Biogeography, Phylogenetics and Phylogeography of Snakes
My work in Frank Burbrink's lab focuses on speciation and biogeography with an emphasis on cryptic species, or species that appear similar in phenotype but represent separate distinct lineages. North American snake diversity is currently underestimated by roughly one third.

Statistical Comparative Phylogeography of the Southeastern United States
I am examining community level phylogeographic structure using fourteen species of snakes representing four subfamilies with very different ecologies, from aquatic watersnakes to semi-arboreal greensnakes. This project addresses the question of when speciation occurred, where it has occurred, which environmental characteristics correlate to these diversification events and what the mode of speciation was in each of the taxa. Snakes are ideal for testing biogeographical hypotheses because they are highly diverse in the United States and many phylogeographic studies have demonstrated that populations of reptiles and amphibians are highly structured in the SEUS, with many taxa sharing similar clear phylogeographic patterns. I am investigating the mode and timing of speciation in snakes in the SEUS by applying genomic data in a diffusion modelling allele frequency spectrum framework using 1000’s of SNPs across relevant species to determine if strict allopatry or parapatry is common across taxa and test if diversification has occurred in a single concentrated burst of speciation events or at multiple timeframes.

Phylogeography of the Common Garter Snake, Thamnophis sirtalis
Thamnophis sirtalis ranges from coast to coast in North America, and is split into numerous subspecies based on color pattern. Previous work and common sense has shown that color pattern is not a reliable indicator of evolutionary history and most likely a local adaptation to environment. Previous work has also show distinct lineage spilts at the Mississippi River and at various other locations in North America. I am working in collaboration with my advisor Dr. Frank Burbrink and the late Dr. Robin Lawson at the California Academy of Sciences to determine the correct phylogenetic relationships of this species complex.

Modeling and Predicting Occurence of Rare Species
As the rate of biodiversity loss on earth continues to increase, the significance of identification of areas of conservation importance increases. Distribution and habitat modeling through programs such as MaxEnt have become central tenants in the identification of areas important to conservation in the present, past and future. I am intersted in expanding the use of these programs by including geological data in the model to predict dsitributions of critically endangered hypogean organisms.

Life history and developmental biology of gill brooding cave and swamp fishes.
The life histories of many of these unusual fish are still mostly undescribed. In 2008 Kapil Mandrekar and I worked to characterize various aspects of the reproductive biology of these hypogean fish.


On the variability of sirtalis and the joys of flipping a good coverboard