Take any locality on the face of the Earth, a tropical mountain slope of the Andes, one of the Galápagos islands, or a patch of Fynbos in South Africa, and the same questions can be asked about the species that are present. Why are there so many or why so few? Why do these particular species occur there, and what allows them to live together? To begin answering these questions we need to consider that all species live and interact locally in ecological communities, but at the same time can only be generated by speciation, driven extinct if their last population disappears, and co-occur together if their ranges expand – processes that operate at large spatial scales. Previously, I have used and developed a combination of molecular phylogenetic and theoretical approaches to understand and unite these perspectives.
Currently, as a PDRA with Dr Roger Close I study biodiversity from a palaeobiological perspective. The fossil record, more so than neontological data, captures when, where, and how fast species originated, moved around, and went extinct. However, the fossil record is spatially heterogeneous in terms of quality and quantity, and might bias the estimation of these macroevolutionary rates. Combining Roger’s palaeobiological and my ecological expertise, we focus on how this spatial structure may impact these rates throughout the Phanerozoic and across space.
Ultimately, I hope to contribute to a synthetic genetic, palaeobiological, and ecological understanding of the generation and maintenance of biodiversity.