Postdoctoral Fellow

A gis based approach to a priori prediction in aquatic biogeography.

PI(s): Peter J Unmack
Start Date: 1-Aug-2010
End Date: 28-Feb-2013
Keywords: biogeography, GIS modeling, phylogenetics

Most research within historical biogeography has concentrated on first identifying a biogeographic pattern (e.g., sister species on opposite sides of a mountain range) and then explaining this pattern due to a vicariance or dispersal event. My goal is to focus on aquatic systems and use the different aspects of drainage divides and continental shelf width to a priori predict where, when, and by what means species are moving between drainage basins and degree to which populations have been historically isolated. I will also quantify habitat availability for coastal marine organisms at different low sea levels. In many areas the continental shelf was massively reduced at lowest sea levels, thus potentially significantly reducing populations sizes of species restricted to shelf habitats. These results are then tested using extensive multispecies phylogenetic data. Current biogeographic studies do not explicitly address how organisms move between river basins. My models will quantify and test the generality of the factors responsible for species movements. I will develop user-friendly GIS tools that allow other researchers to conduct similar analyses for any region of the world and for any obligate aquatic organisms. In contrast to current studies, which provide unique post hoc narrative explanations, my efforts to develop GIS tools will raise the standard of hypothesis testing in biogeography. My methods have the capability to generate broad reaching biogeographic hypotheses across landscapes. Testing these a priori hypotheses will provide insight into our understanding of how aquatic organisms move as well as how biogeographic patterns are formed and change over time.

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