Even in “well studied” groups like birds, relatively little is known about diversity in the tropics. Because of this, the first step in much of my research is to accurately account for this diversity, generally using museum collections and genetic surveys to reveal populations that have independent histories and field surveys to document current distributions and community structure. The genetic data are then used to reconstruct the evolutionary history of groups of interest.
These evolutionary histories can be combined with natural history data and used to test hypotheses about factors that might influence diversification. Much of my work focuses on two insular regions (Melanesia and the Philippines/Greater Sunda islands) that are ideal systems for studying the tempo and mode of speciation in birds. Field expeditions are a large component of my research program, for specimen acquisition as well as collecting life history data.
The lab is now transitioning to genomic-scale DNA datasets, utilizing the incredible advances in next-generation sequencing technology. Specific projects range from fine-scale analysis of closely related populations to phylogenetic studies of entire families or even orders of birds.