I am broadly interested in biodiversity and evolution; particularly in the question of how to define, identify, and delineate ‘species’. This question is especially challenging and relevant to reef building corals; the architect of one of the most complex and rapidly declining ecosystems on Earth. Molecular studies have fundamentally challenged traditional taxonomy based on coral colony morphology; revealing surprising underlying patterns (such as convergence, rapid evolution, and cryptic species) that were previously obscured. Genetic studies provide powerful insights into the nature of biodiversity and the past, present, and future of coral reefs.
A secondary interest of mine is coral propagation as a model experimental system. Coral propagation can produce a large sample size of genetically identical fragments of uniform size, which is a unique experimental system for asking a variety of important questions about coral reef ecology, evolution, and biodiversity. Simple manipulative experiments can yield basic insights into the complexity of coral reefs and provide a powerful tool for questions about the future of coral reefs.
Here are a few short videos on the confocal microscopy of live corals that we made in collaboration with Ruth Gates.
Links to publications: