I study various topics in evolutionary biology, all focusing on the diversification, distribution and conservation of mammals. The breadth of my research is testimony to the facts that no interesting biological questions are ever fully answered and progress towards answering them invariably opens up a variety of others. Curiosity, opportunity, and a bit of wanderlust have diversified my program and caused it to span two continents.
Density of terrestrial vertebrate species, courtesy of savingspecies.org. Is there any wonder why I study tropical animals?
I use museum specimens to study the systematics and biogeography of Neotropical mammals. Collaborating with scientists and students in Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, Brazil, and Chile, I have worked throughout the Andes, Amazônia, and in Atlantic, Valdivian, and Magellanic Forests. As we document some of the
world's richest, most highly endemic faunas, we regularly discover and describe
new species of bats, rodents and marsupials, using them in regional and continental reconstructions of phylogeny and biogeography. This program has abundant training opportunities for American and
Latin American students, both in the lab and in the field. Since 2011, I am also working on a parallel project, The Bats of Kenya, with colleagues Paul Webala and Carl Dick. This project is designed to document the distribution and status of more than 110 species of bats known from Kenya and to shed light on their current status and ecological roles.
Collecting parasites in the course of this work led to my interest in Host-parasite coevolution. Ectoparasites recovered from mammals (mainly bats) are used to reconstruct the radiation of parasite groups and to assess their distributions across hosts and geography. These studies identify factors governing the distribution, abundance, and host specificity of parasites. Together with Carl Dick (Western Kentucky U.) and Katharina Dittmar (SUNY Buffalo), we are pursuing a broad range of studies on the ecology, coevolution, and phylogeny of these interesting flies.
A research program that I am now concluding focused on the Tsavo lions, infamous as man-eaters a century ago but more remarkable because many of them lack manes. In a series of papers, I have explored the morphology, genetics, behavior, and ecology of lions in SE Kenya with Samuel Kasiki (Kenya Wildlife Service) and Alex Mwazo (Tsavo East), Jean Dubach (Loyola University), and others. Our principal aim has been to understand the ecology of this distinctive woodland lion population and gather information to mitigate the impacts of lion depredations on livestock. From 2002-2009, this project had the help of >500 volunteers from the Earthwatch Institute.
As detailed in Students, interactions with undergraduate and graduate students enrich, extend, and complement these studies. Each research arena offers opportunities for student research projects and post-graduate collaborations alike.
Dr. B.D. Patterson