Uncovering the evolutionary relationships among species is one of the central tasks of evolutionary biology. These relationships not only trace evolutionary history, they also are essential for answering a variety of questions about ecology and evolution. For example, phylogenetic analysis illuminated the steps that led to the evolution of complex insect societies like those of ants and the origins of complex adaptations of organisms like placentas and plant-pollinator interactions. Methods developed in phylogenetic research are used to retrace the course of epidemics and identify the strains of influenza most likely to prevail in the next flu season. They have also been used to study the evolution of human language and trace the relationships among human populations. Technological innovation in molecular biology and advances in computational science have allowed modern phylogenetic analyses to be based on wide samplings of genomes, which has allowed us to trace the paths of evolution more deeply and precisely than ever before.
The goal of my research program is to gain insight into the process of speciation in order to understand the origin of biodiversity. I employ an integrative approach to studying speciation, which involves several fields of biology, including behavioral ecology, evolutionary neuroscience, phylogenetics, population genetics, genomics, and ecology.
My research program involves topics within the broadly defined area of biodiversity study. I am particularly interested in (1) the interplay of ecology and evolution that determines the form and function of plant life on Earth, (2) the use of biodiversity research specimens and digital information about them to bring that interplay into sharper focus, and (3) public engagement in the research to further science and STEM literacy goals.
I seek to understand the origin of biological diversity. The foundation for my research is estimating large phylogenies for highly diverse groups, especially rodents and bivalves, from population to ordinal levels, then using those phylogenies to answer many other questions about evolution.
I study phylogenetic inference and genomics.
I study all aspects of morphometric research, including theoretical morphometrics, the development of morphometric software, and the application of morphometric analysis to a number of problems.
I study a mix of theoretical and empirical problems, including assessment of MCMC convergence and lizard phylogeny.