Braxton Craven Professor of Evolutionary Biology
My work integrates field inventory activities with molecular phylogenetic techniques and geospatial analysis to investigate Madagascar, an area of the world that is biologically complex, poorly understood, and urgently threatened. Madagascar has been designated as one of the most critical geographic priorities for conservation action, retaining less than 10% of the natural habitats that existed before human colonization. It is critical that information be obtained as quickly as possible to document the biota that occurs in the remaining and highly threatened forested areas of western Madagascar, to gain an understanding of the evolutionary processes and associated distributional patterns that have shaped this diversity, and to use this information to help set conservation priorities. Phylogenetic and biogeographic analysis of Malagasy vertebrates, each with unique life-history and dispersal characteristics, are conducted to identify areas of high endemism potentially associated with underlying geological features, and also to test for the role that geographic features have played in generating patterns of vertebrate diversity and distribution. My lab also has a significant focus on capacity-building through the education and training of both American and Malagasy students. Research opportunities for American graduate students are enhanced by the formation of Malagasy/American partnerships.