University of Michigan
Museum of Zoology
1109 Geddes Ave
Ann Arbor, MI 48109
Assistant Professor and Assistant Curator
Field of Study
Macroevolution, speciation, phylogenetic comparative methods, biodiversity theory, evolution and ecology of Australian reptiles, herpetology, paleobiology
I received my Ph.D. in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology from Cornell in 2009. I was a Miller Postdoctoral Fellow in the Department of Integrative Biology at the University of California Berkeley from 2009-2012.
Why do some groups of organisms contain so many species, and why do many other groups contain so few? Why do some groups have such tremendous ecological and morphological diversity? How do ecological interactions influence the diversification of species and phenotypes, and how does diversification in turn affect ecological community structure and spatial patterns of species richness? I study these questions using a combination of fieldwork, molecular phylogenetics, and mathematical and computer modeling.
Major facets of my research program include:
I. Australian lizard macroevolution
I study evolutionary radiations of lizards from arid Australia to understand feedbacks between ecological processes and diversification. I use this system to assess the importance of niche conservatism, species interactions, and environmental filtering in generating species assemblages across a hierarchy of spatial scales, and to explore how these interactions influence broad scale patterns of speciation, extinction, and trait evolution.
II. Comparative analyses, theory, methods
Understanding the general processes that underlie large-scale evolutionary trends and diversity patterns requires synthesizing patterns across many types of evolutionary radiations. I test hypotheses to explain why some kinds of organisms have such exceptional species and phenotypic diversity by combining phylogenetic, ecological, and paleontological information for groups drawn broadly from the tree of life. Much of this work involves developing new statistical models and analytical techniques, especially for modeling the tempo and mode of species diversification and trait evolution across phylogenetic trees. Some of the types of questions we are studying include: how do ecological interactions between species influence macroevolutionary patterns of speciation and trait evolution? Are rates of phenotypic evolution coupled to rates of species diversification? How can we combine inferences from molecular phylogenies and the fossil record to understand the dynamics of speciation and extinction through time?
III. Biodiversity and biogeography of squamate reptiles
We also use molecular phylogenetic and phylogeographic approaches to understand species richness and biogeography in Australian lizards, and I am interested more generally in phylogenetics and biodiversity of squamate reptiles.
Graduate StudentsJeff Shi, Pascal Title