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Dr. Sandel examines a very interesting rock

Michael W. Sandel

Assistant Professor of Zoology and Coordinator of Conservation Programs

​​Members of my research group are motivated to understand the diversification of aquatic animal life, with a focus on the evolution of teleost fishes. We use molecular phylogenetic systematics and related statistical methods to identify genomic signatures of natural selection and reproductive isolation within and among populations.  I encourage my students to apply comparative methods to the study of co-evolving lineages, such as mitochondrial and nuclear genomes, microbial symbionts and their hosts, and codistributed freshwater taxa. This information advances basic scientific understanding of biological complexity, which is an underappreciated natural resource. We use similar tools to study environmental DNA (eDNA) sequences, which provide estimates of diversity and relative abundance of species living in aquatic environments. This information enables state and federal agencies to make better decisions about how to manage threatened and endangered species. Our ultimate goal is to conserve freshwater biodiversity, because freshwater animals rank among the most imperiled species on the planet. In order to accomplish this goal, we highlight the societal benefits brought by healthy local aquatic ecosystems, especially those relating to human health.


  • Postdoctoral Training Certificate - Section on Statistical Genetics The University of Alabama at Birmingham 2014
  • Doctor of Philosophy - Biological Sciences The University of Alabama 2012
  • Bachelor of Science - Biological Sciences The Ohio State University 2004
  • Associate of Applied Science - Aerospace Technology The Community College of the Air Force 2003
  • Recent Publications

  • Complete mitochondrial genome sequences of five rockfishes (Perciformes: Sebastes) Mitochondrial DNA Part B 2018
  • Mitochondrial–nuclear genetic interaction modulates whole body metabolism, adiposity and gene expression in vivo EBioMedicine 2018
  • Complete Genome Sequences of Mycobacteriophages Kwksand96 and Cane17 Microbiology Resource Announcements 2018
  • Genome Sequence of a Newly Isolated F2 Subcluster Mycobacteriophage from the Black Belt Geological Region of Western Alabama Genome Announcements 2018
  • Complete mitochondrial genomes for Cottus asper, Cottus perifretum, and Cottus rhenanus (Perciformes, Cottidae) Mitochondrial DNA Part B 2017
  • Genome Sequence of Mycobacterium Phage CrystalP Genome Announcements 2017
  • Migration of mitochondrial DNA in the nuclear genome of colorectal adenocarcinoma. Genome Medicine 2017
  • Complete mitochondrial genomes of Baikal oilfishes (Perciformes: Cottoidei), earth’s deepest-swimming freshwater fishes Mitochondrial DNA Part B 2017
  • An inclusive Research Education Community (iREC): Impact of the SEA-PHAGES program on research outcomes and student learning Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 2017
  • Interspecific relationships and the evolution of sexual dimorphism in pygmy sunfishes (Centrarchidae: Elassoma) Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 2014
  • Aging and energetics' 'Top 40' future research opportunities 2010-2013 F1000Research 2014
  • A method for assessing mitochondrial bioenergetics in whole white adipose tissues Redox Biology 2014
  • Catostomidae (book chapter) Freshwater Fishes of North America: Volume 1: Petromyzontidae to Catostomidae. 2014
  • Paleoclimatic modeling and phylogeography of least killifish, Heterandria formosa: Insights into Pleistocene expansion-contraction dynamics and evolutionary history of North American Coastal Plain freshwater biota BMC Evolutionary Biology 2013
  • The Utility of Mitochondrial and Y Chromosome Phylogenetic Data to Improve Correction for Population Stratification Frontiers in Genetics 2012
  • Nuclear gene-inferred phylogenies resolve the relationships of the enigmatic Pygmy Sunfishes, Elassoma (Teleostei: Percomorpha) Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 2012
  • Elassoma alabamae - The desperate dozen: southeastern freshwater fishes on the brink Southeastern Fishes Council Proceedings 2009
  • Threatened fishes of the world: Elassoma okatie (Rohde and Arndt 1987) Environmental Biology of Fishes 2007
  • Threatened fishes of the world: Elassoma boehlkei (Rohde and Arndt 1987) Environmental Biology of Fishes 2007