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Graduate Students


My primary interests include the biogeography and evolution of Neotropical small mammals. My research focuses on the molecular systematics and phylogeography of hystricognath spiny-rats, with emphasis on the rainforest dwelling genus Proechimys. Assessment of the genetic variation of genealogical lineages within the geographic context is key for understanding the evolutionary processes governing species diversity and distribution. Therefore, I apply molecular methods for estimating genealogical relationships among lineages, and to reconstruct spatial and temporal frameworks for testing biogeographic hypotheses. The ultimate goals of my research are to provide a broader interpretation of the biota’s historical diversification and biogeography in the Neotropics, especially in lowland Amazonia, and to improve conservation strategies in the region. Current projects underway are: 1) Phylogeny, divergence times and geographic range evolution of Neotropical spiny-rats (Hystricognathi, Echimyidae); 2) Molecular phylogenetics and biogeography of the cis-/trans-Amazonian rodent genus Proechimys; and 3) Testing phylogeographic hypotheses in the species groups of Proechimys.

Ana Laura Almendra

My primary research interests involve the systematics and biogeography of rodents. Presently, my research focuses on highlands rodents of Mexico and Central America, particularly among members of the Handleomys alfaroi species group. This lineage includes two Mexican endemic species and another four species found in middle and high elevation cloud forests in Mesoamerica. In addition to developing a robust molecular phylogenetic hypothesis for the alfaroi species group, I am incorporating inferential methods including ecological niche modeling. using molecular methods to estimate genetic divergence and phylogeographic patterns. A major objective of this work will impact conservation of these organisms as well as the protection of the ecosystem they inhabit. I also have a book chapter with my advisor that is in press with my advisor. This chapter addresses the biogeography of terrestrial mammals in Central America and will be published by the University of Chicago Press in a volume entitled "Bones, Clones and Biomes: The History and Geography of Recent Neotropical Mammals".

Brittany Bush

I began my Master’s degree program in the fall of 2009. Her research interests focus on mammalian systematics and museum science. She has been a Research Associate involved with data basing a portion of the orphaned University of Illinois Museum of Natural History mammal specimens as part of a NSF-funded collaborative grant to Brigham Young University, the University of New Mexico and the Field Museum of Natural History. My research project involves molecular and morphological evolution among three island rodent species and their mainland counterparts.