My research is motivated by both ecological and evolutionary questions and the fascinating organisms we study. My overall approach is to select clades that provide good systems for investigating interesting ecological and evolutionary questions, generate phylogenetic trees for those clades, and then use those trees as a framework to link ecological processes with evolutionary pattern. In this way, phylogenies are the foundation for my research, rather than the end goal. A critical step in this pipeline is investigating the systematics of these groups.
Most of my work on Atheriniformes focuses on the New World Silverside family Atherinopsidae. (more coming soon)
Clupeiformes include some of the worlds most ecologically and economically important species such as anchovies, herring, shad, and sardines, with more 360 species found in temperate and tropical waters worldwide. Many clupeiform species form massive schools and are a critical component of local ecosystems because they contribute an enormous amount of biomass and are a major forage base for aquatic predators. Further, clupeiforms are a major component of global fisheries with harvests that have exceeded 18,000,000 tons annually. Many species, including the iconic American Shad (Alosa sapidissima), are also important recreational fishes. The American Shad in particular has a fascinating history, and is known as the “Founding Fish” due to the role it played in feeding George Washington’s troops at Valley Forge during the Revolutionary War. Clupeiforms also have a remarkable fossil record that provides a temporal framework for interpreting their evolution. The rich history and ecological and economical importance of these fishes makes it critical to have a solid understanding of evolutionary relationships and accurate taxonomic classification. Along with several colleagues, I am working on the phylogenetics and taxonomy of Clupeiformes using DNA sequences, fossils, and morphology.