I am a PhD student at the Zoologische Staatssammlung München (ZSM), Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München, and Technische Universität Braunschweig. I am conducting research on the reptiles and especially amphibians of Madagascar, under the supervision of Dr. Frank Glaw and Professor Miguel Vences.
My primary research interests lie in the evolutionary history and biogeography of the herpetofauna of Madagascar, where I have been conducting research of increasing sincerity since 2005. My work centres around evolution, systematics, taxonomy, and osteology of the reptiles and amphibians of Madagascar. For a detailed summary of my current projects, click here.
One of my recent research foci has been the evolutionary systematics and taxonomy of microhylid frogs of the subfamily Cophylinae. These diverse and cryptic frogs present problems of identification which drive the search for new methodologies in taxonomy. I make use of micro-Computed Tomography (micro-CT) to examine osteology, which I integrate into taxonomic treatments, and also use to understand the evolution and function of morphology in these highly diverse frogs. Since 2014, I have published numerous studies describing over 40 new species of cophyline frogs; you can read about them on the blog part of this website.
Recurrent ecological speciation on the isolated Amber Mountain
Part of my PhD project focuses on the origins of species. Specifically, I am looking at the process of ecological speciation—that is, the divergence of two lineages as a result of differences in ecology. The central tenet of my research is that properties of the environment drive ecological divergence, and therefore should be traceable in multiple different lineages diverging in parallel in the same environmental context. To test this expectation and others associated with it, I conducted fieldwork in 2017–2018 focusing on three chameleons on Montagne d’Ambre in northern Madagascar. You can read about preliminary outcomes here, but the major publications arising from this work are in preparation now.
Convergent evolution and morphology
As another part of my PhD, I am investigating the principles of morphological evolution, the role of ecology in shaping this evolution, and the potential for ecological and morphological convergent evolution in two pseudo-model organismal systems, namely the Cophylinae (Madagascan narrow-mouthed frogs) and the Chamaeleonidae (chameleons). One of the key things I am interested in is the predictability of evolution given a similar but non-identical set of ‘starting conditions’, and the process of adaptive morphological evolution at the genomic level.
I co-host the SquaMates podcast, together with Ethan Kocak of Blackmudpuppy Comics and Gabriel Ugueto, a scientific illustrator. It’s a light-spirited science podcast that you might like, especially if you’ve managed to read this far down my about page. You can check it out at Squamatespod.com, or you can find it in most podcast-listening apps.
Private life and hobbies
My partner Ella Z. Lattenkamp studies vocal learning in bats; together the two of us go on periodic adventures. Her website showcases these adventures, as well as her research. Have a look!
Photography has been a passion for me since my first visit to Madagascar in 2005. I use my research together with my photography to achieve better outcomes and increase publicity for the species and areas I study. You can see a showcase of my photography here.
Very rarely I write bad poetry, occasionally I paint, but mostly I watch Star Trek and talk about Tolkien.