Dr. Matthew Niemiller

Assistant 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

Personal 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

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

  • Gladstone NS, Pieper EB, Keenan SW, Paterson AT, Slay ME, Dooley K, Engel AS, & Niemiller ML. Discovery of the Blue Ridge springsnail, Fontigens orolibas, Hubricht, 1957 (Gastropoda: Emmericiidae) in east Tennessee and its conservation implications. Freshwater Mollusk Biology and Conservation.

  • Benito JB, Porter ML, & Niemiller ML. The mitochondrial genomes of five spring and groundwater amphipods of the family Crangonyctidae (Crustacea: Amphipoda) from eastern North America. Mitochondrial DNA Part B.

  • Soares D, & Niemiller ML. Variation in cephalic neuromasts in surface and cave-dwelling fishes of the family Amblyopsidae (Teleostei: Percopsiformes). Journal of Cave and Karst Studies.

  • Holler Jr C, Mays J, & Niemiller ML. The fauna of caves and other subterranean habitats of North Carolina, USA. Journal of Cave and Karst Studies 82: 221–260.

  • Boyd SH, Niemiller KDK, Dooley KE, Nix J, & Niemiller ML. Using environmental DNA methods to survey for rare groundwater fauna: detection of an endangered endemic cave crayfish in northern Alabama. PLoS One 15: e0242741.

  • Mammola S, Amorim IR, Bichuette ME, Borges P, Cheeptham N, Cooper SJB, Culver DC, Deharveng L, Eme D, Ferreira RL, Fiser C, Fiser Z, Fong DW, Griebler C, Jeffery WR, Kowalko JE, Jugovic J, Lilley TM, Malard F, Manenti R, Martinez A, Meierhofer MB, Northup DE, Pellegrini TG, Protas M, Niemiller ML, Reboleira AS, Pipan T, Venarsky MP, Wynne JJ, Zagmajster M, & Cardoso P. Fundamental research questions in subterranean biology. Biological Reviews 95: 1855–1872.

  • Zigler KS, Niemiller ML, Stephen CDR, Ayala BN, Milne MA, Gladstone NS, Engel AS, Jensen JB, & Ozier J. Cave biodiversity of Georgia. Journal of Cave and Karst Studies 82: 125–167.

  • Baker SJ, Niemiller ML, Stites AJ, Ash KT, Davis MA, Dreslik MJ, & Phillips CA. Evaluation of environmental DNA to detect Sistrurus catenatus and Ophidiomyces ophiodiicola in crayfish burrows. Conservation Genetics Resources 12: 13–15.

  • DiStefano RJ, Ashley D, Brewer SK, Mouser JB, & Niemiller ML. Preliminary investigation of the critically imperiled Caney Mountain Cave Crayfish Orconectes stygocaneyi (Decapoda: Cambaridae) (Hobbs III 2001) in Missouri, USA. Freshwater Crayfish 25: 47–57.