I am a Banting and Biodiversity Research Centre postdoctoral fellow in Dolph Schluter's lab at the University of British Columbia. Prior to UBC, I completed my Ph.D at Cornell University in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology in January 2016.
I am an evolutionary ecologist who seeks to understand and explain patterns of biodiversity. I use natural history knowledge to study both classical and cutting-edge issues in niche evolution, species interactions and how species respond to climate change. My research program focuses on three core questions in evolution, ecology and conservation: 1) What factors promote speciation? , 2) What limits species’ geographic distributions? and, 3) How is global climate change impacting biodiversity? I often use montane avifaunas as a model system for these questions.
April 2019 — We expect distantly related species to look pretty different. But in woodpeckers, distantly related species often look nearly identical - big time mimicry in birds! Out now in Nature Communications, a project helmed by Eliot Miller & Rusty Ligon. Also, looking forward to talking about birds and climate change at Vancouver Public Library on April 16 - should be a great event!
March 2019 —Lots going on, writing & revising & submitting & plotting new schemes. Proud to have helped Ethan Linck on his ambitious project to test Mayr’s ideas about speciation & diversity build-up in tropical mountians—using specimens collected by Mayr himself nearly a century ago! Now posted on Biorxiv.
January 2019 —New year, new me - at long last decided to use Biorxiv & post a preprint. Check it out. We ask why closely related bird species sometimes overlap in range along mountain slopes & sometimes do not. Turns out behavior is key - species that fiercely defend territories tend not to overlap with their relatives. Thoughts and feedback very much welcome.
December 2018 — Just back from Bogotá where I gave a keynote presentation at the Congreso Colombiano de Zoología. It was great to meet so many folks (and to return to Colombia for the first time in 8 years)- the congress showcased a lot of exciting science.
October 2018 — Big news, new paper out in PNAS. We show that global warming sets in motion an “Escalator to Extinction” for mountain birds. Birds on a Peruvian mountain have (1) shifted upslope associated with recent warming, (2) high elevation species are getting squeezed into smaller areas, (3) high elevation species are declining in abundance, and (4) some previously common high elevation species have disappeared. We view our study, conducted along an 8 km trail, as a miniature real-world model of the same processes likely occurring on mountain slopes throughout the tropical Andes (and perhaps throughout the global tropics). Great coverage, including from Ed Yong in The Atlantic, the AP, the BBC, and Yale e360.
September 2018 -- New paper out in Global Ecology and Biogeography! We show that across the globe, high elevation species are shrinking in range size as they shift upslope in response to warming temperatures. Also, we find no support for the idea that temperature is a more important driver of cool range limits: average shifts were similar at species' warm vs. cool limits. Big thanks to co-authors Julie Lee-Yaw, Jennifer Sunday and Anna Hargreaves. This was a real collaborative effort, hatched in the hallways of the Biodiversity Research Centre, and it is so nice to have this out!
August 2018 -- Just presented my research at the International Ornithological Congress, and made some great connections. A change of pace to take the bus to a major conference. Big thanks to Kathy Martin for inviting me to participate in this symposium.
July 2018 -- New paper out in The Auk: Ornithological Advances! We show that crows chase ravens all the time (mostly in spring) and usually in groups - they use their social behavior to gain the upper hand on a bigger relative. Big thanks to all the citizen scientists who provided the data. Nice coverage in National Geographic , Cornell Lab of Ornithology, the Vancouver Courier, Global News, the National Post, and many other places (including the NRA!). I dig this Gizmodo piece.
June 2018 -- My new paper out in Journal of Biogeography. We show that most species are not common in the center of their range and rare at their range edges for New Guinean birds distributed along a mountain slope.
May 2018 -- Had a great time giving a public lecture about crows and ravens for the Beaty Biodiversity Museum's Way Cool series. Invigorating to talk about science to an all-ages audience, and gratifying to have an engaged & packed room on a sunny Sunday!
March 2018 -- Honored and pleased to receive a Killam Postdoctoral Fellow Research Prize. There are only two awardees per year for this campus-wide competition for UBC postdocs, and it comes with the princely sum of $5,000!
March 2018 -- Nice to see Benjamin Van Doren's paper out in Wilson Journal of Ornithology. It's a terrific example of carefully analyzing recordings of songs to help inform species limits, and the genetic data is the icing on the cake.
January 2018 -- I just came across this nice write-up in Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment covering our research -- playback experiments can help us understand species limits in birds.
December 2017 -- Congrats to Graham Montgomery and Benjamin Van Doren for getting papers from their undergrad careers accepted at Wilson Journal of Ornithology. It takes a lot of dedication to see your project all the way through to publication!
November 2017 -- Fun to give a seminar in UBC Biodiversity series and get some good feedback - first time sharing a ton of recent (unpublished) projects.
September 2017 -- Great to see our study just published in The Auk getting some publicity. We present data from playback experiments that suggests 21 populations of Neotropical birds deserve species status (they ignore song from related populations). Here is a nice write-up in Discover Magazine. And check out this segment on the Discovery Channel Canada (starts at 19:50) featuring a number of Graham's nice bird photos. We even made it into Lonely Planet!
August 2017 - Headed into the field to study climate change impacts on Neotropical birds. Are a dozen species that only lived on the mountaintop in 1985 still there? Or have they gone locally extinct?
July 2017 - Song learning is associated with slower evolution of song divergence in Neotropical birds. This does not support the idea that learning speeds speciation. Read more in Evolution
June 2017 - Back from the Evolution conference in Portland, where I presented my comparative studies of bird song evolution. Lots of good ideas for future directions. Plus I just learned that the first couple papers from my postdoc are now accepted at Evolution and The Auk. Soon will have lots of nice results to share from my song playback experiments...
March 2017 - Great trip to the Field Museum in Chicago to measure tons of birds (and give a seminar). Inspiring place to measure morphological divergence between closely related birds and contemplate the grandeur of life.
November 2016 - Congrats to Taylor, Reid and Eric for publishing their natural history observations showing that euphonias are facultative cavity nesters in Cotinga!
October 2016 - Just back from a successful recon trip to southeastern Peru - amazing to descend a single road that is home to nearly 1,000 species of birds
July 2016 - Bergmann's rule paper published in J Biogeography. There is no evidence that higher elevation birds are larger than lower elevation birds in tropical mountains)
May 2016 - New article published in Ibis! Low elevation New Guinean birds are aggressive towards closely related species that live at higher elevations.
March 2016 - Made the move to UBC; excited to get started on some new projects
Dec 2015 - Condor paper on aggressive thrushes