John Niedzwiecki

John Niedzwiecki

Professor, Biology

College of Sciences & Mathematics

Ph.D. in Biology, University of Kentucky - Specialization: Population Genetics, Behavioral Ecology and Evolutionary Biology - Research Interest: Evolution and Behavioral Ecology

Location: Janet Ayers Academic Center 3009



I am primarily interested in population genetics, evolutionary biology and behavioral ecology. Most recently I have worked on the migration of Darwin's Finches between islands in the Galapagos, investigating connections with ecology as well as the evolutionary consequences of migration, as a postdoctoral research fellow at the University of Cincinnati. For my dissertation work at the University of Kentucky, I worked extensively with ambystomatid (mole) salamanders in the South and Midwest... including salamanders from nearby Murfreesboro, TN!  My research showed that these salamanders were evolutionarily distinct from their relatives in Kentucky and central Ohio. I have worked with other researchers to assess the status of these salamanders in Tennessee.

Belmont students who do research in my lab, tend to work either with Molecular Genetics or Behavioral Ecology. Most projects have been centered on Ambystomatid salamanders, but we branch out into other organisms if they are suitable to answer an ecological question. Some sample projects from past student projects include:

  • Does fish predation lessen asymmetric intra-specific competition in salamander larvae?
  • Can we use macroinvertebrate diversity to identify potential breeding streams for Ambystoma barbouri in central Tennessee?
  • Is the behavioral reaction of Ambystoma barbouri correlated with the relatedness of fish to its primary predator?
  • Constructing a multi-gene phylogeny of the family Ambystomatidae (in collaboration with Dr. Dave Weisrock at the University of Kentucky)

I enjoy working with students to develop projects investigating basic ecological and evolutionary theory as well as those that may aid in the conservation of local species. At Belmont I teach Genetics and Animal Behavior for Biology majors, and will be teaching a field techniques course for Environmental Science and Field Biology students in Spring 2011. My non- majors' courses often have themes centered on Ecology, Genetics and Behavior.

Growing up in eastern Pennsylvania, I have always been interested in outdoor pursuits and the natural world.  Since my dad took me backpacking on the Appalachian Trail near my house when I was 7, I have enjoyed hiking and backpacking, as well as climbing, SCUBA diving, and canoeing. I attended Shippensburg University, graduating with a B.S. in Biology. During those years I spent my summers either at biology field stations or as a counselor for the nature/ ecology program at a Cub Scout camp. In college, I was most fascinated by classes in ecology and evolution and have pursued these interests ever since.

I live in East Nashville with my wife Dr. Meg Streams, a Public Policy Professor at TSU, our two cats, dog and her cat (because us having three cats would be ridiculous!).  We enjoy living in Nashville and the outdoor experiences central Tennessee has to offer.