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 temperate 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 2009. 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 150 publications. These reports include contributions in the journals Science, Nature, Proceedings of the National Academy, Proceedings of the Royal Society, and many others. Recent accomplishments include a co-authored report on marine turtle conservation for the National Academy of Sciences, co-authorship of the best selling textbook Diversity of Fishes, and a realignment of marine biogeographic provinces with Jack Briggs.
My research program is designed to serve conservation goals by illuminating the evolutionary processes that generate biodiversity. In terrestrial systems, populations are usually defined by discontinuous fragments of habitat. These populations may eventually develop intrinsic reproductive barriers, the starting point for speciation. Hence habitat discontinuities may explain most cases of speciation on land, but what about speciation in the sea, where few such barriers exist? In the sea, the evolutionary rules may be different, or they may operate on a vastly different scale due to the connectivity of a trans-global aquatic medium.
My research goals include:
• resolve the life history traits (especially dispersal ability and habitat specificity) that influence dispersal and population separations in Pacific reef organisms.
• test evolutionary models for how biodiversity is generated in the sea, including predictions for allopatric speciation, the center of accumulation hypothesis, and the center of origin hypotheses.
• provide phylogeographic surveys in the service of marine conservation, particularly to define management units and to assist the design of marine protected areas.
Hawaii Institute of Marine Biology
SOEST, University of Hawaii
PO Box 1346
Kaneohe, HI 96744
phone: (808) 236-7426
Links to Publications: