Donald Price

Dr. Donald Price

Director – TCBES Graduate Program, Professor
Contact Don Price. Personal Website


  • Ph.D., University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, IL
  • M.S., Illinois State University, Normal, IL
  • B.S., University of Minnesota, St.Paul-Minneapolis, MN

Courses Taught

  • Natural History of the Hawaiian Islands (BIOL156)
  • Zoology Laboratory (BIOL 150L)
  • Biostatistics (BIOL 380)
  • Evolution (BIOL 357)
  • Evolutionary Genetics Laboratory (BIOL 357L)
  • Current Topics in TCBES (CBES 694)

Research Interests

My research focuses on understanding evolution of behaviors and sexual selection, speciation genetics and the interplay of genetics and behavior in the conservation of rare and endangered species. The projects in my laboratory are generally focused on these areas in insects and birds. For both my Masters and Ph.D. research I investigated the evolution of mating systems and sexual section in house wrens and zebra finches. I have continued my interest in avian studies and currently have a project underway with a graduate student on the inbreeding genetics of Nene, an endangered Hawaiian Goose.

I am also fascinated by the diversity of Hawaiian Drosophila and in particular, the group commonly known as the Hawaiian Picture-winged Drosophila. We have been investigating the behavior and morphological difference among two of these species that occur on the Island of Hawaii: Drosophila silvestris and D. heteroneura. These two species have diverged to a great extent in their behavioral and morphological traits even though they share a close genetic relationship and habitat. We are using several behavioral analyses of hybrid and backcross populations to determine what maintains the genetic integrity of these species despite low levels of hybridization. We are also using Quantitative Trait Loci (QTL) mapping and some candidate gene approaches to identify genes for behaviors and morphology. The Island of Hawaii offers a good opportunity to examine the questions in Hawaiian Drosophila where habitat heterogeneity due to highly variable environments and lava flows contribute to the rapid speciation in the Hawaiian Islands. This research has been funded by grants from the National Science Foundation and the National Institutes of Health.

I have also been involved in developing a number of curriculum and research programs at the University of Hawaii. I was the Principal Investigator on an NSF Course Curriculum and Laboratory Improvement grant and a Program Change Request to the Hawaii State Legislature in 1999 that initiated the Ecology, Evolution and Conservation Biology undergraduate degree program at UH- Hilo. This is now a highly successful program in which approximately 50% of the Biology majors are enrolled. I am also the Principal Investigator on two NSF Research Experiences for Undergraduates grants, and I was a co-PI on an Undergraduate Mentoring in Environmental Biology grant. I have been fortunate to work with many people on these grants to provide undergraduate students a unique opportunity to be engaged in research with UH Hilo Professors and Federal and State Agencies on the Island of Hawaii.

I also spear-headed the development, and am the current Director, of the Tropical Conservation Biology and Environmental Sciences Masters Program at UH-Hilo: TCBES. This graduate program currently involves 60 students, 28 faculty, and approximately 40 Federal and State Agency partners. We currently have an NSF GK-12 grant that is funding graduate students and K-12 teachers to enhance the science curriculum with hands-on inquiry-based projects in elementary and intermediate schools on Hawaii Island PRISM. Finally, I am the co-Project Director and co-PI of the NSF EPSCoR Program. This is a state-wide program that is advancing the research and educational opportunities in Evolutionary and Ecological Genetics, Ecosystems Research, and Cyberinfrastructure for Environmental Research.

Selected Publications

  • Price D. K., and C. C. Muir. 2008. Conservation implications of hybridization for the genetic integrity of Hawaiian Drosophila. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution, 47:1217-1226.
  • Veillet, A., R. Shrestha, D.K. Price 2008. Polymorphic microsatellites in nēnē, the endangered Hawaiian Goose (Branta sandvicensis). Molecular Ecology Resources, 8: 1158-1160.
  • Souza, E, P. Follett, D.K. Price, and E. Stacy. 2008. Field Suppression of the Invasive Ant Wasmannia auropunctata (Hymenoptera: Formicidae) in a Tropical Fruit Orchard in Hawaii. J. Econ. Entomol. 101: 1068-1074.
  • Muir, C. and D. K. Price. 2008. Population structure and genetic diversity in two declining populations of Hawaiian Picture-winged Flies. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution, 47: 1173-1180.
  • Erickson, D. L., C. B. Fenster, H. C. Stenoien and D. K. Price. 2004. Quantitative trait locus analyses and the study of evolutionary process. Molecular Ecology 13 (9): 2505-2522.
  • Boake, C.R.B., D. K. Price and D. K. Andreadis. 1998. Inheritance of behavioural differences between two interfertile, sympatric species, Drosophila silvestris and D. heteroneura. Heredity 80:642-650.
  • Hansen, T.F. and D.K. Price. 1995. Good genes and age: Do old mates provide superior genes? Journal of Evolutionary Biology 8: 759-778.
  • Price, D.K. and N.T. Burley. 1994. Constraints on the evolution of attractive traits: selection in male and female zebra finches. The American Naturalist 144: 908-934.