Curator of Vertebrate Zoology
Dr. Dan Brooks joined the Museum staff full-time in 1999.
Current Service Credentials / Honors
Current Research Projects / Interests:
What collections you are responsible for?
Why did you decide to work in a Museum?
What is your favorite specimen, and why? Is it on exhibit?
I oversee all of the Vertebrates specimens (animals with backbones) in the Museum including the offsite Collections of primarily birds and mammals. Occasionally I will create temporary exhibits, some of which have traveled such as “Cracids: on Wings of Peril.” I also provide tours, training, and content for Exhibits relating to Vertebrate Zoology. For example, in 2000, we renovated signage in the Farish Hall of Texas Wildlife, and the Frensley/Graham Hall of African Wildlife was completely re-done ground up 2001–04.
The Museum’s Vertebrate Zoology collection contains approximately 5000 specimens. Birds represent approximately 65% of the collection, and mammals approximately 30%, with herps and fish being represented to a lesser extent. The Texas coastal bend region is the major part of the collection, with other holdings including Africa, Latin America, Threatened and Endangered species, and select taxonomic groups (pigeons/doves and gamebirds). A constant effort is made to encourage and facilitate the use of the collections for research by students, scholars and interested scientists.
My fascination with critters began at a very young age, when my father and I kept exotic gamebirds as a hobby. My mother was very good about keeping me cultured though, enrolling me in Nature classes at HMNS and other places when I was a kid, and later taking me to visit larger museums in the northeast when we were visiting family or vacationing. It was during one of these visits, that I recall being completely overwhelmed at the mount of a Dodo bird – how did they recreate something that was extinct? I was extremely fascinated with extinction, birds and Endangered species at the time (I was in my teens)... But I think my actual decision to work in a museum was influenced by the mentors who actually trained me. I was in awe of these personal heroes, and wanted to be like them; most of them still walk among us, others have passed on, but what they have collectively provided me with is hardly forgotten. They include: Dean Amadon, Keith Arnold, Richard Bodmer, John Eisenberg, Knox Jones, Nancy Crocker-Mulligan, Stuart Strahl, and Richard Strauss.
The Okapi (Okapia johnstoni, HMNS VM 505) mount in the African Wildlife Hall is among my favorite of specimens in the museum for many reasons. First and foremost, they are rather rare in terms of animals on display. However, everything the Okapi represents, from exploration to history to conservation of rare species, is a fascinating story in itself.
At a time when most of Africa seemed more alien to explorers than distant planets are today, Dr. David Livingstone, a young Scot of humble means, marched into the heart of darkness, hoping to help Africa’s people. Livingstone’s writings lifted the shroud of mystery from Africa and invigorated the anti-slavery crusade. When Livingstone had not been heard from for several years, his absence had become a matter of international concern. It was then that the New York Herald dispatched their explorer-journalist Henry Stanley in 1869 to search for Livingstone. Stanley finally found Livingstone in November 1871 in a small southeast African town, and greeted Livingstone with the famous quote, which is still know today, "Dr. Livingstone, I presume”.
Part of Stanley’s journey took him through the deep, dark Congo Basin, where some historians believe he was the first explorer to witness the rare Okapi. Stanley was surprised by the Wambutti pygmies’ indifference to the animal, explaining they sometimes caught a similar animal in their traps.
Meanwhile, in England, rumors of the strange jungle beast reached the ears of Philip Lutley Sclater, Secretary of the Zoological Society of London at the time. In 1899, Sclater set out to search for the Okapi, as part of a Cecil Rhodes-British Government team led by Sir Harry H. Johnston. After talking to the local people, Sclater assumed the strange animal must be a forest-dwelling zebra. Johnston later provided Sclater with two pieces of Okapi skin bearing stripes, supporting the theory that the Okapi was a zebra, but he couldn’t explain the strange, two-toed tracks he found because zebras walk on just one toe. Sclater thought the tracks had been made by another animal, perhaps an antelope. The mystery was solved when an okapi skull was discovered - it was a type of forest giraffe.
Johnston was actually the first explorer to view a live Okapi, and it was named for him, Okapia johnstoni, although the animal was not viewed in a European Zoo until 1918. Nonetheless, the discovery of the Okapi in 1900 created such excitement to foreign scientists that the American Museum of Natural History sent Herbert Lang and James Chapin to explore the region from 1909 – 1915, with subsequent expeditions following.
Ph.D. in Wildlife and Fish. Science, Texas A&M University (12/98) – Magna Cum Laude
Dissertation title: “Competition and coexistence in Neotropical birds: a latitudinal comparison” - Keith Arnold, Dissertation Chair
M.Sc. in Biology, Texas Tech University (5/93) - Sigma-Xi
Thesis title: "Distribution, habitat association, and factors determining assemblage composition of mammals in the Paraguayan Chaco" - Richard Strauss, Thesis Chair
B.S. in Zoology, State Univ. of New York at Oswego (5/89) - OCSA Honors
2008-current Research Associate, National Science Research Laboratories(NSRL)
2003-current Committee Member, Assoc. of Field Ornithologists Bergstrom Award
2001-current Coordinator, AFO/AOU Editorial Assistance Program
My research interests cover a number of topics and taxa. I am particularly interested in community ecology, as well as natural history and conservation of Neotropical birds and mammals in lowland regions east of the South American Andes, View a map of the regions I have worked. (-especially the Peruvian Amazon, Paraguayan Chaco, and eastern Bolivian panhandle).
Specific activities I’m currently involved in include, but are not limited to:
1984-cur Natural history, ecology and evolution of Texas Vertebrates
1989-90 Distribution and status of large mammals and birds in the Southern Cone
1989-98 Vertebrate studies in the Paraguayan Chaco
1989-05 Natural history and ecology of Middle American / Caribbean vertebrates
1993-cur Ecology, evolution and conservation of vertebrates in Amazonian Peru
1996-cur Ecology, biogeography and conservation of Amazonian gamebirds
1999-cur Mammalian ecology, taxonomy, behavior and conservation in Santa Cruz, Bolivia
2000-cur Ecology, evolution, harvest and conservation of Neotropical Gamebirds
2001-cur Natural history, taxonomy and ecology of Vertebrates in Sub-Saharan Africa
2006-cur Dispersal patterns of invasive birds in Texas
2008-cur Biogeography and geographic variation in Philipine birds
2010-cur Island biogeography and community ecology of Texas waterfowl
Associates and Curatorial Interns
2010-cur: Janelle Mikulas - Preparator
2010-cur: Eleanor Stoddart - Preparator and Cataloger
2012-cur Alyssa Conn - GIS Guru, Data entry and anaysis
2011-cur: Adrian Castellanos - Mammalogy Intern
Gone but not forgotten!
Mark Bersche (2002-4)
Miranda Ganguly (2009-11)
Molly Hageman (2008-10)
Martha Magee (2004-8)
Raoel Sheikh (2008-11)
Tim McSweeny (2008-10)
Hayley Harrison (2011-2012)
Tiffany McElweenie (2012)
Students advised (External Committee Member or Co-Chair)
2011-cur.: Juan Carlos Diaz (Rice University) Testing models of adaptive trait evolution: a case study of pelage color in invasive rodents
2008-cur: Liz Siles (Texas Tech Univ.) Ecology, biogeography and systematics of Bolivian bats (Chiroptera)
2005-cur: Laura Cancino (Kent Univ., OH) Population genetics of the White-winged Guan (Penelope albipennis)
2005-cur: Kim Dingess (Indiana Univ., Indianapolis, IN) Vocal communication of the Dusky Titi Monkey (Callicebus donacophilus)
2004-08: Nico Dauphiné (Univ. Georgia, Athens, GA) Bird Conservation in the Cordillera de Colán, Northern Peru
2003-05: Lark Coffey (Univ. Texas Medical Branch - Galveston) The Cotton Rat (Sigmodon hispidus) as a vector of Venezuelan Encephalitic Virus.
2009-11: Lucien Bouffard (Yale School of Forestry) The role of the White-winged Guan (Penelope albipennis) in forest regeneration
2008-09: Laura Luna Maira (Univ. of Life Science, Norway) Conservation of the Endangered Wattled Curassow (Crax globulosa) in the lower Caqueta River, Colombia
2008-09: Victor Setina (Univ. Pamplona, Colombia) Population density of the Helmeted Curassow (Pauxi pauxi) Tama Natural National Park, Colombia
2005-07: Miguel Moreno (Univ. Tolima, Colombia) Habitat use and phenology of plants consumed by the Blue-billed Curassow (Crax alberti) in the Reserva Natural El Paujil, Serrania de las Quinchas, Colombia.
2000-07: Erick Baur (Univ. Florida, Gainesville, FL) Resource use by sympatric Galliforme species and the impacts of human disturbance in a lowland tropical forest.
2000-06: Jose Manual Rojas (Univ. Gabriel Moreno, Santa Cruz, Bolivia) The small mammal community of Bolivia’s Chiquitano Valley, with analysis of biogeographic relationships.
1998-99: Ana Mamani-F. (Univ. Gabriel Moreno, Santa Cruz, Bolivia) Natural history, population density and hunting patterns of Chaco Chachalacas (Ortalis canicollis) in Izozog, Santa Cruz, Bolivia.
2003: Heather Daniel (League City ISD) Community ecology of doves in residential areas of the upper Texas coast.
2002-07: Carlos Delgado (Univ. Antioquia, Medellín, Colombia) The small mammal community of Antioquia region.
2000: Daniella Muallem (Rice University) Effects of channelization upon abundance and diversity of water dependent birds in Houston Bayous.
1996: Claudia Garcia (University of Houston - Downtown) A phylogenetic assessment of Crax (Aves, Cracidae) using behavioral and ecological characters.
Brooks, D.M., L. Cancino and S.L. Pereira. 2006. Conserving Cracids: the most Threatened Family of Birds in the Americas. Misc. Publ. Houston Mus. Nat. Sci. No. 6, Houston, TX.
Brooks, D.M., and F. Gonzalez-F. 2001. Biology and Conservation of Cracids in the New Millenium. Misc. Publ. Houston Mus. Nat. Sci. No. 2, Houston, TX.
Brooks, D.M. and S.D. Strahl. 2000. Cracids: Status Survey and Conservation Action Plan. IUCN, Gland, Switzerland.
Brooks, D.M. F. Olmos and A.J. Begazo. 1999. Biology and Conservation of the Piping Guans (Pipile). Spec. Monogr. Ser. CSG 1.
Strahl, S.D., S. Beaujon, D.M. Brooks, A.J. Begazo, G. Sedaghatkish, and F. Olmos (Eds.). 1997. The Cracidae: their Biology and Conservation. Hancock House Publishers, WA. xvii + 506 pp.
Brooks, D.M., R.E. Bodmer and S. Matola (Eds.). 1997. Tapirs: Status Survey and Conservation Action Plan. IUCN, Gland, Switzerland. vii + 164 pp.
Selected Book Chapters
Brooks, D.M. 2002. Curassows, Guans and Chachalacas. Pp. 413-424. In: Grzimek’s Animal Life Encyclopedia, 2nd Ed., Vol. 8, Birds I (M. Hutchins, J.A. Jackson, W.J. Bock and D. Olendorf, Eds.). Gale Group, Farmington Hills, MI.
--. 2002. Motmots. Pp. 31-38. In: Grzimek’s Animal Life Encyclopedia, 2nd Ed., Vol. 10, Birds III (M. Hutchins, J.A. Jackson, W.J. Bock and D. Olendorf, Eds.). Gale Group, Farmington Hills, MI.
--. 2002. Toucans. Pp. 125-136. In: Grzimek’s Animal Life Encyclopedia, 2nd Ed., Vol. 10, Birds III (M. Hutchins, J.A. Jackson, W.J. Bock and D. Olendorf, Eds.). Gale Group, Farmington Hills, MI.
--. 2002. Cotingas. Pp. 305-324. In: Grzimek’s Animal Life Encyclopedia, 2nd Ed., Vol. 10, Birds III (M. Hutchins, J.A. Jackson, W.J. Bock and D. Olendorf, Eds.). Gale Group, Farmington Hills, MI.
--. 2001. Chapter 1: Habitat conservation, biodiversity and wildlife natural history in northwestern Amazonia. Pp. 11-16 In: Under the Canopy: Myth and Reality in the Western and Northwestern Amazonian Basin (D.L. Beneke, Ed.). Fresno Art Museum, CA.
Brooks, D.M. and A.J. Begazo. 2001. Macaw density variation in the western Amazonian basin. Pp. 427-438 In: Avian Ecology and Conservation in an Urbanizing World (J.M. Marzluff, R. Bowman and R. Donnelly, Eds.). Kluwer Acad. Publ., Mass.
Brooks, D.M., L. Pando-V., A. Ocmin-P., and J. Tejada-R. 2001. Resource separation in a Napo-Amazonian gamebird community. Pp. 213-225 In: Biology and Conservation of Cracids in the New Millenium (D.M. Brooks and F. Gonzalez-F., Eds.). Misc. Publ. Houston Mus. Nat. Sci. No. 2, Houston, TX.
Brooks, D.M. and J.F. Eisenberg. 1999. Estado y biologia de los tapires neotropicales: perspectiva general. Spanish (Mexico) Pp. 409-413 In: Manejo y Conservacion de Fauna Silvestre en America Latina. (T.G. Fang, O.L. Montenegro, y R.E Bodmer, Eds.). Instituto de Ecologia, La Paz, Bolivia.
Brooks, D.M. 1999. Pipile as a protein source to rural hunters and Amerindians. Pp. 42-50 In: Biology and Conservation of the Piping Guans (Pipile) (D.M. Brooks, A.J. Begazo and F. Olmos, Eds.). Spec. Monogr. Spanish (Mexico) Ser. CSG 1. Spanish (Mexico)
Brooks, D.M. 1997. ¿Son la competencia, el tamaño y la superposición de dietas pronosticadores de la composición de Ramphastidae? Pp. 283 - 288 In: Manejo de Fauna Silvestre en la Amazonia. (T.G. Fang, R.E Bodmer, R. Aquino, y M. Valqui, Eds.).
Bodmer, R.E. and D.M. Brooks. 1997. Status and action plan of the lowland tapir (Tapirus terrestris). Pp. 46-56 In: Tapirs: Status Survey and Conservation Action Plan (Brooks, D.M., R.E. Bodmer and S. Matola, Eds.). IUCN, Gland, Switzerland. (Spanish and Portuguese versions In: pp. 107-117 and 134-144, respectively).
Garcia, C. and D.M. Brooks. 1997. Evolution of Crax sociobiology and phylogeny using behavioral and ecological characters. Pp. 401-410 In: Cracidae: their Biology and Conservation. (S.D. Strahl, S. Beaujon, D.M. Brooks, A. Begazo, G. Sedaghatkish, and F. Olmos Eds.). Hancock House Publishers, WA.
Selected Journal Articles
Maira, L.L., G. Alarcón-N., T. Haugaasen and D.M. Brooks. 2013. Notes on the ecology of the Wattled Curassow (Crax globulosa Spix, 1825) in the lower Caquetá River, Colombia. J. Field Ornithol. 84: 23-31.
Setina, V., D.J. Lizcano, D.M. Brooks and L.F. Silveira. 2012. Population density of Helmeted Curassow (Pauxi pauxi) in Tamá National Park, Colombia. Wils. J. Ornithol. 124: 316-320.
Brooks, D.M. 2012. Birds caught in spider webs: a synthesis of patterns. Wils. J. Ornithol. 124: 345-353.
Miranda, H. C., Jr. D. Brooks and R. S. Kennedy. 2011. Phylogeny and taxonomic review of Philippine scops-owls (Strigidae): parallel diversification of highland and lowland clades. The Wilson Journal of Ornithology. 123: 441-452.
Gastañaga-C., M., R. MacLeod, D.M. Brooks and B. Hennessey. 2011. Distinctive morphology, habitat and vocalizations of Pauxi (unicornis) koepckeae: evidence for species rank. Ornitol. Neotrop. 22: 267-279.
Prys-Jones, R., D.M. Brooks and K.A. Arnold. 2009. A second specimen of Sabine’s Gull (Xema sabini) from Texas, with a review of Meinertzhagen-generated confusion surrounding the first. Bull. Brit. Ornithol. Club 129: 202-205.
Brooks, D.M., J.P. O’Neill, M.S. Foster, T. Mark, N. Dauphiné and I. Franke J. 2009. Avifauna of the Pongos Basin, Amazonas Department, Peru. Wilson J. Ornithol. 121: 54-74. PDF Eisermann, K. and D.M. Brooks. 2006. Unusual and noteworthy nesting records for Guatemala. Cotinga 26: 48-51.
Brooks, D.M., L. Pando-V., A. Ocmin-P., and J. Tejada-R. 2005. The relationship between environmental stability and avian population changes in Amazonia. Orn. Neotrop. 16: 289-296.
Brooks, D.M., A.L.Porzecanski, J.J. Weicker, R.A. Honig, A.M. Saavedra and M. Herrera. 2005. A preliminary assessment of avifauna of the Bolivian Chiquitano Forest and Cerrado. Orn. Neotrop. 16: 85-99.
Brooks, D.M., R.J. Baker, R.J. Vargas-M., T. Tarifa, H. Aranibar, J.M. Rojas. 2004. A New Species of Oryzomys (Rodentia: Muridae) from an Isolated Pocket of Cerrado in Eastern Bolivia. Occas. Pap. Texas Tech Univ. 241: 1-11.
Brooks, D.M., L. Pando-V., A. Ocmin-P., and J. Tejada-R. 2004. Resource separation in a Napo-Amazonian tinamou community. Orn. Neotrop. 15: 323-328.
Brooks, D.M. 2003. The role of size assortment in structuring Neotropical bird communities. Tx. J. Sci. 55: 59-74.
Brooks, D.M., J.M. Rojas, H. Aranibar, R.J. Vargas and T. Tarifa. 2002. A preliminary assessment of mammalian fauna of the Eastern Bolivian Panhandle. Mammalia 65: 509-520.
Muallem, D.M. and D.M. Brooks. 2001. Avian diversity and abundance along a gradient of bayou development in Houston. Bull. Texas Ornithol. Soc. 23: 20-24.
Brooks, D.M. 1998. Habitat variability as a predictor of rarity in Neotropical mammals. Vida Silv. Neotrop. 7: 115-120.
Brooks, D.M., L. Pando-V. and A. Ocmin-P. 1999. Comparative behavioral ecology of Cotingas in the northern Peruvian Amazon. Orn. Neotrop. 10: 193-206.
Brooks, D.M. 1997. Avian seasonality at a locality in the central Paraguayan Chaco. Hornero 14: 193-203.
--. 1997. The influence of habitat structure upon species evenness and diversity. Tx. J. Sci. 49: 247-254.
Brooks, D.M. 2004. Wildlife of Kenya DVD. Misc. Publ. Houston Mus. Nat. Sci. No. 5.
--. 2004. Bird Calls of Southern Africa. Misc. Publ. Houston Mus. Nat. Sci. No. 4, Houston, TX.
--. 2002. Bird Calls of East Africa. Misc. Publ. Houston Mus. Nat. Sci. No. 3, Houston, TX.
--. 2001. Calls of Texas Birds. Misc. Publ. Houston Mus. Nat. Sci. No. 1, Houston, TX.