As the curator of ichthyology at the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences, my research takes an integrative approach to explore the factors that underlie the origin and maintenance of biodiversity in ray-finned fishes (Actinopterygii).
I have always been captivated by the diversity of fishes. I had a small fish tank as a kid, and would demand trips to the aquarium. I then learned how to fish and eventually scuba dive as I got older. As I began turning a fascination with fish into a career, I could not help but be amazed by how many different types of fish share the planet with us today.
Fish have successfully colonized virtually any part of the world that contains water, making a living in ecosystems ranging from coral reefs to the Southern Ocean of Antarctica. Ray-finned fish have done this so well that they collectively no make up over half of all living vertebrates.
I want to understand the evolutionary pathways that made fishes so successful and use that knowledge to predict what keeps this diversity around. Doing so facilitates a broader understanding of not only how biological diversity has accumulated but also illuminates the utility of evolutionary biology in conservation.