Research

We are interested in the fields of ecology, biogeography, and evolutionary biology. The long-term goal of our research is to integrate these fields by i) recognizing and synthetizing avian distribution patterns, paying particular attention to contact zones and phylogeographic breaks; ii) understanding how environmental gradients along ecotones define avian species distributions, affecting patterns of taxonomic, phylogenetic, and functional diversity; and iii) unveiling the evolutionary mechanisms and processes that shaped the distribution of current biotas, both at the species and community levels. To achieve these goals, we use tools borrowed from diverse fields, including geographic information systems (GIS) and ecological niche models (ENM), quantitative ecology, and molecular tools to analyze genomic data, including tree building methods, statistical phylogeography, and population genetics. Most of our research relies heavily on field studies, where we conduct avian surveys, obtain audio recordings of bird vocalizations, and collect specimens. While we conduct and value exploratory research and general collecting, we also conduct and encourage students to produce hypothesis-driven research, with solid experimental designs based on strong theoretical frameworks.

Biogeography

Recognizing and synthesizing avian distribution patterns

The description of species distribution patterns lies at the base of many central questions in biology, and requires exploration and the ability to compile and synthesize the available data. We are particularly interested in distribution patterns shared by many species, which allows one to search for common evolutionary processes capable of shaping entire biotas.

Ecology

The effect of environmental gradients on patterns of avian diversity along ecotones

We are specially interested in avian distribution patterns along ecotones, which represent areas of environmental transition often associated with climatic gradients. Transition zones are often associated with abiotic (climatic) or biotic (community or vegetation structure) factors and have direct implications in the distribution of the biota. When many species are affected at the same time by similar environmental or biological variables, we can find changes in patterns of species richness at the landscape level. We evaluate these changes at the taxonomic, phylogenetic, and functional levels.

Evolutionary Biology

Evolutionary mechanisms and processes shaping the distribution of current biotas

We aim to understand the evolutionary processes responsible for current patterns of avian distributions. We are currently investigating this topic using multi-species approaches in two very different Neotropical systems, including river-bounded terra-firme forest birds in the Guianan Shield and pairs of avian taxa in two Neotropical Dry Forests, the Caatinga from northeastern Brazil, and the Chaco from northern Argentina, eastern Bolivia and western Paraguay. These studies aim to test some of the oldest diversification models proposed for Amazonia and the Neotropical Dry Forests, namely the Riverine Barrier and the Pleistocene Arc hypotheses.