Phylogenetics

Phylogenetic trees depict the evolutionary relationships among organisms, and we incorporate phylogenetic tree-thinking into all of our research.
Active areas of research include:
1. Studying the performance of phylogenetic methods using simulated data.
2. Estimating phylogenetic trees using next-generation sequence data.
3. Applied phylogenetics in systematics and evolutionary biology research.

Phylogenetic Methods
We conduct computer simulations aimed at investigating the performance of phylogenetic inference methods. The goal is to identify the demographic situations that lead certain methods to outperform others, and to determine when the addition of data can increase accuracy. Current computer simulations examine the impacts of migration on species tree inference, and the performance of species tree estimation under the most difficult conditions. Migration can impact population size and divergence time estimates dramatically, even in situations in which only a small proportion of loci in the genome are experiencing migration.

Phylogenetics with Next-Generation Sequencing
We are collecting new comparative genomics data for non-model organisms using next-generation sequencing technology. Our goal is to assemble data matrices containing large numbers of loci without the need for developing any locus-specific PCR primers. Adopting new sequencing technologies into our research allows us to shift a heavy time- commitment away from labor-intensive data collection towards more illuminating aspects of the research, including bioinformatics, data analysis, and hypothesis testing.

Applied Phylogenetics
We have several on-going research projects exploring the phylogenetic relationships of lizards, which have resulted in publications across a number of disciplines including systematics, biogeography, physiological ecology, life history evolution, and phylogenetic comparative methods. We are investigating the mechanisms that have fostered lineage formation in the iguanian lizard genus Sceloporus, a diverse clade containing 90+ species with a broad distribution across North America that has emerged from several periods of rapid evolutionary diversification. We are also exploring the diversification history of African Agama lizards, and North American horned lizards (Phrynosoma).