Michael Sanderson

Professor Emeritus
Mike Sanderson

Office Location: BSW 412
Lab Location: BSW 419


Positions and Education: 

  • 1989 - 1991  Alfred P. Sloan Foundation Postdoctoral Fellow, L. H. Bailey Hortorium, Cornell University. 
  • 1992 - 1992 (one semester)  Adjunct Assistant Professor, Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of Arizona. 
  • 1992 – 1995Assistant Professor, Department of Biology, University of Nevada, Reno. 
  • 1995 – 1997Assistant Professor, Section of Evolution and Ecology, University of California, Davis. 
  • 1997 – 2001Associate Professor, Section of Evolution and Ecology, University of California, Davis. 
  • 2001 – 2006Professor, Section of Evolution and Ecology, University of California, Davis 
  • 2005 – 2006Assistant Chair, Section of Evolution and Ecology, University of California, Davis 
  • 2006 –Professor, Dept. of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of Arizona 
  • B. S., 1982, (cum laude). Major: physics. University of Arizona.   
  • Ph. D., 1989, University of Arizona, Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology.  Title of dissertation: "Patterns of homoplasy in North American Astragalus L. (Fabaceae)."  Dissertation advisor: Michael J. Donoghue. 

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.

Selected Publications: 

  1. Sanderson, M. J., M. M. McMahon and M. Steel. 2011. Terraces in phylogenetic tree space. Science, 333:448-450. 
  2. Sanderson, M. J., M. M. McMahon, A. Stamatakis, D. Zwickl and M. Steel. 2015. Impacts of terraces on phylogenetic inference. Syst. Biol. 64:709-726. 
  3. Donoghue, M. J. and M. J. Sanderson. 2015. Confluence, synnovation, and depauperons in plant diversification. New Phytologist. 207:260-274. 
  4. Sanderson, M. J., Dario Copetti, Alberto Búrquez, Enriquena Bustamante, Joseph Charboneau, Luis Eguiarte, Sudhir Kumar, Hyun Oh Lee, Junki Lee, Michelle McMahon, Kelly Steele, Rod Wing, Tae-Jin Yang, Derrick Zwickl, and Martin F. Wojciechowski. 2015. Exceptional reduction of the plastid genome of saguaro cactus (Carnegiea gigantea): Loss of the ndh gene suite and inverted repeat Amer. J. Bot. 102:1115-1127. 
  5. Sanderson, M. J., Nicolae, M., and M. M. McMahon. 2017. Homology-aware phylogenomics at gigabase scales. Syst. Biol. In press.