Research

The overarching theme in my research thus far concerns developing programmatic pipelines to integrate sequence data obtained from different methods (e.g. transcriptomics, anchored enrichment) for phylogenetic analyses. Beyond that, I am endeavoring to build a toolkit of experience in systematics and informatics applicable to broad questions in evolutionary biology and interfacing fields.

Resolving deep relationships among the Salticidae via phylogenomics

I am working to better resolve relationships among the major Salticidae clades, using phylogenomics techniques to acquire hundreds to thousands of phylogenetically-informative loci per organism.

To obtain these sequence data, I am using anchored enrichment, a probe-based technique that has been demonstrated to reliably capture several hundred nuclear loci per specimen. The resulting phylogeny could well resolve the inconsistencies observed among trees constructed from traditional genes such as 16S ND1, Actin, and wingless.

A genome-wide phylogeny of the Harmochirina

Additionally, I am working towards a genome-wide phylogeny of the Harmochirina, a clade of nearly 300 species in 15 genera. My primary objective here is to resolve the broader phylogenetic context of the charismatic Habronattus salticids. These spiders’ males exhibit a level of courtship complexity that, in the animal kingdom, is rivaled only by the Australian Maratus “peacock” jumping spiders and the famous birds of paradise. Habronattus contains several species groups, some of whose exact phylogenetic placement is in question. Furthermore, there is growing evidence that some North American members of the sister group Pellenes might fall within Habronattus. Given the comparatively mundane courtship of Pellenes and other harmochirines, confidently establishing the monophyly of Habronattus and the overall structure of the harmochirines is important for constructing hypotheses regarding the pattern of courtship evolution (and possible hybridization) within the Habronattus themselves.

(video courtesy of the Morehouse lab, University of Pittsburgh)

A taxonomic revision of the Australasian genus Nungia

The Australasian genus Nungia currently contains only one described species, N. epigynalis, known only from a female holotype. Yet, many more undescribed species plausibly belong in this genus, and interesting questions lie beyond taxonomic revision, such as patterns of distribution across the Wallace Line.