Research

Please be in touch if you would like to collaborate on projects related to the evolutionary history of bears or rats (or something else)!

Phylogeography and Population Structure
I am keenly interested in inferring species histories across their range using a combination of phylogeographic and population genomics techniques.  Investigating the entire range allows for inference of variation in evolutionary dynamics on a regional scale.  These unique evolutionary histories are useful for understanding incipient speciation or how to define contemporary evolutionary significant units.  To date I have worked on phylogeographies for the American black bear and brown rat.  Part of this work for black bears describes how population inference changes depending on use of genetic or genomic datasets.  I have also worked on regional demographic patterns in the Central Interior Highlands evolutionary cluster of black bears.

Geometric Morphometrics
IMG_1713I use cranial geometric morphometrics to investigate morphological variation in species over either geography or time.  Within the geographic context, many subspecies were described using morphology but without the level of rigor that modern methods employ.  Thus I am measuring this variation to understand patterns of congruence between historic subspecies designations and contemporary methods for defining evolutionary significant units.  Within the temporal context, I am interested in the degree and direction of morphological drift or selection.  I look forward to extending this line of inquiry using probe capture for genotyping to thereby link phenotypes with genotypes in museum collections.

American Black Bear Density and Dispersal

Field work with an anesthetized black bear.

Field work with an anesthetized black bear.

My work with the Missouri Bear Project has explicit implications for wildlife management.  We conducted a genetic mark-recapture study of black bears in Missouri and estimated a population of 280 bears in the state.   This project also describes how study design factors of genetic mark-recapture using hair snags influences population size estimates.

I am also working on a project that explores the interplay between bear density, amount of genetic diversity, and female philopatry on sex-biased dispersal.

 

 

Conservation of the World’s Bear Species
I serve as a geneticist for the IUCN Bear Specialist Group.  My goals are two-fold: to integrate evolutionary analyses into conservation decisions, and facilitate the synthesis of local population genetics projects across the range of each species.