I began a lifelong interest in marine life by spending summers on Cape Cod, at the boundary between the Gulf of Maine and the mid-Atlantic coast. The difference between the two water bodies was dramatic during the summer, with tropical seahorses on one side, and cold water sculpins on the other. There began the first stirring of a lifelong interest in marine biogeography. After an ill-advised attempt at a biomedical career, I earned a bachelors degree in biology at Providence College (1980), then a M.A. at the Virginia Institute of Marine Science (1987) under John A. Musick. There I realized that molecular genetic technologies could reveal much about the natural history of aquatic species. I completed a Ph.D. in genetics (1992) under John C. Avise at University of Georgia, and subsequently worked as a post-doctoral researcher and assistant professor at University of Florida. In March 2003 I joined Hawaii Institute of Marine Biology at University of Hawaii, and was promoted to research professor in 2010. During this interval I have conducted globe-spanning genetic surveys of reef fishes, marine turtles, sharks, bonefishes, anchovies, sardines, shrimp, and sea birds as well as regional surveys of manatees, dolphins, rattlesnakes, lizards, freshwater turtles, limpets, sturgeon, and other fishes, for a total of about 200 publications. These reports include contributions in the journals Science, Nature, Proceedings of the National Academy, Proceedings of the Royal Society, Molecular Ecology, Journal of Heredity, Journal of Biogeography, and many others. Recent accomplishments include co-authorship of the best selling textbook Diversity of Fishes (2023), a realignment of marine biogeographic provinces with John C. Briggs, a review of marine conservation genetics in Hawaii, and a global review of comparative marine phylogeography. In 2015 I was honored with the Kobe Award (at Suma Aqualife Park, Japan) for lifetime achievement in aquatic biology, and in 2016 received the University of Hawaii Board of Regents Award for Excellence in Research.
My research program is designed to serve conservation goals by illuminating the evolutionary processes that generate biodiversity in the sea. The evolutionary rules may be different in the marine realm, or operate on a vastly different scale than terrestrial and freshwater systems, possibly due to the high connectivity of a trans-global aquatic medium.
My Research Goals Include:
- Resolve the life history traits (especially dispersal and habitat specificity) that influence dispersal and population separations in Indo-Pacific reef organisms.
- Test evolutionary models for how biodiversity is generated in the sea, including allopatric speciation, ecological speciation, center of origin hypothesis, and the habitat persistence hypothesis.
- Test biodiversity patterns and biogeographic theories with the new eDNA technology. Towards this goal, we just completed a secure eDNA Lab.
Links to Publications: