Illinois Natural History Survey - University of Illinois

Milton Tan
Title: Assistant Research Scientist in Biodiversity Genomics
Mailing address:
Office address:
380 Natural Resources Building
Address mailcode: 652
Office room:
Phone: 217-300-0987

Message to students:

The Biodiversity Genomics Lab of the Illinois Natural History Survey (Tan Lab), is seeking to recruit a M.S. or Ph.D. graduate student interested in fish evolution and genomics. Projects in the lab primarily focus on macroevolutionary patterns, trait evolution, genetic-phenotypic correlations, and diversification of fishes, primarily focusing on diverse fish groups like catfishes and cypriniforms (i.e. carps and minnows). Projects in the lab can apply a variety of methods including transcriptomics, phylogenomics, comparative phylogenetic methods, genomics, population genomics, bioinformatics, and morphological studies including museum specimens. Molecular labwork (e.g. DNA/RNA extraction) and bioinformatics are major activities in the lab and experience with these skills are desirable, though not required. For more information on the research occurring in the lab, see this page:

The University of Illinois is home to a strong collection of faculty researching ecology and evolution in the Department of Animal Biology and the School of Integrative Biology. The student may enroll as a graduate student with either the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign Department of Animal Biology, soon to be the Department of Evolution, Ecology, and Behavior ( or the interdisciplinary Program in Ecology, Evolution, and Conservation Biology ( Champaign and Urbana are great college towns close to three major cities including Chicago.

The Illinois Natural History Survey, is a part of the Prairie Research Institute (PRI) at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, one of the highest ranked public universities in the country. Since 1858, the Illinois Natural History Survey has been the guardian and recorder of the biological resources of Illinois—the state’s biological memory. With a staff of over 200 scientists and technicians, it is recognized as the premier natural history survey in the nation. The Illinois Natural History Survey’s Biological Collections include more than 9.5 million specimens housed in eleven separate collections, including the most complete record of Illinois biota anywhere, as well as having global geographic coverage for many groups. Relevant to research in the Tan lab, the fish collection houses over 1 million specimens and ranks within the top 15 largest in North America, providing a resource for research into fish biodiversity.

Interested students should contact Dr. Milton Tan early with a brief statement of their research interests, experience, and accomplishments and a CV. Application deadlines for Animal Biology and PEEC programs are as early as December 1st 2019. Interested applicants are encouraged to contact Dr. Milton Tan directly as soon as possible.


2017. Society of Systematic Biologists Ernst Mayr Student Award Symposium Finalist at Evolution 2017.

2013. American Society of Ichthyologists & Herpetologists Stoye Award for Best Student Oral Presentation in General Ichthyology at Joint Meeting of Ichthyologists & Herpetologists.

2011. Neotropical Ichthyological Association Best Student Poster Award winner at Joint Meeting of Ichthyologists and Herpetologists.

Professional affiliations:
Selected publications:

2018. M Tan, JW Armbruster. Phylogenetic classification of extant genera of fishes of the order Cypriniformes (Teleostei: Ostariophysi). Zootaxa 4476(1): 006–039. doi: 10.11646/zootaxa.4476.1.4

2018. ED Burress, L Piálek, J Casciotta, A Almirón, M Tan, JW Armbruster, O Říčan. Island- and lake-like parallel adaptive radiations replicated in rivers. Proceedings of the Royal Society B 285: 20171762. doi: 10.1098/rspb.2017.1762

2017. ED Burress, M Tan. Ecological opportunity alters the timing and shape of adaptive radiation. Evolution 71(11): 2650-2660. doi: 10.1111/evo.13362

2017. TD Read, RA Petit III, SJ Joseph, MT Alam, MR Weil, Maida Ahmad, R Bhimani, JS Vuong, CP Haase, DH Webb, M Tan (corresponding author), ADM Dove. Draft sequencing and assembly of the genome of the world’s largest fish, the whale shark: Rhincodon typus Smith 1828. BMC Genomics 18: 532. doi: 10.1186/s12864-017-3926-9

2016. CC Stout, M Tan (co-first author), AR Lemmon, EM Lemmon, JW Armbruster. Resolving Cypriniformes relationships using an Anchored Hybrid Enrichment approach. BMC Evolutionary Biology 16: 244. doi: 10.1186/s12862-016-0819-5

INHS Publink:
Program affiliates:
Professional society involvement and activities:

American Society of Ichthyologists and Herpetologists

Society of Systematic Biologists


2016. Auburn University, Ph.D, Biological Sciences. 
2009. University of Delaware, B.S., Biological Sciences with Concentration in Ecology and Organismal Biology, Honors Degree With Distinction. Minors in Marine Studies, Business Administration.

Lab name: Lab research: Lab publications: Lab current projects:

Illinois Natural History Survey

1816 South Oak Street, MC 652
Champaign, IL 61820

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