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SCIENCE & conservation

Sean Hoban

Sean Hoban conducting studies in woodlands

Sean Hoban

As Tree Conservation Biologist, Sean Hoban works to understand, document, and conserve the genetic variation of trees species, both rare and common.  Sean’s research program currently has three main avenues of research.  First is the interpretation of genetic data from trees, using modern statistical methods, to reveal basic aspects of plant ecology, changes in population demography through time, and the extent of gene flow among locations.  Specific interests include understanding the evolutionary and conservation impact of disease outbreaks and fragmentation; rapid adaptation in new environments; hybridization; and migration in response to climate change.  Study species have included members of Quercus, Juglans, and Pinus.  Second is the determination of how best to conserve the seeds of rare species in safehouses like seed banks and living collections (including the Morton’s own collection).  To do so, the lab uses sophisticated mathematical and computational modeling approaches combined with genetic, geographic and other data.  The goal here is to make sure that the genetic variation in conserved seed is of the highest utility for future reintroductions, ensuring the long term survival of species.  Third is the development and improvement of statistical methods and software in population genetics and conservation, which are used by other researchers, and practitioners, in these fields. Throughout, Sean’s lab (along with an extended network of collaborators) strives to interpret this research to inform and guide management of species and landscapes.


Tree Conservation Biologist


PhD, Biology, University of Notre Dame (2010)

BA, Biology, Bellarmine University (2005)



Sean Hoban’s research spans a range of topics in evolutionary biology, conservation science, biogeography, genomics and forestry.  He has published 29 technical articles and has presented his work at more than two dozen regional, national, and international conferences and forums.  He has planned and led workshops for the Society for Conservation Biology, The National Zoological Gardens of South Africa, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), and numerous agencies throughout the European Union.  He is a member of the IUCN Global Tree Specialist Group and the Conservation Genetics Specialist Group, an Editor for the journal Conservation Genetics, a blogger, and a reviewer for two dozen scientific journals.  He has contributed technical expertise to species’ assessment reports for the Swedish Environmental Protection Agency, to a new management strategy for CapeNature in South Africa, and to a Recovery Strategy for the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources.  His teaching experience includes genetics, ecology, biostatistics, and plant science, as well as mentoring for K-12 students through the program  He has also mentored several students through guided and independent research.  Before coming to the Morton, Sean was a postdoctoral researcher in France and Italy, and was also awarded a prestigious, highly competitive fellowship to work at the National Institute for Mathematical and Biological Synthesis in Knoxville, Tennessee.  A list of selected publications representing the range of Sean’s interests is below.

Selected publications

(2015) Hoban S and A Strand. Ex situ conservation seed collections should consider spatial design and species’ reproductive biology. Biological Conservation 187: p182-191

(2015) Laricchia K*, T McCleary, S Hoban, D Borkowski, J Romero-Severson. Chloroplast haplotypes suggest preglacial differentiation and separate postglacial migration paths for the threatened North American forest tree Juglans cinerea. Tree Genetics and Genomes 11 (30)

(2015) Zenni, R, S Hoban. Adaptive patterns of SNP frequency variation during range expansion of an invasive plant. Molecular Ecology 24(13): p3360-3371

(2014) Hoban S, JW Arntzen, M Bruford, J Godoy, AR Hoelzel, G Segelbacher, C Vilà, G Bertorelle. Comparative evaluation of potential indicators and temporal sampling protocols for monitoring genetierosion. Evolutionary Applications 7 (9): p984-998

(2014) Hoban S and S Schlarbaum. Optimal sampling of plant populations for ex-situ conservation of genetic biodiversity, considering realistic population structure Biological Conservation 177: p90-99

(2013) Hoban S, O Gaggiotti, and G Bertorelle. The number of markers and samples needed for detecting bottlenecks under realistic scenarios, with and without recovery: a simulation-based studyMolecular Ecology 22 (13): p3444-3450

(2013) Hoban S, J Bryja, P Arntzen, G Bertorelle, M Fernandes, K Frith, O Gaggiotti, P Galbusera, J Godoy, H Hauffe, R Hoelzel, R Nichols, S Pérez-Espona, C Primmer, I-R Russo, G Segelbacher, H Siegismund, M Sihvonen, P Sjogren-Gulve, C Vernesi, C Vilà, and M Brufford. Conservation Genetic Resources for Effective Species Survival (ConGRESS): bridging the divide between conservation research and practiceJournal for Nature Conservation 21 (6): p433-437

(2012) Hoban S, G Bertorelle, and O Gaggiotti. Computer simulations: tools for population and evolutionary genetics. Nature Reviews Genetics 13: p110-122

(2011) Hoban S and J Romero-Severson. Challenging a ‘Why should I care’ attitude by incorporating societal issues in the classroom. American Biology Teacher 73 (1): p39-41

(2010) Hoban S, D Borkowski, S Brosi, T McCleary, L Thompson, J McLachlan, M Pereira*, S Schlarbaum, and J Romero-Severson. Range-wide population differentiation in Juglans cinerea: a product of both historical range shifts and ecological marginality. Molecular Ecology 19 (22)

(2009) Hoban S, T McCleary, S Schlarbaum, and J Romero-Severson. Geographically extensive hybridization between butternut and Japanese walnut. Biology Letters 5 (3): p324-327

2013 curriculum vitae
PDF iconSean Hoban 2016 curriculum vitae