Evolutionary geneticist Kevin G. McCracken has been named the inaugural Kushlan Chair in Waterbird Biology and Conservation at the University of Miami.

McCracken, currently a professor at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, will serve a dual appointment as associate professor in the Department of Biology at the College of Arts and Sciences and in the Division of Marine Biology and Fisheries at the Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences. He was selected via a months-long international search, and will be joining the UM faculty in January 2014.

McCracken has published more than 75 journal articles and has received grants from the National Science Foundation and Fulbright scholarships to study molecular mechanisms of hypoxia resistance in high-altitude waterbirds in the South American Andes. Hypoxia occurs when the body or a part of the body is deprived of oxygen supply, and it is the cause of “altitude sickness” in humans.

“Dr. McCracken’s appointment as the first Kushlan Chair in Waterbird Biology and Conservation marks a significant advancement in UM’s long-time leadership in ornithology and science in the tropics,” said Dean Leonidas G. Bachas of the College of Arts and Sciences. “His exemplary work on waterbirds complements our efforts in interdisciplinary science research.”

“The Kushlan Chair position provides a great opportunity for the Rosenstiel School to develop research and education programs in Waterbird Biology, an expertise the school lacked and is yet a very important aspect of the marine ecosystem,” said Dean Roni Avissar of the Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science. “We are excited that Dr. McCracken is joining our faculty.”

McCracken’s research interests lie at the intersection of population biology, genomics, and physiological genetics. He has also performed many other studies focusing on waterbirds as intercontinental carriers for pathogens like influenza and on the systematics of waterbirds including ducks and herons.

“I was drawn to the University of Miami by its reputation, proximity to my study sites in Latin America and history of tropical biology research in places like the Everglades, which abound with all kinds of different waterbird species,” McCracken said. “After fourteen years in the subarctic, my family and I are really looking forward to the adventure and geographical, cultural, and biological contrast of living in the subtropics in one of the worlds’ most dynamic and greatest cities.”

The Kushlan Chair in Waterbird Biology and Conservation was established in 2012 through a generous endowment from three-time University of Miami alumnus Dr. James A. Kushlan, during the University’s Momentum2 campaign. Dr. Kushlan is a writer, scientist, educator, and conservationist. He is recognized for his expertise in the biology and conservation of waterbirds and wetlands and in the strategic management of not-for-profit conservation and educational organizations. Dr. Kushlan serves as co-chair for the College of Arts and Sciences Momentum2 campaign and as member of the college’s visiting committee. He also serves on the boards of the Everglades Foundation, Zoo Miami Zoological Society of Florida, History Miami, and Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden.