Population genetic approaches for estimating species boundaries and relationships
Mentor: Professor L. Lacey Knowles
Genetic approaches can not only provide great insights into the processes generating patterns of diversity, but also have immediate consequences for preserving that diversity, including biological systems that capture our imaginations and are often at the greatest risk of loss – recently originated species and evolutionary radiations. Yet, these are also the very situations where a disconnect between the way in which genetic data are interpreted and the actual underlying evolutionary processes can result in (i) a distorted picture of the history of speciation, and (ii) mis-specified targets of conservation concern. This project addresses two areas in which this gap between the inferences we make with our genetic analyses and the biological realities we aim to capture may be bridged by recent advances – the identification of species boundaries and the direct estimation of species trees. This project involves both theoretical work with the construction of species trees and laboratory work in genetics. This work would be done on the Ann Arbor campus in the Knowles Laboratory.