Karen E. James, Ph.D.

Karen James, Ph.D.Staff ScientistMDI Biological Laboratory

Research Areas

Human and Environmental Sustainability


Ph.D., University of Washington, Genetics, 2002 B.S., Colorado State University, Biology/Zoology, 1996


207-288-9880 ext 427

159 Old Bar Harbor RD
PO Box 35
Salisbury Cove, ME 04672


I work at the intersection of research, education, and outreach to adapt DNA-assisted species identification (DNA barcoding and related techniques) for use in projects involving public participation in scientific research (citizen science). This combination of approaches has the potential to help scale up environmental research, conservation, restoration, and management.

With National Science Foundation support (DRL-1223210), I collaborate with Acadia National Park and the Schoodic Institute at Acadia National Park to generate knowledge and resources for a planned region-wide citizen science initiative called “BioTrails”. Once implemented, BioTrails will engage some of the 2.5 million visitors to the Acadia region, primarily adults, in a range of citizen science projects. These projects will feature field research activities organized around hiking, biking and sea-kayaking trails. In addition to being popular recreational destinations, these trails will function as stable, long-term research transects for collecting observations, specimens and other data to address current ecological research questions. The BioTrails model will have the potential for expansion to other projects in Acadia National Park, and eventually to other national parks and trails.

In addition to BioTrails, I individually collaborate with ecologists and other researchers to meet their specimen identification needs with DNA-assisted species identification.

DNA Barcoding Darwin’s Meadow.  James, KE. In: Darwin-Inspired Learning. Boulter, CJ, Reiss MJ, and Sanders, DL, Eds. SensePublishers. 257-270. 2015.

Climate change and biosphere response: unlocking the collections vault. Johnson, KG, Brooks, SJ, Fenberg, PB, Glover, AG, James, KE, Lister, AM, Michel, E, Spencer, M, Todd, JA, Valsami-Jones, E, Young, JR and Stewart, JR. BioScience 61(2):147-153. 2011.

Tree School – A new innovation for science and education. Hopkins, D and James, K In: Nimis, P.L. & Vignes Lebbe R., eds. Tools for identifying Biodiversity: Progress and Problems. 395-400. 2010.

Saving Darwin’s muse: evolutionary genetics for the recovery of the Floreana mockingbird. Hoeck, PEA, Beaumont, MA, James, KE, Grant, RB, Grant, PR, & Keller, LF. Biology Letters 6(2): 212–215. 2010.

A DNA barcode for land plants. Hollingsworth, PM, Forrest, LL, Spouge, JL, Hajibabaei, M, Ratnasingham, S, van der Bank, M, Chase, MW, Cowan, RS, Erickson, DL, Fazekas, AJ, Graham, SW, James, KE, Kim, K–J, Kress, WJ, Schneider, H, et al. and Little, DP. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 106(31): 12794-12797. 2009.

Contrast in levels of morphological versus molecular divergence between closely related Eurasian species of Platanthera (Orchidaceae) suggests recent evolution with a strong allometric component Bateman, R M, James, K E, Rudall, P J. New Journal of Botany, Volume 2, Number 2, pp. 110-148(39), 2012.


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