Saturday, January 10, 2015

Daniel Rabosky receives MacArthur & Wilson Award in Bayreuth

Today, Daniel Rabosky of the University of Michigan received the biennial MacArthur & Wilson Award.  During his Award Lecture, he presented the diverse projects on which he is working. The general focus of his work is on speciation and extinction as potentially dominant determinants of species richness. The main goal of his research is finding out why species richness varies so dramatically across the globe. To name an example, he explained how in Ecuador you might find 11000 tree species per plot versus 41 in the Smithsonian park close to Washington, which illustrates the massive latitudinal gradient of species richness.
Daniel and his team are trying to find the reason for the extreme concentration of biodversity in the tropics. One of their hypotheses was that mean speciation rate is much higher in hotspots of species richness. However, his research on fish species richness showed that mean speciation rates are in fact low in the tropics and high in high latitudes, which is a remarkable result. Another focus of the lecture was on the extremely high lizard diversity in Australia. This is notable because snake diversity is much lower there, despite the taxons having similar demands for habitat conditions. He examined this high speciation rate via phylogenetic tree analysis and explained how the method works. Personally I found his outlook on research extremely progressive  and from what I can say from my limited student-y perspective is that he seems to truly deserve this award. Congratulations, Daniel!

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