The Rabosky lab seeks to understand how and why life on Earth became so diverse. We focus primarily on large-scale patterns of species diversification (speciation and extinction) and on the tempo and mode of phenotypic evolution, to better understand what regulates the “amount” of biodiversity through Deep Time. To this end, we develop theoretical frameworks and computational tools for studying evolutionary dynamics using DNA-sequence-based evolutionary trees (phylogenies), the fossil record, as well as phenotypic data from present-day species (morphology, ecology). We develop and apply a range of methods involving supervised and unsupervised learning, including Markov chain Monte Carlo, hierarchical mixture models, hidden Markov models, latent feature models, and more. We are increasingly interested in complex morphological and ecological traits, which – due to a rapidly expanding data universe – represent a tremendous opportunity for the field to answer long-standing questions about how organisms evolve. At these same time, we are embracing the analytical challenges of these data, because fully realizing their potential requires the development of new analytical paradigms that go beyond the limitations of traditional parametric models for low-dimensional data.
I am interested in the evolutionary processes that originate “mega-diverse” biotic assemblages and the role of ecology in shaping the evolution of diversity. My program studies the evolution of Neotropical freshwater fishes, the most diverse freshwater fish fauna on earth, with an estimate exceeding 7,000 species. My lab combines molecular phylogenetics and phylogeny-based comparative methods to integrate ecology, functional morphology, life histories and geography into analyses of macroevolutionary patterns of freshwater fish diversification. We are also comparing patterns of diversification across major Neotropical fish clades. Relying on fieldwork and natural history collections, we use methods that span
The Smith lab group is primarily interested in examining evolutionary processes using new data sources and analysis techniques. We develop new methods to address questions about the rates and modes of evolution using the large data sources that have become more common in the biological disciplines over the last ten years. In particular, we use DNA sequence data to construct phylogenetic trees and conduct additional analyses about processes of evolution on these trees. In addition to this research program, we also address how new data sources can facilitate new research in evolutionary biology. To this end, we sequence transcriptomes, primarily in plants, with the goal of better understanding where, within the genome and within the phylogeny, processes like gene duplication and loss, horizontal gene transfer, and increased rates of molecular evolution occur.