James Cunningham, PhD

Dr. Cunningham is an Associate Professor at Dominican and has taught Organismal Biology, Science and Society, BIO Research Methodology, Fundamentals of Ecology, Comparative Anatomy, Advanced Ecology, Developmental Biology, Natural History of CA, Whole Earth History, Birds & the Environment, and Conservation Biology.


Associate Professor

Office: Science Center #100
Lab: Science Center #123
[email protected]

About Professor Cunningham 

Dr. Cunningham joined Dominican in 1991 and served as the chair of Natural Sciences and Mathematics department from 1998 through 2001. Dr. Cunningham holds a position as research associate in the Department of Mammalogy and Ornithology at the California Academy of Sciences, San Francisco, California. Prior to joining Dominican, Dr. Cunningham taught biology at San Francisco City College, College of San Mateo, College of Marin, College of Notre Dame, Cosumnes River College, and Golden Gate University. Dr. Cunningham's research interests include studies of the vocal behavior and social organization of birds. He is also interested in the growth rates of birds and how this relates to energy allocation during breeding.

Academic Area


Educational Background

  • PhD Zoology, University of Canterbury, Christchurch, New Zealand
  • MS Biology, Northern Arizona University, Flagstaff, AZ
  • BS Zoology, San Diego State University, San Diego, CA

Teaching and Research

His research interests include studies of the vocal behavior; social organization; and the growth rates of birds and how this relates to energy allocation during breeding.

  • Project 1: Investigating the singing behavior of the Gray Warbler, a species endemic to New Zealand . During my doctoral work in New Zealand, I collected recordings of color-marked Gray Warblers. From these recordings, we will characterize the song of the Gray Warbler and describe the degree of inter and intra song variation.
  • Project 2: Investigating of the genetic basis of the variation in thallus growth in the lichen Ramalina menzeseii. In this species, the thallus grows either in a reticulated or reticulated pattern. The reticulations in the thallus come about through the death of fungal cells within the thallus. We are attempting to investigate the genetic basis of this dying process.
  • Project 3: Survey of freshwater fish parasites from Marin County and nearby National Parks, including Point Reyes National Seashore and Golden Gate National Recreation Area. We are particularly interested in determining what kinds of round worms and tapeworms parasitize local fish. Preliminary results indicate that three types of helminth (round worm) parasites occur in mosquitofish. These helminth parasites have a complex life history, part of which is spent in amphibians and birds, such as herons. This project is leading to new scientific information and scientific discoveries (co-investigators: Mietek Kolipinski, & Sibdas Ghosh).

Recent Publications

  • Calkins, D., J.B. Cunningham, F. Satterfield, M. Kolipinski, and S. Ghosh. 2007. Patterns of Life: Integrating Mathematics with Science, Culture, and Art. Science Education and Civic Engagement: An International Journal 1: 56-71.
  • Cunningham, J.B. 1987. Immigrant killers: introduced predators and conservation of birds of New Zealand. [book review]. Auk 104: 357-358.
  • Cunningham, J.B. and R.N. Holdaway. 1986. Morphology and head colour in the Yellowhead. Notornis 33: 33-36.
  • Cunningham, J.B. and G.H. Sherley. 1985. Recent research in Kowhai Bush and proposals for the future. Mauri Ora 12: 55-67.
  • Cunningham, J.B. 1984. The Brown Creeper. In Reader's Digest Complete Book of New Zealand Birds. Reader's Digest Pty. Ltd., Sydney.