Matthew Niemiller, Ph.D.

Associate Professor, Biological Sciences


301 Sparkman Drive
Shelby Center
Room 302M
Huntsville, AL 35899
Campus Map



Research in the Niemiller Lab focuses on the ecology, evolution, and conservation of life in caves and other subterranean habitats. Studies are often aimed at the ecological and evolutionary processes that underlie the origin and maintenance of multiple levels of biological diversity, from genes to populations to ecosystems, and how these processes ultimately affect conservation status and inform management decisions. Research topics in the lab range from evolution, speciation, and biogeography to spatial ecology and conservation assessments. Across these fields, we combine field observations and experiments with laboratory approaches to population and conservation genetics, and phylogenomics, primarily using subterranean organisms (both vertebrates and invertebrates) and ecosystems as models. Most of the species we study are of conservation concern and, in many cases, federally or state endangered. The ever-increasing risk of biodiversity loss from a plethora of threats, such as urbanization, groundwater pollution, and climate change, adds urgency to our need to understand the ecological and evolutionary responses and resiliency of subterranean biodiversity in the face of environmental change. The Niemiller Lab collaborates with researchers, conservation biologists, and land managers across the United States and around the globe as well as many local, state, and national agencies and organizations, such as U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, U.S. Geological Survey, Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency, Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, The Nature Conservancy, Southeastern Cave Conservancy Inc., National Speleological Survey, and San Antonio Zoo among others. The Niemiller Lab is currently accepting M.S. students in the Biological Sciences Program and Ph.D. students in the Biotechnology Program.

Current projects include developing and testing environmental DNA (eDNA) assays for state and federally endangered groundwater taxa, examining the persistence of eDNA in subterranean habitats, biological inventories of caves to address biodiversity knowledge gaps, demographic and life history studies of cave-dwelling salamanders, phylogenetics and genomics of cave-dwelling beetles and amphipods, and testing the efficacy of photo-id algorithms for capture-mark-recapture studies of salamanders, among others.

Dr. Niemiller received his B.S. (2003) and M.S. (2006) in Biology and Middle Tennessee State University and his Ph.D. (2011) in Ecology & Evolutionary Biology at the University of Tennessee-Knoxville. He was a Gaylord Donnelley Environmental Postdoctoral Fellow at Yale University (2011-2013) and completed additional postdoctoral training at the University of Kentucky (2013-2014) and the Illinois Natural History Survey at the University of Illinois (2014-2016). Before arriving at UAH in 2017, Dr. Niemiller was an associate ecologist at the Illinois Natural History Survey (2016-2017).

Curriculum Vitae

Research Website


  • University of Tennessee, Department of Ecology & Evolutionary Biology, Knoxville, TN 37996, USA. Doctor of Philosophy, August 2011. Advisor: Benjamin M. Fitzpatrick.
  • Middle Tennessee State University, Department of Biology, Murfreesboro, TN 37132, USA. Master of Science, May 2006. Advisor: Brian T. Miller
  • Middle Tennessee State University, Murfreesboro, TN 37132, USA. Bachelor of Science in Biology, August 2003.

Recent Publications

  • Grant EHC, Mulder KP, Brand AB, Chambers DB, Wynn A, Capshaw G#,
    Niemiller ML, Phillips JG, Kuchta SR, & Bell RC. In press. Speciation
    with gene flow in a narrow endemic West Virginia cave salamander
    (Gyrinophilus subterraneus). Conservation Genetics.

  • Mammola S, Meierhofer M, Borges P, Colado R, Culver D, Deharveng L,
    Delic T, Di Lorenzo T, Dražina T, Ferreira R, Fiasca B, Fiser C,
    Galassi D, Garzoli L, Gerovasileiou V, Griebler C, Halse S, Howarth F,
    Isaia M, Johnson J, Komerički A, Martínez A, Milano F, Moldovan O,
    Nanni V, Nicolosi G, Niemiller M, Pallarés S, Pavlek M, Piano E, Pipan
    T, Sánchez Fernández D, Santangeli A, Schmidt S, Wynne J, Zagmajster
    M, Zakšek V, & Cardoso P. In press. Toward evidence-based conservation
    of subterranean ecosystems. Biological Reviews.

  • Niemiller ML, Davis MA, Tan M, Apodaca JJ, Dooley KE, Cucalón RV,
    Benito J, Niemiller KDK, Harden R, Thames D, & Istvanko D. 2022.
    Mitochondrial DNA and population genomics reveal additional cryptic
    diversity in the green salamander (subgenus Castaneides) species
    complex. Frontiers in Conservation Science 3: 890859.

  • Dooley KE, Niemiller KDK, Sturm N, & Niemiller ML. 2022. Rediscovery
    and phylogenetic analysis of the Shelta Cave crayfish (Orconectes
    sheltae Cooper & Cooper, 1997), a decapod (Decapoda, Cambaridae)
    endemic to Shelta Cave in northern Alabama, USA. Subterranean Biology
    43: 11–31.

  • Ferreira RL, Bernard E, Júnior FW da C, Piló LB, Calux A, Souza-Silva
    M, Barlow J, Pompeu PS, Cardoso P, Mammola S, García AM, Jeffery WR,
    Shear W, Medellín RA, Wynne JJ, Borges PAV, Kamimura Y, Pipan T, Hajna
    NZ, Sendra A, Peck S, Onac BP, Culver DC, Hoch H, Flot J-F, Stoch F,
    Pavlek M, Niemiller ML, Manchi S, Deharveng L, Fenolio D, Calaforra
    J-M, Yager J, Griebler C, Nader FH, Humphreys WF, Hughes AC, Fenton B,
    Forti P, Sauro F, Veni G, Frumkin A, Gavish-Regev E, Fišer C, Trontelj
    P, Zagmajster M, Delic T, Galassi DMP, Vaccarelli I, Komnenov M,
    Gainett G, Tavares V da C, Kováč Ľ, Miller AZ, Yoshizawa K, Lorenzo
    TD, Moldovan OT, Sánchez-Fernández D, Moutaouakil S, Howarth F,
    Bilandžija H, Dražina T, Kuharić N, Butorac V, Lienhard C, Cooper SJB,
    Eme D, Strauss AM, Saccò M, Zhao Y, Williams P, Tian M, Tanalgo K, Woo
    K-S, Barjakovic M, McCracken GF, Simmons NB, Racey PA, Ford D,
    Labegalini JA, Colzato N, Pereira MJR, Aguiar LMS, Moratelli R, Preez
    GD, Pérez-González A, Reboleira ASPS, Gunn J, Cartney AM, Bobrowiec
    PED, Milko D, Kinuthia W, Fischer E, Meierhofer MB, & Frick WF. 2022.
    Brazilian cave heritage under siege. Science 375: 1238–1239.

  • Gladstone NS, Niemiller ML, Hutchins B, Schwartz B, Czaja A, Slay ME,
    & Whelan NV. 2022. Subterranean freshwater gastropod biodiversity and
    conservation in North America. Conservation Biology 36: e13722.

  • Niemiller ML, Carter ET, Gladstone NS, Niemiller KDK, Hayter LE, Engel
    AS, Miller BT, & Fitzpatrick BM. 2021. The distribution, ecology, life
    history, and conservation status of the Berry Cave salamander
    (Gyrinophilus gulolineatus). Herpetological Conservation and Biology
    16: 686–703.

  • Wynne JJ, Howarth FG, Mammola S, Ferreira RL, Cardoso P, Di Lorenzo T,
    Galassi DMP, Medellin RA, Miller BW, Sánchez-Fernández D, Bichuette
    ME, Biswas J, Boonyanusith C, Borges PAV, Boston PJ, Cheeptham N,
    Deharveng L, Eme D, Fenolio D, Fišer C, Fišer Z, Gon III S, Goudarzi
    F, Griebler C, Halse S, Hoch H, Katz AD, Kováč L, Lilley TM, Manchi S,
    Manenti R, Martínez A, Martinez WE, Meierhofer MB, Miller AZ, Moldovan
    OT, Niemiller ML, Pipan T, Pellegrini TG, Phillips-Lander CM, Poot C,
    Racey PA, de Rosário IA, Sendra A, Shear WA, Silva MS, Tian M, Taiti
    S, Venarsky MP, Pakarati SY, Zagmajster M, & Zhao Y. 2021. A roadmap
    for the conservation of the subterranean biome. Conservation Letters
    14: e12834.

  • Fitzgerald DB, Smith DR, Culver DC, Feller D, Fong DW, Hajenga J,
    Niemiller ML, Nolfi DC, Orndorff WD, Douglas B, Maloney KO, & Young
    JA. 2021. Using expert knowledge to support Endangered Species Act
    decision making for data-deficient species. Conservation Biology 35:

  • Niemiller KDK, Davis MA, & Niemiller ML. 2021. Addressing biodiversity
    naivety using project-based learning with iNaturalist. Journal for
    Nature Conservation 64: 126070.

Affiliate Faculty

Hudson Alpha Institute for Biotechnology

Dr. Gregory Barsh

Research Faculty

Dr. Josh Clevenger

Research Faculty

Dr. Nick Cochran

HudsonAlpha Institute of Biotechnology

Dr. Sara Cooper

Research Faculty

Dr. Gregory Cooper

Research Faculty

Dr. Jane Grimwood

Research Faculty

Dr. Jian Han

Research Faculty

Dr. Alex Harkess

Research Faculty

Dr. Neil Edward Lamb

Research Faculty

Dr. Elaine Lyon

Research Faculty

Dr. John Mayo

Professor Emeritus, Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center-New Orleans

Dr. Richard Myers

Research Faculty

Dr. Le Su

Junior Fellow HudsonAlpha Institute of Biotechnology

Dr. Kankshita Swaminathan

Research Faculty