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Phylogeography and Systematics

Our lab has a long history of using molecular markers to understand the history of populations and species over space and time. We continue to work on projects to reconstruct phylogenetic relationships among groups of fish species. This work sometimes leads to the discovery of new species, such as the surprising result that the threatened leatherside chub native to the Bonneville Basin and upper Snake River of western North America, was actually composed of two species that were not even sister taxa. This work has had important implications for current conservation and management efforts. Our current work on Utah chub (Gila atraria) might lead to similar results. Stay tuned for our ongoing efforts on this front. Research in the lab on population histories of fish species--a field known as phylogeography--has literally taken all over the globe. Through key collaborators, we remain involved in projects exploring how the unique landscape of Patagonia has shaped freshwater fish biodiversity in this region, and how the arid landscapes of Australia and western North America have facilitated the evolutionary diversification of some of the rarest fish species on the earth today. However, it is our work on fish phylogeography in tropical Central America that has captured most of current energy on this front. Some of our most challenging work in this area has helped us understand how the closure of the Isthmus of Panama has faciliated the movement of freshwater fishes from the southern to the northern hemisphere. Finally, one of the most exciting things about the field of phylogeography is how it can be used as a tool to inform even broader questions in biology. An example of this is that we are using the results of phylogeographic and population genetic analyses to test hypotheses in behaviorla ecology, including the idea that indiviuals that are most likely to colonize new populations are not in fact a random subset of the population, but rather are composed of individuals that tend to have intrepid personality types.