I am an evolutionary biologist, herpetologist, and systematist interested in macroevolution, convergent evolution, bio- and phylogeography, and speciation. I am particularly interested in the diversity of gigantic pseudo-insular systems, such as Madagascar and Africa’s Great Lakes, the processes involved in the generation and maintenance of that diversity, and the repeated evolution of particular phenotypes, especially extremely reduced body size. I am currently a PostDoc in the Adaptive Genomics Group at the University of Potsdam.
At any given time, I am usually working on between ten and twenty different projects with a huge range in scope. Previous work has included discoveries of fluorescence in chameleons and geckos, biogeography, phylogenomics and phylogenetics, descriptive and functional osteology, natural history, taxonomy, museomics, and ecomorphological evolution. My particular expertise is in the herpetofauna of Madagascar, where I have been conducting research since 2005, but I also dabble in cichlid fishes.
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. I am currently also using these frogs as a group in which to develop new methods to acquire DNA sequence from the nuclear genome of old museum specimens, as part of the DFG Priority Programme Taxon-OMICS. 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 and see a comprehensive list of the species I have described here.
Convergent evolution and morphology
I am particularly interested in the principles of morphological evolution, the role of ecology in shaping this evolution, and the potential for ecological and morphological convergent evolution. Currently, I am looking at this particularly in 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 Dr Ella Z. Lattenkamp studies vocal learning in bats and is the Managing Director of Moving Child; 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.
I dance Lindy Hop and occasionally dabble in water colouring, but mostly I watch Star Trek and talk about Tolkien.