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Arne Mooers
Professor of Biodiversity

Department of Biological Sciences

Simon Fraser University

Office, B8242:


Lab, B9227:

e-mail: amooers@sfu.ca



On the click-through front, here are my intellectual homes:
fab*-lab for organic evolution
IRMACS Center for Interdisciplinary Research
Human Evolutionary Studies Programme at SFU
Canadian Society for Ecology and Evolution
Scientists for Species (repository site)

A full video of the President's Faculty Lecture in March 2015, on using phylogenies to prioritize biodiversity conservation is now up. You can get it in a nutshell in the following CBC radio interview. I packaged the talk for other audiences this spring too, including this 7 minute Pecha Kucha at the IRMACS 10th Anniversary day. It was great fun.

The 2015 version of our public lecture series on global change is titled "Global Change: How Safe are You?" The spring 2014 series was called "Deep Time, Climate, and You," which explored how paleobiology can inform us about what is on the way. The cool short video we made of that series is here. The Spring 2013 version was called "Seven Billion and You." All three are supposed to be informative and fun in a deadly serious sort of way.

EDGE BIRDS went live in April 2014! It was seven years in the making: the paper is here , the Guardian article is here , something from CBC international here, Gavin Thomas and Dave Redding's overview is here, Walter Jetz's cool Map of Life site is here, and, finally, James Rosindell's OneZoom version is here.

After tithing my time to various journals as an associate editor over the past decade, I have (2014) joined a new venture that helps folks place their papers in the appropriate place: Axios Review. We'll see how it goes.

In November 2013 I participated in a pretty exciting (for me) science-philosophy symposium called Thinking Extinction at Laurentien University in Sudbury. A good journalistic write up of the proceedings can be found in the Tyee (January 2014). My talk (note, 30 minutes long!) can be seen on youtube here.

In summer 2013, me and my former students contributed to an interesting paper in PNAS on ranking countries by global conservation funding. It got some press, and also won the RSPB inaugural conservation prize in spring 2014.

We had a study published in fall 2012 in Nature called The global diversity of birds in space and time. The Nature news story is here and the local media story is here. The trees can be accessed here, and there is a pretty cool searchable representative tree on the OneZoom site here. The venerable British Library is exhibiting the tree graphic in spring 2014.

The media also got exercised in June 2012 by a 22-authored review paper that I was honoured to have a hand in, on Global State Shifts . This is me talking about it on Radio Canada International's The Link programme, but this (cartoon from the Vancouver Sun) actually says it all.

Finally, here is my wife's Health Psychology website.

Fab* is always interested in graduate students and post-doc fellows. If you are interested in what you read below, in the fab-lab and in Vancouver, please let us know.

We (me, my students and close colleagues) are very interested in explaining patterns of biodiversity. My primary training is in looking for patterns among species, using a phylogenetic perspective (a phylogeny is just a family tree of species). I am interested in the traits or situations that increase the number of species in a group, either because they speciate more rapidly, or because those that are produced last longer before they go extinct. This second aspect has immediate practical relevance, given the number of species currently being lost. I am also interested in how species form, and specifically how sexual selection and mate choice might affect the process.

In the phylogenetic context, I am interested in how best to build trees, how best to infer ancestral states on trees, and how to use the shapes of trees to make inferences about past speciation and extinction and concomittant trait evolution.

Currently, I am most exercised by better ways to measure the evolutionary 'isolation' (also called distinctiveness, originality, or even uniqueness) of a species. Its age is the simplest way, but it may not be very powerful. For example, one of the three New Zealand Kiwis and any one of the hundreds of crow species may be the same age, but the kiwi has few close relatives and is much more isolated than the crow. Here is a fairly recent (2010) short overview essay . One could incorporate other attributes of value too. We've made a start here (see, for example, this paper by Dave Redding and me) but there is more to do. We collaborated closely with both Prof. Mike Steel's group in New Zealand, and with EDGE group at the Zoological Society of London via their EDGE of existence program. Dave and Jeff and I have been working with Dr. Walter Jetz (Yale), Dr. Gavin Thomas (Sheffield), and Dr. Klaas Hartmann (UTAS) on applying this idea to birds. The results are now out. The Knowledge Network here in BC also did a short piece on this several years ago , which gives you the flavour of the idea. Another full-length scientific presentation of the basic ideas (from summer 2011) can be found here. Scroll down a bit and press play.

A related area concerns 'evolutionary heritage' or the amount of evolution that geopolitically defined samples of species represent. Indonesia stewards 158 threatened endemic species of bird, equal to about 300 million years of 'at risk' evolutionary heritage that is found nowhere else in the world [the short paper is here].

Finally, in the speciation context, we undertook a series of laboratory-based experiments to test how female behaviour, particularly mate choice, might be involved in starting, maintaining or accelerating divergence. We have looked at incipient mate choice mediated divergence in Israeli fruit flies, and have found evidence of environmentally-mediated changes in mate choice in flies we collected from our own compost piles.

LAB MEMBERS (past and present)

Research Associates

Dr. Melanie Monroe (2015-) joins us from the University of Uppsala (same as Dr. Odeen a decade ago!) She is an expert in trait evolution on trees and macroevolution most generally.

Dr. Will Stein (2005-) is a naturalized Canadian who finished his PhD with me (2013) on the relationships, life-history evolution, and conservation of Galliformes worldwide. Now he is in charge.

Dr. Jeff Joy (2010-2013) was a Research Associate working on the complete Tree of Birds, his own work on insect diversification - check out this news piece from Nature (2013)! - as well as supervising the lab. He is now working for the Centre for Excellence in HIV-AIDS at St. Paul's Hospital in Vancouver. He is missed.

Dr. Tom Martin (2012-) is a British bird biogeographer working on representation in Zoos with Haven Havlecek. Their first paper is out . They were the feature paper, got the cover, and some editorial comment in the print version (April 2014). There is also a friendlier version of the paper here.

Dr. Arianne Albert (2007-2009) Arianne did her PhD. with Dolph Schluter at UBC on stickleback reproductive isolation, and also did some exciting modelling work with Prof. Sally Otto, and then worked in Montpellier, France. Dr. Albert is now a biostatistician with the Women’s Health Research Institute in Vancouver

Dr. Anders Odeen (2003-2006) hails from Uppsala, Sweden, where he did his PhD. with Mats Bjorklund. He came as a post-doctoral fellow, and has now returned to Uppsala as a faculty member in Mats Bjorklund's group. He has worked on speciation and plumage coloration in wagtails, on the evolution of colour perception in birds, and on population size and speciation experiments in the lab, and has come to get experience in designing lab-based selection experiments, using Drosophila. Here is a representataive paper on bird perception and sexual selection in Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA

Dr. Howard Rundle (2001-2003) joined us from UBC. We looked at various aspects of incipient premating isolation (assortative mating) in experimental colonies of fruit flies. He then went off to Australia to work with Mark Blows at the University of Queensland, and is currently a Tier 1 Canada Research Chair at the University of Ottawa.

Dr. Reuven Dukas joined the lab as a research associate from June 2001 to June 2002. He tried to teach me how to look closely at the behaviour of mate choice in insects. We were engaged in experiments investigating the effects of enrichment on mate choice. Dr. Dukas is now a senior faculty member in the department of animal behaviour at MacMaster University. As it happens, some of the research that he performed here at SFU was profiled (May, 2008) in the New York Times!

Dr. Kyle Young was a post-doctoral fellow (2002-2004) officially shared with Dr. Bernie Crespi. His expertise was on the interactions between sexual selection and life history across salmon here on the west coast. The fruit of his labours at SFU can be found in a paper in Proc. Roy. Soc. B. He then went off to the EU to look at morphological divergence in African cichlids and Swiss whitefish with Dr. Ole Seehausen, and then to Peru to work on introduced salmonid evolution there, and now is a fisheries scientist in the UK.

Graduate students and Visitors

Laurelene Faye is a PhD student (2014-) from Nicolas Salamin's lab in Lausanne, working on the conservation phylogenomics of salmon.

Dan Greenberg is a PhD student (2014-) from David Green's lab in McGill, working with me and Dr. Wendy Palen on the macroecology and conservation of amphibeans.

Jayme Lewthwaite is a MSc. student (2013-) from Jeremy Kerr's lab in Ottawa, now working on the conservation phylogenetics of Canadian butterflies.

Vahab Pourfaraj is a PhD student (2013-) who did his MSc. on morphological divergence in sympatric fish in the Caspian Sea.

Logan Volkmann finished an MSc. (2012-2014) with me on the phylogeography of alpine red foxes on the west coast. He also carried on Iain's work on distinctiveness on networks.

Iain Martyn was a Vice President's Research Award holder (2011), newly graduated from McGill (in physics!). He was officially working with Dr. Dave Redding on applying bar-code data to conservation phylogenetics, but was also thinking about various other related problems, including how to extend evolutionary distinctiveness to networks. He went off to New Zealand to work with Mike Steel, and now Rockefeller University to do biophysics.

Rakesh Parhar was a Vice President's Research Award holder (2010) from UBC. He stayed on to work on the loss of phylogenetic diversity under various models of inherited extinction risk (2011). His paper is here (...and there is already a good follow-up paper by Jonathan Davies and Kowiyou Yessoufou in Biology Letters).

(Dr.) Juan Lopez Cantalapiedra was a visiting PhD. student (2008, 2010) from the Universidad Complutense de Madrid, and their National Museum, working on the ecological correlates of diversification in Ruminant mammals. He spent the fall (2009) down in Berkeley and came back here for fall 2010. The fruits of his labours with Rich Fitzjohn appeared in PRSLB in early 2014. He defended his PhD in late fall, 2011 and is now working at the National Museum.

Renske Gudde was a visiting graduate student (all of 2010) from Utrecht University. She is just finishing up (with Jeff Joy) work on the phylogenetic diversity and biogeography of lemurs in Madagascar, using an approach pioneered by Dan Rosauer in Australia. She is now finishing a PhD with Dr. Chris Venditti in Redding, UK.

(Dr.) Dave Redding is a Brit who finished his PhD. (2005 - 2010) on applying phylogenetics to bird conservation. He's back in the UK at the Zoological Society of London (though he visits us occasionally) and Imperial College (working with Prof. Kate Jones ), up to his knees conservation biology, including the EDGE programme

Tyker Kuhn is a paleontologist and photographer who finished his MSc. (December 2010) on Ancient DNA of Caribou. He taught us about extinct things more generally. His first paper got a bit of publicity. He worked with Beth Shapiro in the US, and is now running the Beringia Centre in Whitehorse.

(Dr.) Klaas Hartmann was a visiting PhD. student (2006) from University of Canterbury (Christchurch, NZ), working on the "Noah's Ark Problem" of prioritizing species for conservation. He is now a senior research scientist at the University of Tasmania Fisheries Institute and a co-author on our big bird paper.

Emily Meuser is an economist and biologist who did an MSc. (2007-2011) on measuring public attitudes to species. She is interested in how different attributes of species (e.g. endangerment, endemism, ecological and evolutionary distinctiveness) are evaluated and valued by Canadians, with the goal of informing public policy, particularly provincial and federal Endangered Species Acts. She is off to law school, so she can actually effect change.

Clea Moray finished a Master's project (in December 2009) on the phylogenetic structure of plant-pollinator communities. She was co-supervised by Dr. Diane Srivastava at UBC. She is now working for the Pacific Salmon Foundation.

Eva Chrostowski spent a year (2002) investigating which countries harbor the most evolutionary heritage in various groups of animals. The fruits of her labours are found in a chapter in an edited volume on Phylogenetics and Conservation (Oxford University Press). Eva has since become a biology teacher.

(Dr.) Rutger Vos, a dutchman, was my first PhD. student (finished May, 2006). He started in January, 2001, on the evolution of specialization in Primates, and now, aspects of tree reconstruction. His expertise is in manipulating large phylogenetic datasets (though he is a dab hand at designing websites like this one). He became currently deeply involved in CIPRes, the Cyberinfrastructure for Phylogenetic Research project, working as a Post-Doc with Prof. Wayne Maddison at UBC. He also helps curate the TreeBase repository. He then went off to work with Prof. Mark Pagel on a Marie Curie Fellowship, and is now a bioinformatician at the National Biodiversity Centre in Leiden.


Jenna Hutchen (2013-2014) was an honour's student carrying on Janie Dubman's work on gestation and lactation allometries.

Navi Garcha (2012-2014) carried on work with Clea Moray's pollinator-plant networks, in collaboration wtih Dr. Jana Vamosi at the University of Calgary.

Monica Woods (2012) worked with us, and with Dr. Thomas Near at Yale, on the predictors of being an imperiled darter fish.

Haven Havelecek (2011-2012) was an NSERC USRA fellow working with us and with Dr. Tom Martin in the UK on the predictors of being a animal in a zoo that breeds.

Janie Dubman (2010-2012) was an honours student in fall 2010 working on gestation and lactation durations in Primates. She then became an NSERC USRA on that project. She is now doing an MSc. with Wendy Palen here at SFU.

Phoebe Patterson de Heer was a visiting student from Australia (2011-2012) who decided to look at the attributes of animals that are found on stamps! (this was an idea from a grad student at UCSD a few years ago).

Stephanie Standerwick was an NSERC USRA in fall 2010 testing a prediction on the correlates of homosexual behaviour in animals. Now she is a locally-famous rock star.

Gordon Smith (2009-) is an ornithologist who did an undergrad research project with Will Stein, inferring a full species-level Galliform tree (the one that Jan Verspoor started in 2006). He is now the lab Research Assistant.

Karen Magnuson-Ford (2008 - 2010, 2014-2015) was an NSERC USRA working on the evolutionary conservation value of Rockfish, in close collaboration with Travis Ingram, a PhD student of Dr. Jon Shurin's at UBC (now at UCSD). She spent the fall of 2009 in NZ, working with Mike Steel and his students, and then did an MSc. with Prof. Sally Otto at UBC on ancestor reconstruction. She came back to write an important report on federal science media policies.

Jan Verspoor did an honour's project (2006) on using consensus to help infer large trees together with Will Stein (and got a publication). Jan finihsed an MSc. degree with Prof. John Reynolds here at SFU, and then went off to law school.

Aki Mimoto (2005-2007) was an undergraduate independent studies student who worked closely with Dave Redding on a couple of conservation phylogenetic projects. He produced a couple of co-authored publications too and still helps us a great deal with perl scripting. Aki is also a photographer, and his old website gives you a taste of his many talents.

Nick Charrette was a NSERC-supported undergraduate student (2003-2005) who looked at the effect of disturbance on endemic Bornean butterflies, in collaboration with Dr. Danny Cleary at the University of Amsterdam and Naturalis in the Netherlands. The fruits of his labours appear in Ecology, or here. Nick went off to look at monkeys in South America, lived on an organic farm in Nova Scotia, and now is up to heavens knows what.

Sharina Dodsworth was an independent study student (2002-2003) who helped with an interesting study on the evolutionary heritage of carnivores in the Americas. Her paper is here. She became a national coordinator for a science education and outreach program in Ottawa, and then went on to do environemental science outreach and research up north.

Rebecca Lewis did a very good undergraduate honours thesis (2002) who tested some hypotheses of Drosophila systematics using mitochondrial DNA, co-supervised with Prof. Andy Beckenbach. She is off being a successful patent lawyer.

Anna Drake worked as an NSERC undergraduate researcher (2001-2002) and then as an independent study student on the Evolution Valley Drosophila melanogaster pair. She finished an MSc. in Animal Welfare at UBC and came back to SFU (2008-2013) to defend a PhD with Dr. David Green on bird migration.

Dennis Wong is an ex-undergraduate (2001) who built the first-ever supertree of pocketgophers and kangaroomice, and did experiments looking at the effects of early childhood experience on mate choice in various Drosophila populations. He was pretty much in charge of the lab too. He ran off to do a graduate degree with Dr. Steve Heard , and then went on (2009-) to an interdisciplinary genomics PhD at Dalhousie.

Just some decoration...
Just some decoration...