I am interested in the phylogenetics and evolution of plants. My research often involves some aspect of molecular dating, morphological or molecular trait evolution, and historical biogeography. Projects range from the species to ordinal level, often with a focus on monocotyledons, my favourite group of plants. I am currently a post-doc with Chelsea Specht at the University of California, Berkeley.
Evolution and Diversification of Zingiberales.—My research with Chelsea Specht (UC, Berkeley) is on the phylogeny and evolution of the pan-tropical order Zingiberales, a group that includes bananas and gingers. I am working on integrating molecular (phylogenomic) data with morphological data to incorporate the extensive collection of seed fossils and produce a robustly supported dated phylogeny of Zingiberales.
Other related projects are characterizing a bout of adaptive plastome evolution in Marantaceae and species limits in the Heliconia vaginalis complex.
Phylogenetic distinctiveness and islands.—I am interested in assessing a long-standing observation that phylogenetically distinctive lineages seem to be relatively common on islands (e.g., Wallace. 1880. Island Life; Carlquist. 1974. Island Biology). Striking plant examples are Amborella on New Caledonia as the sister species to all other flowering plants (~300,000 spp.) and Hillebrandia on Hawaii as the sister species to pan-tropical Begonia (1620 spp.). The same pattern can be seen in animal lineages, for example the tuatara on New Zealand as the sister species to lizards and snakes (~10,000 spp.). In a case study examining the tropical Old World pitcher plants, Nepenthes, I found a significant negative relationship between island age and species specific diversification (the inverse of a common metric for phylogenetic distinctiveness). I started this project in collaboration with Arne Mooers (Simon Fraser U.).
Some Past Research
The phylogeny and evolution of floral presentation in Heliconiaceae.—I found that traditional taxonomic divisions were mostly non-monophyletic, and that a Pacific island+Ecuadorean clade was sister to the rest of this Neo-tropical radiation. There was also strong evidence for correlated evolution between inflorescence habit and floral resupination. (doi: 10.1016/j.ympev.2016.12.001)
Monocot fossils for molecular dating.—I identified and characterize 34 fossils from across monocot phylogeny whose synapomorphies make them suitable for molecular dating. I also reviewed the associated stratigraphy and fossil age. (doi: 10.1111/boj.12233; for the main table download pdf)
Please see my CV for a complete list of publications.