The Sarah and Daniel Hrdy Visiting Fellowship in Conservation Biology at Harvard University

2018-2019 Hrdy Visiting Fellow, Mark J. Margres, Ph.D.

Mark J. Margres
Ph.D., Biology, Florida State University, Tallahassee, Florida
B.A., Biology, Bethany College, Lindsborg, Kansas


Mark MargresMark J. Margres is an evolutionary biologist with a focus on adaptation and conservation. His research addresses fundamental questions related to adaptation dynamics in two co-evolving systems: (1) Tasmanian devils and devil facial tumor disease, and (2) venomous snakes and their prey. Mark’s cancer work largely focuses on the genetic basis of adaptation in Tasmanian devils in response to devil facial tumor disease, a species-specific transmissible cancer that threatens the Tasmanian devil with extinction.Mark Margres with Bushmaster His work on rattlesnake venoms explores how migration and selection interact to lead to local adaptation, particularly in island populations. Overall, Mark seeks to understand the relationship between genetic and phenotypic complexity and how this relationship can bias the process of adaptation.

Mark’s research integrates field work, next-generation sequencing, and bioinformatics to connect genotype, phenotype, and ecology. His work has been published in top journals including Genetics, Molecular Biology and Evolution, Molecular Ecology, and Genome Biology and Evolution.

Mark J. Margres holding Tazmanian DevilAs a Hrdy fellow, Mark will focus on the Tasmanian devil-cancer system and determine how multiple mutations in a single tumor affect disease fitness and transmission. Mark will use genomic and transcriptomic datasets to identify the genetic basis of adaptive transmission phenotypes in the cancer as well as characterize the role multiple mutations and tumor heterogeneity play in affecting pathogen fitness. He hopes his work will ultimately lead to more robust predictions regarding cancer and pathogen evolution, which have direct biomedical and conservation implications. Emerging infectious diseases are now the sixth leading cause of species’ declines, and such diseases are expected to only increase as habitat alterations bring species whose niches do not normally overlap into close contact. Thus, predicting the emergence and transmission of infectious diseases has become an urgent priority for conservation and disease management, especially for species threatened with extinction by disease, including the Tasmanian devil.

About the Award

The Sarah and Daniel Hrdy Fellowship in Conservation Biology serves to support the study of conservation biology within the Faculty of Arts and Sciences at Harvard University. The fellowship is awarded to an individual who will engage in scientific study and work in the Department of Organismic and Evolutionary Biology. The fellowship commences with an annual lecture in conservation biology by the distinguished individual chosen for the fellowship from outside Harvard University. It is the hope of the benefactors that this fellowship will have a strong and transformative effect on the study of conservation biology at Harvard, from the undergraduate to the senior teaching level.

Past Recipients

Aaron C. Hartmann, 2017-2018
Onja Razafindratsima, 2016-2017
Francesca Cagnacci, 2015-2016
Joe Roman, 2014-2015
Helen James, 2011-2012
Per Palsbøll, 2010-2011
H. Bradley Shaffer, 2009-2010
Navjot Sodhi, 2008-2009
David Roberts, 2007-2008
Tamas Szekeley, 2006-2007
Amy Dunham, 2005-2006
Claus Wedekind, 2004-2005
Richard Frankham, 2003-2004
Andrew Torrance, 2002-2003
Zoe Cardon, 2002-2003
Manuel Lerdau, 2001-2002
Callum Roberts, 2000-2001
Matthew Hare, 1999-2000