Research and Professional Experience
Associate Professor, Division of Biological Sciences, University of Missouri, 2010 – present
Assistant Professor, Division of Biological Sciences, University of Missouri, 2005 – 2010
Research Associate, National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution, 2003 – present
Postdoctoral Associate, National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution, 2001 – 2005
- American Society of Mammalogists
- Society for Conservation Biology
- The Wildlife Society
- IUCN Asian Elephant Specialist Group
Research in my lab uses molecular tools to study wildlife species that are difficult or dangerous to study using traditional methods. By combining intensive field studies with individually based genetic and spatial analyses, my students and I ask questions about the ecology and evolution of species that would be difficult to study any other way.
The methods I developed for “genetic censusing” of African and Asian elephant populations have generated a great deal of interest from those charged with managing and monitoring their populations, but census information is only one of the many ways in which they can be used. In the forests of Central Africa, groups of forest elephants visit patches of savanna or forest clearings, allowing us to combine behavioral studies with analyses of genetic relatedness to infer social group structure in this species. In Kenya, we are working with the several NGOs to study population dynamics in savanna elephants inside and outside of protected areas.
I am also interested in intraspecific phylogeography. While my previous projects in this area have primarily dealt with the definition of evolutionarily significant units (ESUs) for conservation management, I also use these methods to help us better understand the evolution of traits that may have facilitated the adaptation of species to new or changing environments. New and improved methods of data analysis make this an exciting area of research today.
While some of my interests are focused internationally, my lab also studies species closer to home. For example, we have collaborated with the Missouri Department of Conservation on studies of black bears in the Central Interior Highlands of the US as well as Ozark hellbenders and river otters.