Daniel York

Daniel York

Professor of Biology
“It might seem unfair to reward a person for having so much pleasure over the years, asking the maize plant to solve specific problems and then watching its responses.”
— Barbara McClintock

Faculty Information

Additional Faculty Information for Daniel York


Ph.D. in Biological Sciences, Museum of Zoology, The University of Michigan, 1995
Dissertation: Taxonomic and Functional Implications of Dorsal Scale Characters in the Viperidae (Reptilia: Serpents)

M.S. in Life Sciences, Specialty in Ethology, The University of Tennessee, 1983
Thesis: Agonistic and Reproductive Behaviors in the Malayan Pit Viper (Calloselasma rhodostoma)

B.A. in Psychology and Zoology, The University of Tennessee, 1979


Republic of South Africa NRF (National Research Fund) Workshop: Transforming the National Zoological Gardens into a National Research Facility

Republic of South Africa DEAT (Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism) & Gauteng Provincial Government DACE (Department of Agriculture, Conservation, and Environment) and the Gauteng Association of Zoos: Current understanding of the level of subspeciation of the leopard (Panthera pardus) and the ability to determine subspeciation using genetics.

Nature Conservation Trust South Africa, Jubatus Cheetah Reserve. Conservation genetics of cheetah (Acinonyx jubatus) and meeting with Howard Buffett, chairman.

Publications and Presentations

Genetic Diversity, Evolutionary History and Implications for Conservation of the Lion (Panthera leo) in West and Central Africa. In Journal of Biogeography, (2011): 1-11.

Sunquist, F. The Secret of the White Lion. In National Geographic Kids Magazine, (2009). Daniel York quoted for children’s magazine article. In National Geographic WILD, (2008). Return of the White Lion. National Geographic program that includes 3 interviews with Daniel York on preserving the genetics of white lions. Filmed in Johannesburg, South Africa.

Global Genetic Diversity of African Lions. South African Society of Systematic Biology Conference Presentation, Stellenbosch, South Africa, 2005.

The Royal Lions of Morocco: A North African and Asiatic Link. Pan African Association of Zoos and Aquaria Conference, Pretoria, South Africa, 2005.

Genetic Affinity of North African and Asiatic Lions (Panthera leo). Department of Genetics Colloquium talk, University of Pretoria, Pretoria, South Africa, 2005.

A Comparison of Heterozygosity Levels of Ex Situ African Lions, Panthera leo, from the Republic of South Africa, with Six in Situ African Lion Populations. Poster Session, American Genetic Association, Conservation Genetics Conference, Front Royal, Virginia, 2003.

Important Phylogenetic Considerations When Identifying and Segregating Subspecies. 2nd International Symposium on Assisted Reproductive Technologies in Conservation, Omaha, Nebraska, 2002.

What’s in a name? Taxonomy, philosophy, and conservation: who or what are we trying to save? Pan African Association of Zoological Gardens Aquaria and Botanical Gardens Conference, Johannesburg, South Africa, 2002.

Animal Use and Care in a Small Liberal Arts College. Invited Speaker, National Academy of Sciences, Office of Laboratory Animal Welfare, Animal Welfare Act Public Hearing, Washington, D.C., 2001.

York, D.S., V. Blum, J. Low, D.J. Rowold, V. Puzyrev, V. Saliukov, O. Odinokova, R.J. Herrera. Phylogenetic signals from point mutations and polymorphic Alu insertions. Genetica 107, (1999): 163-170.

Novick, G.E., C.C. Novick, J. Yunis, E. Yunis, P.A. de Mayolo, W.D. Scheer, P.L. Deininger, M. Stoneking, D.S. York, M.A. Batzer, R.J. Herrera. Polymorphic Alu insertions and the Asian Origin of Native American Populations. Human Biology 70(1), (1998): 23-39.

York, D.S., T.M. Silver, and A.A. Smith. Innervation of the supranasal sac of the Puff Adder. Anat. Record 251, (1998): 221-225. Information Content in Trees Estimated from Allelic Frequencies. Human Evolution Symposium, Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, Cold Spring Harbor, New York, 1997.

Brooding in the Malayan Pit Viper, Calloselasma rhodostoma: Temperature, Relative Humidity, and Defensive Behavior. Herpetological Journal, 1, (1988): 210-214.

Species and Sex-Differences in Substrate Preference and Tongue Flick Rate in Three Sympatric Species of Water Snakes (Nerodia). Journal of Comparative Psychology, 98, 4, (1984): 358-367.

The Combat Ritual of the Malayan Pit Viper (Calloselasma rhodostoma). Copeia, 3, (1984): 770-772.


I feel I have been a biologist all my life. Having been born and raised in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, home of Oak Ridge National Laboratories, science was all around me. My father worked in the Plutonium Lab at the Y-12 Plant, and that is essentially all that I ever knew about his work. While my father always hoped I would study chemistry, I gravitated toward biology. Growing up in the 1960s was great as I was allowed to wander from home to spend my summer days exploring the forested ridges surrounding my home with my binoculars and bird guide. In many ways, I feel like I never grew up as I continue to explore and study the biological world much the way I did as a child.

From birds, my interest moved to snakes while working toward my bachelor’s and master’s degrees at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville. It was there that I developed a strong interest in venomous snakes–specifically the phylogenetic relationships between pit vipers and true vipers. Just before commencing with my master’s degree, I took a break from formal learning and spent two years working in Germany where I learned to speak and read German. It was a great experience for me, and it made it possible for me to spend two years at the University of Bonn while working on my Ph.D. at the Museum Koenig in Bonn. I would later earn my Ph.D. from the University of Michigan where I wrote my dissertation on morphological differences among the viperid snakes.

I feel blessed that my life’s experiences led me to a career teaching biology at Hillsdale College. Being free from having to apply for government grants has allowed me to pursue research directions of my own interests. While at Hillsdale College, I have led students to conduct research on conservation genetics in South Africa and Botswana. Hillsdale College students worked hand-in-hand with game rangers and conservationists in Africa to gather data that benefits management of the genetic health of a range of animals including African lions, cheetah, elephants, Cape buffalo, and southern ground hornbills.