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Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History
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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

Tokita, Masayoshi, Yano, Wataru, James, Helen F. and Abzhanov, Arhat 2017. Cranial shape evolution in adaptive radiations of birds: comparative morphometrics of Darwin's finches and Hawaiian honeycreepers. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London. Series B, Biological Sciences, 372(1713) doi:10.1098/rstb.2015.0481

Ostrom, Peggy H., Wiley, Anne E., James, Helen F., Rossman, Sam, Walker, William A., Zipkin, Elise F. and Chikaraishi, Yoshito 2017. Broad-scale trophic shift in the pelagic North Pacific revealed by an oceanic seabird. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 284(1851) doi:10.1098/rspb.2016.2436

James, Helen F. 2017. Getting under the skin: A call for specimen-based research on the internal anatomy of birds. In: Webster, Michael S. (ed.), The Extended Specimen: Emerging Frontiers in Collections-Based Ornithological Research. Boca Raton, FL: Studies in Avian Biology, no. 50. CRC Press,() pp.11-22.

Wiley, Anne E., James, Helen F. and Ostrom, Peggy H. 2017. Emerging techniques and sampling strategies for museum-based stable isotope studies of avian ecology. In: Webster, Michael S. (ed.), The Extended Specimen: Emerging Frontiers in Collections-Based Ornithological Research.. Boca Raton, FL: Studies in Avian Biology, no. 50. CRC Press,() pp.89-109.

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

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

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

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

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.

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

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

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

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, 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., 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

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

Complete List of James' Publications and Downloadable PDFs

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