I address questions at the interface of evolution, ecology, conservation and global change science. Below I describe my research themes and study systems.
Phylogenetic Methods for Biodiversity
I develop quantitative methods to measure the phylogenetic diversity encompassed by sets of organisms, and develop statistical models to estimate drivers of variation in such biodiversity. These methods are general and packaged in open access R code. see
Community assembly is the ecological process by which species from a regional pool colonize and interact to form local communities. Theoretical understanding of community assembly has historically focused on the environmental variables that select for particular species with particular traits to coexist within communities. I extend this theory with phylogenetics.
Human Disturbance on Biodiversity
Predicting species responses to human disturbance is complicated by incomplete knowledge on species traits. My research addresses this problem by utilizing trait correlations and estimates of evolutionary trait conservatism. Essentially, if we know the sensitivity of one species, then we should be able to predict the sensitivity of close relatives.
One of the most significant advances that stemmed from a merger of evolution and ecology was the dynamic equilibrium theory of island biogeography. The theory proposes that island area and isolation—acting through their effects on colonization, speciation and extinction—consistently shape island biogeography such that larger islands have more species and isolated islands fewer. My research extends this theory in two ways, by incorporating phylogenetics and economics.
My field work is primarily in herpetology and aquatic ecology. I have worked on whole-lake experiments, sampled freshwaters in the U.S. and Mexico, and have recently started a research program in the Dutch Antilles on exotic amphibians and reptiles. However, many of my projects are not focused on one particular system or clade of organisms, but instead my projects take a biodiversity informatic approach to aggregate and analyze large biodiversity data sets.