Jessie Williamson


Postdoctoral Fellow


Migration • Evolution • Ecophysiology • High-altitude Biology • Natural History

I study how elevation impacts the migration, physiology, and diversification of birds. I integrate field experiments with genomics, migration tracking, and modeling to study this topic across systems and levels of biological organization: From ecology and evolution of ‘extreme’ elevational migrant birds worldwide to blood physiology of Andean hummingbirds to population genomics, migration, and phylogeography of the Giant Hummingbird (Patagona gigas).

At the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, I research genomics and phenotypic plasticity of elevational migrant birds in the Andes and Himalayas. I am particularly interested in the physiology of birds that undertake movements of 2,000 meters or more seasonally. My fieldwork takes place in southern Peru, where I use manipulative experiments to understand transcriptomic plasticity of Andean birds. This work will tell us about the predictability of evolution, and about the capacity of mountain birds to persist under climate change.

An important component of my work involves student training, workshops, and outreach with my collaborators at the Centro de Ornitología y Biodiversidad (CORBIDI) in Peru, and closer to home, at the Cornell University Museum of Vertebrates. I additionally write about ecology, evolution, and museums as a freelance journalist and photographer, with work featured in Outside Magazine, The Washington Post, and Harvard Science in the News.


Ph.D., Biology, University of New Mexico
M.S., Biology, University of New Mexico
B.A., Biology, Middlebury College

Postdoctoral fellow Jessie Williamson stands in front of a wall.
Center Biodiversity Studies & Higher Education

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Golden-cheeked Warbler by Bryan Calk/Macaulay Library