At the broadest scales I am interested in evolutionary biology, phylogenomics and the accrual of biodiversity at different ecological and temporal timescales.
For my doctorate, I am focusing on a major problem currently plaguing fish systematics: the relationships of the major Acanthomorpha lineage. Acanthomorph fishes represent roughly 60% of all extant fish diversity (Dettai et al. 2005). Teleost fishes account for nearly half of all vertebrate species (Santini et al. 2009) and acanthomorphs describe a large amount of those remaining relationships (roughly one-third). The uncertainty and low support for the clades which make up this diverse group are problematic due to the far reaching implications of incorrect conclusions. Without resolution of these major evolutionary relationships, many inferences regarding the last 122-151 million years of fish evolution could be inaccurate.
For my dissertation, my goal is to find appropriately slow evolving regions of the genome that are congruent among the entire acanthomorpha group. These markers will be tested for their utility by profiling their phylogenetic informativeness (PI), a metric designed by Jeffery Townsend in 2007. To determine the effectiveness of this approach over traditional single gene approaches, the phylogenetic informativeness of our marker suite will be compared to roughly ten commonly used markers in Ichthyology.