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Margaret Hunter

Research Geneticist

Contact Info

Short Biography

Margaret Hunter attended the University of Florida where she received a B.Sc. in Microbiology and Cellular Sciences and minored in Chemistry and Plant Molecular and Cellular Biology.  Following her bachelor degree, she received a PhD in Veterinary Medical Sciences researching Sirenia (manatee and dugong) cytogenetics and conservation genetics. 


  • USGS Sirenia Project
  • USGS Genetics and Genomics Research
  • Courtesy Assistant Professor, University of Florida, College of Veterinary Medicine, Department of Large Animal Clinical Sciences 
  • Affiliated faculty member, University of Florida Aquatic Animal Health Program
  • Affiliated faculty member, University of Florida Genetics Institute

  1. Kellogg ME, Burkett S, Dennis TR, Stone G, Gray BA, McGuire PM, Zori RT, and Stanyon R  (2007)  Chromosome painting in the manatee supports Afrotheria and Paenungulata.  BMC Evolutionary Biology, 7:6. 

  2. Pause KC, Nourisson C, Clark A, Kellogg ME, Bonde RK, and McGuire PM.  (2007) Polymorphic microsatellite DNA markers for the Florida manatee (Trichechus manatus latirostris).  Molecular Ecology Notes, 7:6, 1073-1076.

  3. Kellogg ME (2008) Sirenian conservation genetics and Florida manatee (Trichechus manatus latirostris) cytogenetics. Doctoral dissertation. University of Florida, Gainesville, FL.

  4. Hunter ME, Broderick D, Ovenden JR, Pause KC, Bonde RK, McGuire PM, and Lanyon JM  (2010) Cross-species comparison of Australian dugong and Florida manatee microsatellite loci and the characterization of highly informative marker-panels.  Molecular Ecology Resources, 10:2, 368-377.

  5. Hunter ME, Auil-Gomez NE, Bonde RK, Powell J, and McGuire PM (2010) Low genetic variation and evidence of limited dispersal in the in the regionally important Belize manatee.  Animal Conservation, 13:6, 592-602.

  6. Bonde RK, McGuire PM, Hunter ME (2012) A review of the key genetic tools to assist imperiled species conservation: analyzing West Indian manatee populations.  Journal of Marine Animals and Their Ecology, 5: 8-19.

  7. Luna FO, Bonde RK, Attademo FLN, Saunders JW, Meigs-Friend G, Passavante JZO, Hunter ME* (2012). Phylogeographic implications for release of critically endangered manatee calves rescued in Northeast Brazil. Aquatic Conservation: Marine and Freshwater Ecosystems, 22: 665-672.

  8. Pawlitz R, Hunter ME, Johnson N (2012) Genetic research for wildlife and fisheries management – A primer. USGS Fact Sheet: 2012-3110.

  9. Hunter ME, Pawlitz R (2012) Using genetic research to inform imperiled and invasive species management. USGS Fact Sheet: 2012-3017.

  10. Hunter ME,* Tucker KP,* Bonde RK, Austin JD, Clark AG, Beck CA, McGuire PM, Oli MK (2012) Low genetic diversity and minimal population substructure in the endangered Florida manatee: implications for conservation.  Journal of Mammalogy (Cover article), 93:1504-1511. *These authors contributed equally.

  11. Hunter ME, Mignucci-Giannoni AA, Tucker KP, King T. K, Bonde RK, Gray BA, McGuire PM (2012) Puerto Rico and Florida manatees represent genetically distinct groups. Conservation Genetics, 13:1623-1635.

  12. Mahon AR, Jerde CL, Galaska M, Bergner JL, Chadderton WL, Lodge DM, Hunter ME, Nico LG (2013) Validation of eDNA surveillance sensitivity for detection of Asian carps in controlled and field experiments. PLoS ONE, 8:e58316. DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0058316.

  13. Guerreiro I, Nunes A, Woltering JM, Casaca A, Novoa A, Vinagre T, Hunter ME, Duboule D, Mallo M (2013) Role of a polymorphism in a Hox/Pax-responsive enhancer in the evolution of the vertebrate spine.  Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 110:10682-10686. DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1300592110.  

  14. Hunter ME. The Silent Threat: Manatees, Genetic Diversity, and Caribbean Conservation.  (2013) Livebetter Magazine, 32 (June/July 2013).  

  15. Hunter ME, Hart KM (2013) Rapid microsatellite marker development using next generation pyrosequencing to inform invasive Burmese python—Python molurus bivittatus—management. International Journal of Molecular Sciences, 14:4793-4804. DOI:10.3390/ijms14034793.

  16. Pimiento C, Nifong JC, Hunter ME, Monaco E, Silliman BR (2013). Habitat use patterns of the invasive red lionfish Pterois volitans: a comparison between mangrove and reef systems in San Salvador, Bahamas. Marine Ecology, DOI:10.1111/maec.12114.

  17. Fuller PL, Knott DM, Kingsley-Smith PR, Morris JA, Buckel CA, Hunter ME, Hartman LD (2014) Invasion of Asian tiger shrimp, Penaeus monodon Fabricius, 1798, in the western north Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico. Aquatic Invasions, 9: 59-70. DOI: 10.3391/ai.2014.9.1.05.

  18. Hart KM, Hunter ME, King TL (2014) Regional differentiation among populations of the Diamondback terrapin (Malaclemys terrapin). Conservation Genetics, 15:593-603. DOI: 10.1007/s10592-014-0563-6. IP-045790.

  19. Hunter ME, Nico L (2015) Genetic analysis of invasive Asian Black Carp (Mylopharyngodon piceus) in the Mississippi River Basin: evidence for multiple introductions.  Biological Invasions, 17: 99-114. DOI:10.1007/s10530-014-0708-z.

  20. Foote AD, Liu Y, Thomas GWC, Vinai T, Alfoldi J, Deng J, Dugan S, van Elk CE, Hunter ME, Joshi V, Khan Z, Kovar C, Lee SL, Lindblad-Toh K, Mancia A, Nielsen R, Quin X, Qu J, Raney BJ, Vijay N, Wolf JBW, Hahn MW, Muzny DM, Worley KC, Gilbert TM, Gibbs RA. Convergent evolution of the genomes of marine mammals. Nature Genetics, DOI: 10.1038/ng.3198.  

  21. Butterfield JSS, Diaz-Ferguson, Silliman BR, Saunders JW, Buddo D, Mignucci-Giannoni AA, Searle L, Allen A, Hunter MEWide-ranging phylogeographic structure of invasive red lionfish in the Western Atlantic and Greater Caribbean. Marine Biology,162:773-781.  DOI:10.1007/s00227-015-2623-y.
  22. McCleery R, Sovie A, Reed RB, Cunningham M, Hunter ME, Hart KM. The Unprecedented Loss of Continental Mammals to an Invasive Apex Predator. Proceedings of the Royal Society B. DOI: 10.1098/rspb.2015.0120.

  23. Hunter ME, Oyler-McCance SJ, Reed RN, Fike JA, Smith BJ, Hunter CT, Hart KM. Environmental DNA (eDNA) detection of five invasive giant constrictor snakes in Florida, USA, Plos One, In Press.


Davis CM, Tringali MD, Bonde RK, Hunter ME. Moderate inbreeding and high latent coancestry in the endangered Florida manatee. Marine Mammal Science, Submitted.


My Science Topics

Science Topic
Ecology and Environmentaquatic ecosystems
Ecology and Environmentbiodiversity
Plants and Animalswildlife population management
Techniques and Methodsfield methods
Techniques and Methodslaboratory methods
Techniques and Methodsstatistical analysis
Plants and Animalsanimals
Plants and Animalsendangered species
Plants and Animalsextinction and extirpation
Plants and Animalsgenetic diversity
Plants and Animalsinvasive species
Plants and Animalsspecies diversity
Plants and Animalswildlife

My USGS Science Strategy Areas

Understanding Ecosystems & Predicting Ecosystems Change

Climate Variability & Change

Research Focus

Image of Current Focus for Research Focus

Margaret Hunter's research focuses on conservation genetics and genomics of threatened species.  Invasive species are investigated with population genetics and the exciting new field of environmental DNA (eDNA) to characterize range-boundaries and invasion pathways.  She has a special interest in landscape genetics, transcriptomics (the relationship of gene sequences to biological function), and utilizing the technique of next-generation sequencing to answer research questions. 

For more informaiton, please visit the laboratory websites:

Photo Credit: Invasive lionfish in Puerto Rico. Antonio Mignucci, Puerto Rico Manatee Conservation Center

Sirenia Project

Image of Sirenia Project

For more information on the Sirenia Project, please visit:

Photo Credit: Manatees are netted and brought into a boat for health assessments and tracking studies in Brazil. Michael Lusk, USFWS

Contact Information

Margaret Hunter
7920 NW 71St Street
Gainesville, FL 32653
352-378-4956 - Fax
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