Dr. Michael Sanderson

Positions and Education: 
  • 2006-present Professor, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of Arizona
  • 2001-2006 Professor, Section of Evolution and Ecology, University of California, Davis
  • 1997-2001 Associate Professor, Section of Evolution and Ecology, University of California, Davis
  • 1995-1997 Assistant Professor, Section of Evolution and Ecology, University of California, Davis
  • 1992-1995 Assistant Professor, Department of Biology, University of Nevada, Reno
  • 1989-1991 Alfred P. Sloan Foundation Postdoctoral Fellow, L. H. Bailey Hortorium, Cornell University
  • 1989 Ph.D., Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of Arizona
  • 1982 B.S., (cum laude) University of Arizona
Research Interests: 

Much of my research is aimed at developing algorithms and software for assembling data from the large sequences databases for the purpose of building comprehensive phylogenetic trees. GenBank, for example, presently archives data on over 165,000 species, a sizable fraction of all described biodiversity. My lab is currently funded through two NSF AToL (Assembling the Tree of Life) grants to develop tools and techniques for acquiring sequence data and assembling it in a pre-processing pipeline upstream of phylogenetic inference proper. We are collaborating with computer scientists and other phylogeneticists to develop algorithms and test them primarily on plant phylogenetic and genomic data sets. These datasets range from taxonomically broad collections across sizeable parts of the tree of life to genome scale EST data sets and BAC-end sequence data sets (in collaboration with the OMAP rice genomics project) on smaller groups of taxa. Analysis of data at these extremes requires novel phylogenetic inference methods such as supertree construction, another active area of research in our group. Having completed some initial work on supertree methods, we and our math and computer science collaborators are now looking at problems associated with defining optimal inputs for supertree construction, and developing methods for estimating their confidence limits. Finally, we have recently started working in the area of biodiversity informatics, developing methods for examining patterns of phylogenetic diversity in local floristic assemblages. This dovetails with the phylogenomic work in unexpected ways through the common currency of taxonomic names associated with the sequence data needed to build reliable phylogenetic histories.

Visit Mike Sanderson's website.

Selected Publications: 
  1. Scotland, R., and M. J. Sanderson. 2004. The significance of few versus many in the tree of life. Science, 303:643..
  2. Sanderson, M. J., J. L. Thorne, N. Wikstrom, and K. Bremer. 2004. Molecular evidence on plant divergence times. Amer. J. Bot., 91:1656-1665.
  3. Grotkopp, E., M. Rejmanek, M. J. Sanderson, and T. L. Rost. 2004. Evolution of genome size in pines (Pinus) and its life-history correlates: supertree analysis. Evolution, 58:1705-1729.
  4. Wojciechowski, M. F., M. Lavin, and M. J. Sanderson. 2004. A phylogeny of legumes (Leguminosae) based on the plastid matK gene resolves many well-supported subclades within the family. Amer. J. Bot., 91:1846-1862.
  5. Near, T. J., and M. J. Sanderson. 2004. Assessing the quality of molecular divergence time estimates by fossil calibrations and fossil-based model selection. Phil. Trans. R. Soc. London 359:1477-1483.
  6. Ané, C., and M. J. Sanderson. 2005. Missing the forest for the trees: phylogenetic compression and its implications for inferring complex evolutionary histories. Syst. Biol., 54:146-157.
  7. Ané, C., J. G. Burleigh, M. M. McMahon, and M. J. Sanderson. 2005. Covarion structure in plastid genome evolution: a new statistical test. Mol. Biol. Evol., 22:914-924.
  8. Driskell, A. C., C. Ané, J. G. Burleigh, M. M. McMahon, B. O'Meara, and M. J. Sanderson. 2004. Prospects for building the tree of life from large sequence databases. Science, 306:1172-1174.
  9. Magallon, S., and M. J. Sanderson. 2005. Angiosperm divergence times: the effects of genes, codon positions, and time constraints. Evolution, 59:1653-1670.
  10. O'Meara, B. C., M. J. Sanderson, P. C. Wainwright, and C. Ané. 2005. Testing for different rates of continuous character evolution using likelihood. Evolution 60:922-933.
  11. Scherson, R. A., H.-K. Choi, D. R. Cook, and M. J. Sanderson. 2005. Phylogenetics of New World Astragalus: screening of novel nuclear loci for the reconstruction of phylogenies at low taxonomic levels. Brittonia, 57: 354-366.
  12. Sanderson, M. J. 2006. Paloverde: an OpenGL 3-D phylogeny browser. Bioinformatics, 22:1004-1006.
  13. McMahon, M. M., and M. J. Sanderson. Phylogenetic Supermatrix Analysis of GenBank Sequences from 2228 Papilionoid Legumes. Systematic Biology, 55:818-836.
  14. Sanderson, M. J., C. Ané, O. Eulenstein, D. Fernández-Baca, J. Kim, M. M. McMahon, and R. Piaggio-Talice. 2007. Fragmentation of large data sets in phylogenetic analyses. Pp. 199-216 in (M. Steel and O. Gascuel) Reconstructing Evolution:New Mathematical and Computational Advances. Oxford University Press.
  15. Sanderson, M. J., and M. M. McMahon. 2007. Inferring angiosperm phylogeny from EST data with widespread gene duplication. BMC Evolutionary Biology, 7 (suppl. 1): S3.
  16. Sanderson, M. J. Construction and annotation of large phylogenetic trees. 2007. Australian Systematic Botany 4:287-301.
  17. Sanderson, M. J., M. F. Wojciechowski, M. M. McMahon, and M. Lavin.  Leguminosae.  Pp. xxx-xxx in K. de Queiroz, P. D. Cantino, and J. Gauthier (eds.), Phylonyms: a Companion to the PhyloCode.  University of California Press, Berkeley, CA. In press.

Contact Information

Lab Phone: 
(520) 626-8660
Office Phone: 
(520) 626-6848
Office Location: 
Lab Location: