Research Interests

 

 

For my research, I am interested in investigating the biodiversity and evolutionary history of amphibians and reptiles at multiple spatial and temporal scales. My study systems include frogs in Thailand and skinks in Southeast Asia.

Fulbright Fellowship Project: The Dynamics of Amphibian Infectious Diseases in Thailand

Worldwide, amphibians species are undergoing rapid declines, and it is estimated that over one-third of all amphibian species currently are threatened or extinct. The main factors behind these declines are loss of habitat, climate change, and the spread of devastating amphibian infectious diseases including chytrid fungus and Ranavirus.

Since they were first detected in the last two decades, chytrid fungus and Ranavirus have caused the decline and extinction of amphibians in Australia, the Americas, and Asia. However, despite the fact that these pathogens have a particularly devastating effect on species in the tropics, disease distribution, abundance, and effects on amphibians in Thailand remain poorly understood.

My research in Thailand addresses the following questions:

  1. Where do amphibian diseases occur in Thailand?
  2. What are the effects of habitat and climate on the spread of these diseases?
  3. Are some species more susceptible to infection than others?
  4. Are there amphibian species that act as vectors for the spread of chytrid fungus?

Dissertation Research: The Evolutionary History and Landscape Genetics of  Skinks in Southeast Asia

The skink genera Lygosoma, Lepidothyris, and Mochlus form a clade of semi-fossorial (burrowing) lygosomine skinks that have radiated across the Old-World tropics, including in Africa, India, Indochina, the Sunda Shelf, and the Philippines. Although species in these genera exhibit a diversity of body sizes and shapes, there is a lack morphological diagnostic characters for the genera, which has historically resulted in  taxonomic confusion. Additionally, because species in these genera vary in body form from small, elongate, and gracile to large, elongate, and robust, they are an interesting system in which to study the evolutionary causes and effects of body-form evolution across the landscape

Using molecular phylogenetics and analyses, and in situ locomotion experiments my research addresses the following questions:

  1. What is the phylogenetic relationship between species in this group, and can the current taxonomy be revised to better reflect evolutionary history of these genera?
  2. How has historical geography affected the current distributions of species and clades across the Old-World tropics?
  3. How have environmental and physical barriers affected diversification of species at continental, regional, and local scales?
  4. Has body-form evolution occurred in conjunction with shifts in diversification rates and changes in species’ distributions?
  5. What are the locomotor capacities (kinematics and biomechanics) of species with different body forms?