Current Research Interests

 

I am interested in evolutionary and biogeographic patterns, and view systematic specialization as a means of examining such patterns on a manageable and personally satisfying scale. Most of my systematic research concentrates on the diversity and phylogenetic relationships of the staphylinid beetle subfamily Pselaphinae. Pselaphines possess an amazing array of species-level morphologies, including bizarre secondary sexual characters and sensory structures. They also exhibit highly derived evolutionary innovations associated with small size and a predatory lifestyle in interstitial spaces. As small organisms with extremely limited dispersal capabilities, many are indicators of relict faunal associations that reflect ancient biogeographic relationships. My other systematic interests extend in diverse directions, including some of the cucujoid families, especially Nitidulidae and Endomychidae. I particularly like the diversity of larval forms and developmental life histories within those groups.In the field of conservation biology I am working towards a better understanding of the diversity and relationships of forest litter arthropod communities of natural ecosystems in the circum-Caribbean region.

 

 Current long-term projects include diversity studies in beech-magnolia forests on the Gulf Coastal Plain, and tropical forests in Central America and the Caribbean. Beech-magnolia forests in Louisiana occupy only a fraction of the area it covered prior to European settlement. This habitat is significant across the Gulf Coast because such forests harbor relict species of taxa that were displaced south during climatic changes that accompanied the advance of glaciers across much of eastern North America as recently as 15,000 years ago. The distributions of these species and their phylogenetic relationships provide important information for reconstructing historical events that had major impacts on the biota of the southern United States. Counterparts to these northern outliers include many species having affinities with neotropical taxa in Mesoamerica, particularly the Caribbean faunas of peninsular Florida, the West Indies, eastern Mexico, and the northern Central American countries of Belize, and Honduras. When sea levels dropped during Pleistocene glaciation, the land connections between these areas were much closer due to an extensive area of exposed continental shelf in the Gulf. Thus, it is important to consider these neighboring regions to develop a full understanding of the faunal associations of the Gulf Coast of the United States.