Hi! I’m a computational evolutionary biologist using Earth-life evolution to understand how geo-climatic factors drive the formation of new species over time. To do this I use modeling to integrate geo-climatic and genomic data and work to advance the quantitative methods needed to do this.
Genetic divergence is important because it can lead to increased diversity and the formation of new species. We discovered that sea-level change against tectonically steeped coastlines can isolate populations when sea level is low and cause divergence of coastal species. But how has this mechanism worked over deep time on different coastlines? Can we see signatures of this process in the fossil record and in phylogenetic speciation-extinction histories? And how does this mechanism operate as a function of a species’ dispersal ability?
Speciation and genomic divergence can occur by adaptation or genetic drift. Often, however, there are multiple geo-climatic processes co-occurring on a given landscape. We have shown the American southwest to be an ideal testing ground to examine ways in which to disentangle the potential pseudocongruent effects of this complexity on organismal evolution. What are the right tools for measuring the relative influence of adaptation versus vicariance in driving lineage divergence? How can we quantify and standardize these metrics to compare across disparate species? And how can we quantitatively include geo-climatic complexity in our knowledge of evolutionary theory?