Graduate Fellow

GeoPhy: integrating geography and phylogenies to support marine biodiversity research.

PI(s): Benjamin Morris (University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill)
Start Date: 1-Sep-2013
End Date: 25-Apr-2014
Keywords: biodiversity, biogeography, phylogenetics, database, ecological niche modeling

Phylogeography, the study of contemporary species distributions and the historical processes responsible for shaping them, has the potential to answer important fundamental questions in evolutionary biology and ecology regarding historical patterns of diversification, extinction, movement, adaptation to changing environments, and community assembly. The NESCent Indo-Pacific biodiversity working group aims to build a comprehensive database for use in regional phylogeographic analysis, which they will share publicly to facilitate additional research. While the gene sequences necessary for phylogeographic analyses are often available online through resources such as GenBank, linking this data to geography is often performed manually, sequence by sequence, and can be difficult and time-consuming, especially for studies which utilize hundreds or thousands of such sequences from varied sources. I propose to develop an automated data analysis workflow, GeoPhy, to acquire genetic samples for selected taxa, georeference them, and produce output and visualizations to identify meaningful geographic structure within a population. I will then use this tool to identify major geographic and environmental factors responsible for the genetic population structure observed in Indo-Pacific marine life.