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Biology Department

Abby Grace Drake 

Teaching Professor of Biology


Department of Biology
Dana Science Center
Skidmore College
Saratoga Springs, New York 12866


(508) 981-2783



Courses Taught:

Biostatistics (BI 235)
Ecology (BI 241)
Evolution (BI 324)
Topics: Evolutionary Biology (BI 252)
Biological Sciences I (BI 105)
Senior Capstone in Biology (BI 377 & BI 378)
Research Methods in Biology (BI 385)
Quantitative Reasoning (MA 100)

Research Interests:

What evolutionary and developmental processes are involved in creating morphological variation? Is selection responsible for molding the diversity of life? Or does developmental bias via drive and constraint arbitrate organismal phenotypes? I am interested in the processes that produce macroevolution and dictate which phenotypes evolve and which do not. In particular, how do species evolve? What mechanisms produce enough morphological or behavioural change to ensure reproductive isolation on the population level? To this end, I study developmental processes that lead to large modifications of morphology such as heterochrony, morphological integration and modularity.

To investigate these questions I study shape variation in vertebrate skulls. I use three-dimensional data in the form of x, y, z coordinates from landmark points taken with a Microscribe Digitizer to capture each specimen's three-dimensional geometry. This type of data allows us to look at the shape of the skull holistically using a sophisticated shape analysis called geometric morphometrics.

While my early research focused on canids I now also work on cetaceans, dinosaurs, owls and primates. I'm open to suggestions of other research topics as well!

Recent Publications:

Drake, A. G. 2015. Move It or Lose It: Species Respond to a Warming World. EcoEd Digital Library, http://ecoed.esa.org/index.php?P=FullRecord&ID=560 (EcoEd is an online, peer-reviewed journal)

Drake, A. G., Coquerelle, M., & Colombeau, G. 2015. 3D morphometric analysis of fossil canid skulls contradicts the suggested domestication of dogs during the late Paleolithic. Scientific reports, 5. http://www.nature.com/srep/2015/150205/srep08299/full/srep08299.html  **The supplemental information has 3D pdf figures. Download and open the figures with Adobe Reader 9 or higher you can rotate and magnify the skulls and the 3D scatterplots.

Drake, A.G. 2011. Dispelling Dog Dogma: an investigation of heterochrony in dogs using 3D geometric morphometric analysis of skull shape. Evolution & Development 13(2): 204-213.dogheterochrony    **If you download and open this pdf with Adobe Reader 9 or higher you can rotate and magnify the skulls in the figures.

Kilshaw, K., Drake, A.G., Macdonald, D.W. and Kitchener, A.C. 2010. The Scottish wildcat: a comparison of genetic and pelage characteristics. Scottish Natural Heritage Commissioned Report No.356. http://www.snh.org.uk/pdfs/publications/commissioned_reports/356.pdf

Drake, A. G. & C. P. Klingenberg. 2010. Large-scale diversification of skull shape in domestic dogs: Disparity and modularity. American Naturalist 175: 289301. http://flywings.org.uk/PDF%20files/AmNat2010.pdf

Drake, A. G. & C. P. Klingenberg. 2008. The pace of morphological change: Historical transformation of skull shape in St Bernard dogs. Proceedings of the Royal Society B, Biological Sciences 275: 7176 http://flywings.org.uk/PDF%20files/ProcRSoc2008.pdf


A wolf skull morphing into a French Bulldog skull using geometric morphometrics:



Sample Image