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Mary Katherine Gonder

Mary Katherine Gonder, PhD

Director, Bioko Biodiversity Protection Program
Co-Founder, Central African Biodiversity Alliance
Associate Professor
Department of Biology


  • BA, Magna Cum Laude, University of Alabama at Birmingham
  • PhD, Graduate School of the City University of New York
  • Post-Doctoral Research Fellowship, National Institutes of Health
  • Post-Doctoral Research Associate, University of Maryland

Research Interests:

The rainforests of the Gulf of Guinea and Congo Basin are located in western equatorial Africa. These rainforests are among the most important centers of biological diversity in the world, harboring roughly 20% of all known species of plants and animals. Research in Professor Gonder’s group is focused on examining the history of this biologically-rich region with the specific goals of: (i) deciphering spatial patterns of biodiversity across the region; (ii) inferring the underlying evolutionary and ecological processes that generate the region’s rich biodiversity; and (iii) using this knowledge to help inform conservation strategies in western equatorial Africa which recognize and integrate evolutionary patterns and the natural processes that produced them.

Members of Professor Gonder’s group are currently pursing research in a range of tropical organisms, with the explicit aim of improving biodiversity prediction and conservation in central Africa. The research also includes both laboratory analysis in the U.S. and fieldwork in western equatorial Africa, primarily in Cameroon, Gabon, Equatorial Guinea, and Nigeria. The research program also incorporates data from diverse fields, including population genetics, genomics, phylogeography, geospatial modeling, virology, and conservation science. Research in her group is highly collaborative, and occurs within a diverse, international network that includes academic researchers, conservation professionals and decision-makers.

An additional focus area is to promote multi-institutional capacity building activities that will boost biodiversity research and conservation efforts in western equatorial Africa, a region undergoing rapid climatic change and socioeconomic transformation. Laboratory members have contributed to several activities ranging from primary research, educational outreach and conservation action planning. Notably, Professor Gonder is a principal investigator on a bold research and educational program unites more than 150 researchers and students from the U.S., Africa and Europe around an innovative research project that seeks to identify meaningful conservation measures to mitigate the effects of habitat loss and climate change in western equatorial Africa.


Genomics, evolutionary processes, tropical biodiversity, conservation science, educational capacity building

Selected Publications:

  • Long-term urban market dynamics reveal increased bushmeat carcass volume despite economic growth and proactive environmental legislation on Bioko Island, Equatorial Guinea. D.T. Cronin, S. Woloszynek; W.A. Morra; S. Honarvar; J.M. Linder; M.K. Gonder; M.P. O'Connor; G.W. Hearn PLoS ONE 10(7): e0134464.
  • The population genetics of wild chimpanzees in Cameroon and Nigeria suggests a positive role for selection in the evolution of chimpanzee subspecies. M.W. Mitchell, S. Locatelli, L. Ghobrial, A.A. Pokempner, P.R. Sesink Clee, E.E. Abwe, A. Nicolas, L. Nkembi, N.M. Anthony, B.J. Morgan, R. Fotso, M. Peeters, B.H. Hahn and M.K. Gonder, BMC Evolutionary Biology 15:3. (DOI 10.1186/s12862-014-0276-y).
  • Chimpanzee population genetic structure in Cameroon and Nigeria is associated with habitat variation that may be lost under climate change. P.R. Sesink Clee, E.E. Abwe, R.D. Ambahe, N.M. Anthony, R. Fotso, S. Locatelli, F. Maisels, M.W. Mitchell, B.J. Morgan, A.A. Pokempner and M.K. Gonder, BMC Evolutionary Biology 15:2. (DOI 10.1186/s12862-014-0275-z)
  • Environmental variation and rivers govern the structure of chimpanzee genetic diversity in a biodiversity hotspot. M.W. Mitchell, S. Locatelli, P.R. Sesink Clee, H.A. Thomassen and M.K. Gonder, BMC Evolutionary Biology 15:2. (DOI 10.1186/s12862-014-0274-0)
  • Great ape genome diversity. J. Prado-Martinez, P.H. Sudmant, J.M. Kid, H. Li, J.L. Kelley, B. Lorente-Galdos, K. Veeramah, A. Woerner, T.D. O'Connor, G. Santpere, A. Cagan, C.Theunert, F. Casals, H. Laayouni, K.Munch, A. Hobolth, A.E. Halager, M. Malig, J. Hernandez, I. Hernando-Herraez, K. Prüfer, M. Pybus, L. Johnstone, M. Lachmann, C. Alkan, D. Twigg, N. Petit, C. Baker, F. Hormozdiari, M.Fernandez-Callejo, M. Dabad, M.L. Wilson, L. Stevison, C.Camprubí, T. Carvalho, A. Ruiz- Herrera, L. Vives, M. Mele, T.Abello14, I. Kondova, R.E. Bontrop, A. Pusey, F. Lankester, J.A. Kiyang, R.A. Bergl, E. Lonsdorf, S. Myers21, M. Ventura, P. Gagneux, D. Comas, H. Siegismund, J. Blanc, L. Agueda-Calpena, M. Gut, L. Fulton, S.A. Tishkoff, J.C. Mullikin, R.K. Wilson, I.G. Gut, M.K. Gonder, O.A. Ryder, B.H. Hahn, A. Navarro, J.M. Akey, J. Bertranpetit, D.Reich, T. Mailund, M.H. Schierup, C. Hvilsom, A.M. Andrés, J.Wall, C.D. Bustamante, M. Hammer, E.E. Eichler, and T. Marques-Bonet. Nature. 2013, 499, 471-475 (DOI: 10.1038/nature12228).
  • Biodiversity and conservation genetics research in central Africa: New approaches and avenues for international collaboration. N. M. Anthony, P. Mickala, K.A. Abernethy, C. Atteke, P. Bissiengou, M.W. Bruford, F. Dallmeier, T. Decaëns, A. Dudu, A. Freedman, M. K. Gonder, O. Hardy, J. Hart, K. Jeffery, M. Johnson, F. K. Pambo, A. Ley, L. Korte, S. A. Lahm, M. Lee, J. Lowenstein, J.-F. Mboumba, D. N. Bourobou, A. Ngomanda, S. Ntie, D. Sebag, J. Sullivan, H. Vanthomme, V. Vergnes, E. Verheyen, and B. Zimkus. Conservation Genetics Resources, 2012 4(2): pp 523-525. (DOI: 10.1007/s12686-011-9554-9)
  • Evidence from Cameroon reveals differences in the genetic structure and history of chimpanzee populations. M.K. Gonder, S. Locatelli, L. Ghobrial, M. W. Mitchell, J. T. Kujawski, F. Lankester C.-B. Stewart and S. A. Tishkoff, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. 2011, 108, 4766-4771. Featured cover article. (DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1015422108).
  • Regional Action Plan for the Conservation of the Nigeria-Cameroon Chimpanzee (Pan troglodytes ellioti). B. Morgan, A. Adeleke, T. Bassey, R. Bergl, A. Dunn, R. Fotso, E. Gadsby, K. Gonder, E. Greengrass, D. Koulagna, G. Mbah, A. Nicholas, J. Oates, F. Omeni, Y. Saidu, V. Sommer, J. Sunderland-Groves, J. Tiebou, and L. Williamson. 2011, IUCN--The World Conservation Union. Denotes primary authors. (
  • Origin of the human malaria parasite Plasmodium falciparum in western gorillas (Gorilla gorilla). W. Liu, Y. Li, G. H. Learn, R.S. Rudicell, J.D. Robertson, J-B. N. Ndjango, C.M. Sanz, D.B. Morgan, S. Locatelli, M.K. Gonder, P.J. Kranzusch, P.D. Walsh, E. Delaporte, E. Mpoudi-Ngolle, A.V. Georgiev, M.N. Muller, G.M. Shaw, M. Peeters, P.M. Sharp, J.C. Rayner, and B.H. Hahn. Nature, 2010, 467, 420-425. Featured cover article. (DOI:10.1038/467404a).
  • Tracing the origins of rescued chimpanzees reveals widespread chimpanzee hunting in Cameroon. L. Ghobrial, F. Lankester, J.A. Kiyang, A.E. Akih, S. deVries, R. Fotso, E.L. Gadsby, P.D. Jenkins, Jr. and M.K. Gonder, BMC Ecology, 2010 (2). Received ‘highly accessed’ label. (DOI:10.1186/1472-6785-10-2).
  • Whole mtDNA genome sequence analysis of ancient African lineages. M.K. Gonder, H.M. Mortensen, F.A. Reed, A. de Sousa, and S.A. Tishkoff, Molecular Biology and Evolution, vol. 24, 2007, 757-768 (DOI: 10.1093/molbev/msl209).
  • A new west African chimpanzee subspecies? M.K. Gonder, J.F. Oates, T.R. Disotell, M. Forstner, J.C. Morales and D.J. Melnick. Nature, vol. 388, 1997, p.337 (DOI:10.1038/41005).