Matthew W. Mitchell, Ph.D.

Postdoctoral Research Fellow


Postdoctoral Research Fellow


Ph.D. - Biology, University at Albany - SUNY

Graduate Certificate - GIS & Spatial Analysis, University at Albany - SUNY

B.A. - Biology, Music, Colby College


Matt is an evolutionary biologist and primatologist who is focused on chimpanzee population genomics, socio-ecology and conservation. His research is based in central Africa, primarily in Cameroon and Gabon, and is focused on understanding spatial patterns of chimpanzee genetic diversity and their relevant associations with environmental variation. Matt is also involved in wildlife conservation, especially in central Africa, including education and policy development.


The chimpanzee is a flagship conservation species. Across the chimpanzee’s entire distribution, the county of Cameroon is exceptional because two of the four recognized chimpanzee subspecies are found there: Pan troglodytes troglodytes and P. t. ellioti. Genetic data from recent studies have shown that these subspecies are significantly different from each other and separated roughly 200-350 thousand years ago. The ranges of P. t. ellioti and P. t. troglodytes also presumably converge at the Sanaga River in central Cameroon, but this separation persists despite ongoing gene flow, and may also be governed by regional variation in habitat.


The location of this research in Cameroon, and now Gabon, constitutes a ‘natural laboratory’ for studying factors that create and maintain the genetic structure of chimpanzees. The mechanisms of that drive speciation in tropical taxa are varied, and still not well understood especially for primates. He utilizes numerous available resources for chimpanzees, including a comprehensive collection of geo-referenced DNA samples, a library of microsatellite markers, and genome sequences of 10 chimpanzees from this region, which will inform SNP selection.


Matt is also a member of the Central African Biodiversity Alliance (CABAlliance). The CABAlliance is an international partnership that seeks to develop an integrated framework for conserving central African biodiversity under climate change that is both evolutionary-informed and grounded in the socioeconomic constraints of the region.


  • "The population genetics of wild chimpanzees in Cameroon and Nigeria suggests a positive role for selection in the evolution of chimpanzee subspecies." (2015) M.W. Mitchell, S. Locatelli, L. Ghobrial, A.A. Pokempner, P.R. Sesink Clee, E.E. Abwe, A. Nicholas, L. Nkembi, N.M. Anthony, B.J. Morgan, R. Fotso, M. Peeters, B.H. Hahn, and M.K. Gonder. BMC Evolutionary Biology, 15:3. (PDF).


  • "Environmental variation and rivers govern the structure of chimpanzee genetic diversity in a biodiversity hotspot." (2015) M.W. Mitchell, S. Locatelli, P.R. Sesink Clee, H.A. Thomassen, and M.K. Gonder. BMC Evolutionary Biology, 15:1. (PDF).


  • "TESS Ad-Mixer: A novel program for visualizing TESS Q matrices." (2013) M.W. Mitchell, B. Rowe, P.R. Sesink Clee and M.K. Gonder. Conservation Genetics Resources, 5(4): 1075-8. (PDF).


  • "Primate Speciation: A Case Study of African Apes." (2013) M.W. Mitchell and M.K. Gonder. Nature Education Knowledge, 4(2): 1 (LINK).


  • "Evidence from Cameroon reveals differences in the genetic structure and history of chimpanzee populations." (2011) M.K. Gonder, S. Locatelli, L. Ghobrial, M.W. Mitchell, J.T. Kujawski, F. Lankester C.-B. Stewart and S. A. Tishkoff. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 108(12): 4766-71. Featured Cover Article. (PDF).


Central African Biodiversity Alliance (CABAlliance)

The Nigeria-Cameroon Chimpanzee (P. t. ellioti)


Matthew W. Mitchell, Ph.D.

Drexel University

Department of Biology

3245 Chestnut St.

Papadakis Integrated Sciences Building, Rm. 503

Philadelphia, PA 19104


Office: PISB 503

Phone: (215) 895-6890


Drexel University | Papadakis Integrated Sciences Building 503 | Department of Biology

Dr. Katy Gonder © All Rights Reserved | Photography by Joel Sartore © All Rights Reserved