Research in the Schneider lab falls into two broad categories, the study of processes that generate and sustain tropical biodiversity, particularly in montane regions worldwide, and the study of adaptive divergence and speciation.

Tropical Montane Biodiversity

It has been noted that two-thirds of vertebrate species diversity may be found in tropical montane regions. Because of their high diversity, and extraordinarily high levels of species endemism, tropical montane regions are critically important to preserving much of the world’s biodiversity. Understanding the evolutionary processes and ecological contexts that generate and sustain tropical montane biodiversity is central to conserving that diversity for the long term, especially in the face of ongoing climate change. We have found that topographic complexity generates strong gradients of natural selection over spatial scales that are sufficient to drive phenotypic divergence among populations. When topographic complexity combines with paleoclimatic fluctuations to generate geographic isolation among populations experiencing divergent selection, the stage is set for speciation. While tropical montane regions may serve to generate biodiversity, they also may preserve biodiversity through climate change in climatically stable, deeply incised valleys (refuges). But the opposite pattern is also seen - paleoclimate fluctuations can reduce suitable habitat in tropical montane regions and cause extinction. This is particularly clear in our studies of the Wet Tropics rainforest in Australia. Thus, tropical montane regions are important species pumps for the tropics, and serve to preserve relict taxa in climatically stable areas, but they are also sensitive to climate change of the magnitude likely to occur in the next century. Predicting the response of montane taxa to ongoing climate change, and designing a system to preserve both biodiversity and the processes that sustain it, are the next big challenges in the field. You can view publications from this work on the publications page.

Adaptive divergence, convergence and speciation in Anolis

A relatively new line of research in the lab investigates the genetic basis of colorful pigmentation in Anolis lizards, its consequences for speciation, and the genomic basis for convergent evolution of color. We are in the early stages of this work but it is already revealing some fascinating results. You can view publications resulting from this work (and other work utilizing the Anolis carolinensis genome) on the publications page.

Research in the Schneider Lab