A fundamental theme in science that has captivated researchers for generations is simply how and why species evolve. I use genetic patterns to understand evolutionary processes in amphibians and reptiles. My program takes a broad, multifaceted approach to understanding vertebrate diversity, including investigating the evolution of morphology and body-form, geography, and speciation in island archipelago and mainland systems. A few active research topics in my lab are listed below.
Phylogenetics and Patterns of Diversification.—My research lab has numerous active projects exploring the patterns and processes of morphological character evolution and species-level diversification, focusing on understanding the biogeographic and evolutionary histories of Southeast Asian amphibians and reptiles. We will begin pursuing several broader, more comparative approaches to understanding processes involved in species diversification. Projects currently underway combine comparative phylogenetic, ecological modeling, and bioinformatic perspectives in studying the role that geographic and ecological forces play in diversification processes.
Phylogeography.—Southeast Asia’s complex geological history and highly variable geography and ecology provide an ideal template for testing the effects of geographic change on phylogenetic processes. My lab will continue to study phylogeographic patterns associated with amphibians and reptiles in this region. A component of this research is interested in employing statistical tests of phylogenetic topology and population genetic analyses of widespread species to explore patterns of diversity and investigate species complexes. This effort has resulted in the observation of numerous fascinating patterns and many cryptic species, all of which indicate that the processes of diversification in Southeast Asia are far more complex than previously recognized.
Conservation and Landscape Genetics.—A developing research inititiative in our lab is to study patterns of genetic diversity at the population level. We will begin investigating these patterns using SNP and microsatellite datasets for a number of focal species in Southeast Asia. Additionally, a regional aspect of this work will study employ similar datasets to study population genetic patterns of vertebrates across Oklahoma.
Biodiversity Research and Education Outreach.—The regionalized biodiversity across Southeast Asia is unique. Levels of endemism among known groups of vertebrates are astonishingly high. A large component of our research program involves massive efforts to survey the diversity of amphibians and reptiles across Southeast Asia. We are developing active field programs in the Philippines, Thailand, Borneo, and Vietnam. Data resulting from these surveys is used to direct conservation efforts and identify threatened species. Many of our surveys have resulted in the discovery of new species! In addition to survey work, my lab is in charge of the development of the PhilBREO program (Biodiversity Research and Education Outreach - Philippines), an international education outreach program aimed at bringing biodiversity information and educational tools to the public using a multi-language and multi-disciplinary approach. This project will continue to develop and implement the PhilBREO website to integrate studies of biodiversity, biogeography, education, and conservation.