Leigha M Lynch, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor
Glendale, AZ

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Dr. Lynch received her Ph.D. in Biomedical Sciences from Oklahoma State University Center for Health Sciences in 2018. She then served as a Postdoctoral Research Associate at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, where she taught anatomy, embryology, and imaging and conducted research on carnivoran encephalization. She began her career at Midwestern University as an Assistant Professor in Anatomy in 2020.

Assistant Professor

Glendale, AZ

College of Graduate Studies - AZ


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Oklahoma State University Center for Health Sciences | 2018 | Ph.D.
East Tennessee State University | 2012 | M.S.
Bowling Green State University | 2009 | B.S.

Courses Taught

Human Anatomy with Laboratory (ANATG 502/503/504)

Gross Anatomy/Embryology (ANATG 1551/1552/1553)


I seek to understand the intrinsic and extrinsic factors that influence the evolution of morphological variation in carnivorans. To do this, I use a combination of methods including 3D imaging and geometric morphometrics, genetic sequencing, phylogenetics, and phylogenetic comparative methods. Using the data acquired through these methods I can then test hypotheses regarding: 1) how environment acts as a selective pressure on morphological traits; 2) when in history species molecularly and morphologically diverged; 3) did major climatic events drive the evolution of a species; and 4) does morphology vary within a species in correlation with diet and behavior?

My research predominantly focuses on the intraspecific variation of mustelid taxa, including North American pine martens, river otters, and black-footed ferrets. Mustelids are an ideal group for my research because they are geographically wide-spread, exhibit a diverse array of behaviors, and are well documented both in extant populations and the fossil record. Throughout my research, I have worked with a combination of tissue types (limb and cranial skeleton, muscle, blood vessel, DNA) from mustelids anywhere from 23,000 years old to animals caught in 2010. Working with animals from such a wide time range allows me to better calibrate my evolutionary models and understand the full evolutionary history of a species, not just that which can be gleaned from extant populations.


Van Handel, Amelia C, Leigha M Lynch, Jimmy H Daruwalla, James Higgins, Kari C Allen, Mitchell A Pet. 2021. Medial femoral trochlea osteochondral free flap reconstruction versus proximal row carpectomy for advanced Keinbock’s Disease: a morphometric comparison. Journal of Hand Surgery (European Volume). doi: 10.1177/17531934211031862

Lynch, Leigha M., Ryan Felice, Haley D. O’Brien. 2020. Appendicular skeletal morphology of North American Martes reflects a punctuated mode of evolution in conjunction with Pleistocene glacial cycles. The Anatomical Record.1-24. doi:10.1002/ar.24545

Lynch, Leigha M. 2019. Fossil calibration of mitochondrial phylogenetic relationships of North American pine martens, Martes, suggests an older divergence of M. americana and M. caurina than previously hypothesized.  Journal of Mammalian Evolution. 27: 535-548. doi:10.1007/s10914-019-09476-7

O’Brien, Haley D., Leigha M. Lynch, Greg Erickson, Kent Vliet, John Bruggen, and Paul M. Gignac. 2019. Crocodylian head width allometry and a Bayesian framework for predicting body size in extinct suchians. Integrative Organismal Biology 1 (1): 1-15. doi:10.1093/iob/obz006

Lynch, Leigha M. 2019. Skeletal limb morphology of the North American pine marten, Martes americana and Martes caurina, varies predictably by biome. Biological Journal of the Linnaean Society 126 (2): 240-255. doi:10.1093/biolinnean/bly175


American Association for Anatomy

Sigma Xi

Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology- DPCB Program Officer