacktail Shiner, Cyprinella venusta Girard, 1856 (Cypriniformes: Cyprinidae) in the Chattahoochee River Basin, Georgia. Journal of Parasitology. 106: 350-359. DOI: 10.1645/19-162
Ksepka, S.P., J.M Rash, N.V. Whelan, S.A. Bullard. (2019) A new species of Myxobolus (Myxozoa: Bivalvulida) infecting the medulla oblongata and nerve cord of brook trout Salvelinus fontinalis in southern Appalachia (New River, North Carolina, USA). Parasitology Resarch. 118: 3241-3252.DOI: 10.1007/s00436-019-06472-x (PDF)
Bullard, S.A., J.R. Roberts, M.B. Warren, H.R. Dutton, N.V. Whelan, C.F. Ruiz, T.R. Platt, V.V. Tkach, S.V. Brant, K.M. Halanych. (2019) Neotropical turtle blood flukes: two new genera and species from the Amazon River basin with a kay to genera and comments on a marine-derived parasite lineage in South America. Journal of Parasitology. 105: 497-523.DOI: 10.1645/19-27 (PDF)
Warren, M.B., C.F. Ruiz, N.V. Whelan, D.C. Kritsky, S.A. Bullard. (2019) Gymnurahemecus bulbosus gen. et sp. nov. (Digenea: Aporocotylidae) infecting smooth butterfly rays, Gymnura micrura (Myliobatiformes: Gymnuridae) in the northern Gulf of Mexico, with a taxonomic key and further evidence for monophyly of chondrichthyan blood flukes. Parasitology Research. 118: 751-762. DOI: 10.1007/s00436-018-06202-9 (PDF)
Whelan, N.V., K.M. Kocot, T.P. Moroz, K. Mukherjee, P. Williams, G. Paulay, L.L. Moroz, K.M. Halanych. (2017) Ctenophore relationships and their placement as the sister group to all other animals. Nature Ecology and Evolution. 1: 1737-1746. PDF
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.
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., 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)