Diarmaid Ó Foighil obtained a B.Sc. (hons) in zoology from NUI Galway (Ireland) in 1981 and a Ph.D. in biology from the University of Victoria (Canada) in 1987. He was a postdoctoral fellow at the Friday Harbor Laboratories (University of Washington); Simon Fraser University (Vancouver, B.C.); and a research scientist at the University of South Carolina prior to joining the faculty at the University of Michigan in 1995. He has served as the president of the American Malacological Society and on the editorial boards of Evolution and Malacologia.
It is an exciting time to be a biologist. Ongoing theoretical and technical advances across broad areas of biological research are greatly expanding the scope of investigation for evolutionary studies and numerous classic questions concerning the origin and maintenance of biotic diversity are now being meaningfully tested for the first time.
The Mollusca are enormously diverse, have an excellent fossil record, and play central roles in almost all of the earth’s ecosystems. As a result, outstanding exemplar molluscan taxa can be targeted for most primary questions in the overlapping disciplines of evolution, systematics and biogeography. Although my background has been in marine systems, since moving to Ann Arbor I have also become very interested in freshwater and terrestrial taxa and presently have research projects on marine, terrestrial and freshwater taxa. See below a brief summary of our ongoing research project on endangered Pacific Island land snails.
Historical Phylogeny of Tahitian Partula, an Almost Extirpated Land Snail Fauna
Surveying remnant Partula hyalina populations in Tahiti with Trevor Coote in March 2005.
Partula hyalina and P. clara show enhanced resistance to the introduced predator Euglandina. Our results suggest that these two nominal Partulaspecies represent a single polymorphic lineage stemming from a distinct Tahitian colonization event.
Jack Burch, Taehwan Lee and I are presently engaged in collaborative project with the Zoological Society of London on the conservation biology and systematics of this highly endangered malacofauna.
Thanks to Jack’s historical samples, we aim to reconstruct the evolutionary history of this fauna and provide a phylogenetic perspective to guide ongoing conservation efforts. See the popular Whyfiles article on this research.
At present, I teach two primary courses: Animal Diversity (Bio 288) and Introductory Biology (Bio 162).
Bio 288’s focus is primarily on the Metazoa (multicellular animals) and we take a genealogical approach to addressing the evolutionary history of extant and extinct animal forms. We emphasize as much as possible live material in our comparative labs and as most animal diversity is marine and invertebrate, this gives many students their first up close look at living invertebrates such as echinoderms and cephalopods.
Bio 162 is the large enrollment Introductory Biology class and I teach the 2nd (ecology and evolution) half.