Ph.D., Duke University, 2008 • Associate Professor
Plant Systematics, Tropical Botany, Lichenology, Biodiversity Inventory, Molecular Genetics and Evolution, Taxonomy, Nomenclature, Pollination Biology. As a biologist, I am broadly interested in the ecology and evolution of all life on Earth, particularly how natural selection and contingency have shaped the evolution of millions of “endless forms most beautiful”. As a natural historian, I am interested in patterns and trends that characterize the histories of these endless forms. Knowledge of evolutionary history is empowering, has real-world applications, and predictive potential. In attempt to understand the evolution of biodiversity and the ecological functions that biodiversity sustains, I focus on macroevolutionary approaches at or above the species level. Most of my research emphasizes the species-rich (>4,000 taxa) and morphologically diverse tropical plant family Acanthaceae. More recently, I have advanced research in lichenology, particularly here in the United States where amazingly, some 230 years after Bartram first traversed the Southeast, we still know incredibly little about these organisms from taxonomic and biogeographic perspectives. In addition to biodiversity research on Acanths and lichens, I have maintained a long-term interest in the flora of the tepui highlands of northern South America, where I have participated in or co-led numerous plant collecting expeditions to remote locations in effort to provide baseline plant biodiversity information for these highly endemic ecosystems.