Faculty Staff Detail

Dr. Matthew Shawkey

Dr. Matthew Shawkey

Title: Associate Professor
Department: Biology
Office: ASEC B217
Phone: 330-972-8192
Fax: 330-972-8445
Email: shawkey(at)uakron.edu
Website: http://gozips.uakron.edu/~shawkey/


We focus on the optics and evolution of animal colors from the Jurassic to the present. We are particularly interested in those produced by highly organized tissues (structural colors) in feathers. These tissues act as one, two and three dimensional photonic crystals and are thus of interest at both a fundamental and applied level. Our work has recently expanded  to include reconstruction of color from fossil organisms, including birds, mammals and dinosaurs. We are also interested in antimicrobial  strategies in birds. We work with collaborators around the globe and try to strike a healthy balance between field and lab work.


1997- B.A. Neuroscience and Behavior, Wesleyan University

2001- M.Sc. Zoology, University of South Florida

2005-Ph.D. Biology, Auburn University

2005-2008- Post-Doctoral, University of California, Berkeley.


R. Carney, J. Vinther, M.D. SHAWKEY, L. D’Alba, and J. Ackermann. In press. Newevidence on the color, ultrastructure and nature of the isolated Archaeopteryx feather. Nature Communications.

L. D’Alba, C. Van Hemert, C.M. Handel and M.D. SHAWKEY. 2011. A natural experiment on the condition-dependence of achromatic plumage coloration in black- capped chickadees. PLoS One 6: e25877.

 R. Maia, R.H. Macedo and M.D. SHAWKEY. 2011. Self-assembly of iridescent barbules through depletion attraction of melanosomes during keratinization. Journal of the Royal Society Interface: doi: 10.1098/​rsif.2011.0456.

M.D. SHAWKEY, L. D’Alba and R. Maia. 2011. Proximate bases of silver color in Anhinga           feathers. Journal of Morphology doi: 10.1002/jmor.10993.

Eliason, C.M. and M.D. SHAWKEY. 2011. Decreased hydrophobicity of iridescent feathers: a potential cost to shiny plumage. Journal of Experimental Biology 214:2157-63.

L. D'Alba, V. Sarananthan, J.A. Clarke, J.A. Vinther, R.O. Prum and M.D. SHAWKEY. 2011. Colour-producing β-keratin nanofibres in blue penguin (Eudyptula minor) feathers. Biology Letters. doi: 10.1098/rsbl.2010.1163.

Maia, R., L. D’Alba, M.D. SHAWKEY. 2011. What makes a feather shine? A nanostructural basis for glossy black feathers. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London B. 278:1973-80.

M.D. SHAWKEY, L. D'Alba, J.A. Wozny, C.M. Eliason, J. Koop, and L. Jia.  2011Structural color change following hydration and dehydration of iridescent mourning dove (Zenaida macroura) feathers. Zoology 115:59-58. (cover article).

L. D’Alba, A. Oborn, M.D. SHAWKEY. 2010 Experimental evidence that keeping eggs dry is a mechanism for the antimicrobial effects of avian incubation. Naturwissenschaften 97:1089-1095.

C.M. Eliason and M.D. SHAWKEY, 2010. Rapid, reversible response of iridescent feather color to ambient humidity. Optics Express 18, 21284-21292.

J.A. Clarke,  D. Ksepka, R. Salas-Gismondi, A.J. Altamirano, M.D. SHAWKEY, L. D’Alba, J. Vinther, J. DeVries, P. Baby. 2010. Fossil evidence for evolution of the shape and color of penguin feathers. Science 330:954-957 (cover article)..

D’Alba, L., M.D. Shawkey, P. Korsten, J. Komdeur, and S.R. Beissinger. 2010. Differential deposition of antimicrobial proteins in blue tit (Cyanistes caeruleus) clutches by laying order and male attractiveness. Behavioral Ecology and  Sociobiology 64:1037-1045. Cited 1 time.

Li, Q., G. Ke-Qin, J. Vinther, M.D. Shawkey, J.A. Clarke, L. D’Alba, Q. Meng,D.E.G. Briggs, R.O. Prum. 2010. Plumage color patterns of an extinct dinosaur. Science 327:1369-72.

 Shawkey, M.D., E.L. Brodie, M.K. Firestone and S.R. Beissinger. 2009. Avian incubation inhibits growth and diversification of bacterial assemblages on eggs. Public Library of Science One 4:e4522.

Shawkey, M.D., V. Saranthan, H. Palsdottir, J. Crum, M. Auer and R.O. Prum. 2009. Electron tomography, 3D Fourier analysis and color prediction of a 3D amorphous bio-photonic nanostructure. Journal of the Royal Society Interface 6:S213-220.

 Shawkey, M.D., N.I. Morehouse and P. Vukusic. 2009. A Protean palette: color materials and mixing in birds and butterflies. Journal of the Royal Society Interface 6:S221-231.

 Shawkey, M.D., S.R. Pillai and G.E. Hill. 2009. Do feather-degrading bacteria affect sexually-selected plumage color? Naturwissenschaften 96:123-128.

Johnson, V., C. Guyer, M.D. Shawkey, and S.R. Roberts. 2008. Abundance, identification, and prospective participation of bacteria on Gopher Tortoise (Gopherus polyphemus) shell degradation. Journal of the Alabama Academy of Science 79:190-200 (winner of the Bergen Award for best paper of 2008 in JAAS.)

Shawkey, M.D., M. Liu, E. Loos, F. Rowher, J.M. Wang, and S.R. Beissinger. 2008. Do birds differentially deposit anti-microbial proteins in clutches of eggs? Behavioral Ecology 19:920-927.

 Siefferman, L., M.D. Shawkey, R. Bowman and G.E. Woolfenden. 2008. Juvenile coloration of Florida Scrub-Jays is sexually dichromatic and correlated with condition. Aphelocoma coerulescens. Journal of Ornithology 149:357-363.

 Shawkey, M.D., S.R. Pillai, G.E. Hill, L.M. Siefferman and S.R. Roberts. 2007. Bacteria as an agent for change in structural plumage color: correlational and experimental evidence. The American Naturalist S112-117.

Estep, L.K., M.D. Shawkey and G.E. Hill. 2006. Carotenoid-based breast plumage colour, body condition and clutch size in red fodies (Foudia madagascariensis).Ostrich 77:164-169.

Shawkey, M.D., J. Hussain, J.L. Hagelin, A.C. Vollmer, and G.E. Hill. 2006.Culture-independent characterization of bacteria on feathers of Crested and Least Auklets (Aethia cristatella and Aethia pusilla). Waterbirds 29:507-510.

Shawkey, M.D., G.E. Hill,  K.J. McGraw, W.R. Hood and K.L. Huggins. 2006.An experimental test of the relative contribution and condition-dependence of microstructure and carotenoids in yellow plumage coloration. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London B 273:2985-2991.

Shawkey, M.D., M.E. Hauber, L.K. Estep and G.E. Hill. 2006. Evolutionary transitions and structural mechanisms of avian plumage coloration in grackles and allies (Icteridae). Journal of the Royal Society Interface 3:777-783.

Shawkey, M.D. and G.E. Hill. 2006. Significance of a basal melanin layer to production of non-iridescent structural plumage colour: evidence from an amelanotic Stellers’ Jay(Cyanocitta stelleri).  Journal of Experimental Biology 209:1245-1250.

Shawkey, M.D., S.L. Balenger, G.E. Hill, L.S. Johnson, A.J. Keyser and L.  Siefferman. 2006. Mechanisms of evolutionary change in structural plumage coloration among bluebirds (Sialia spp.). Journal of the Royal Society Interface 3:527-532 (cover article).

Doucet, S.M., M.D. Shawkey, G.E. Hill and R. Montgomerie. 2006.  Iridescent color in satin bowerbirds:  Structure, mechanisms and individual variation. Journal of Experimental Biology 209:380-390 (cover article).

Shawkey, M.D. and G.E. Hill. 2005. Carotenoids need structural colours to shine. Biology Letters 1:121-124.

Shawkey, M.D., K.L. Mills, C. Dale and G.E. Hill. 2005. Microbial diversity of wild bird feathers revealed through culture-based and culture-independent techniques. Microbial Ecology 50:40-47.

Shawkey, M.D., A.M. Estes, L.M. Siefferman and G.E. Hill. 2005. The anatomical basis of sexual dichromatism in non-iridescent ultraviolet-blue structural coloration of feathers. Biological Journal of the Linnean Society 85:259-271.

Shawkey, M.D. and G.E. Hill. 2004. Feathers at a fine scale. Auk. 141:652-655.

Doucet, S.M., M.D. Shawkey, M.K. Rathburn, H.L. Mays, Jr. and R. Montgomerie. 2004. Concordant evolution of plumage colour, feather microstructure, and a melanocortin receptor gene between mainland and island populations of a fairy-wren. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London B 271:1663-1670.

Shawkey, M.D., R. Bowman and G.E. Woolfenden. 2004. Why is partial brood loss among Florida Scrub-Jays higher in suburban than wildland habitat? Canadian Journal of Zoology 82:1427-1435.

Shawkey, M.D., A.M. Estes, L.M. Siefferman and G.E. Hill. 2003. Nanostructure predicts intraspecific variation in ultraviolet-blue plumage colour.  Proceedings of the Royal Society of London B 270:1455-60.

Shawkey, M.D., S.R. Pillai and G.E. Hill. 2003.  Chemical warfare? Effects of uropygial oil on feather-degrading bacteria. Journal of Avian Biology 34:345-349.

Shawkey, M.D., M.L. Beck and G.E. Hill. 2003.  Use of a gel documentation system to measure feather growth bars.  Journal of Field Ornithology 74:125-128.

Ellis, D.E., B. Clauss, T. Watanabe, R.C. Mykut, M.D. Shawkey, D.P. Mummert, D.T. Sprague, C.H. Ellis and F.B.  Trahan.  2001. Results of the second (1996) experiment to lead cranes on migration behind a motorized ground vehicle.  Pp. 122-127 in Proceedings of the Eighth North American Crane Workshop.  International Crane Foundation, Baraboo, WI.