Aquatic beetles 

Aquatic beetles comprise over 13,000 species in ~30 families, the result of at least seven independent evolutionary invasions of aquatic ecosystems. Most aquatic families are cosmopolitan and exhibit many different life histories and occupying a wide variety of aquatic habitats, with some even evolving back into terrestrial environments. The diversity of some lineages is fairly well known, making them excellent models for a variety of investigations, while others still require taxonomic revision and description. My work primarily focuses on the aquatic beetle family Noteridae (right). Though small in size (most 1-5mm in length) and relative divesity (ca. 270 described species), they present an excellent model for evolutionary and diversity research. 

Neotropical phylogeography

With the integration of phylogenomics and population genetic methods, I am revealing patterns of aquatic beetle diversification in the recent past of the Neotropics. This adds new, nuanced perspectives to the complexities of Neotropical biogeography, a field in which insects are understudied due to gaps in the knowledge of diversity. My work further serves the objectives of delimiting species and improving our understanding of morphological evolution in Noteridae, thus aiding our endeavor of documenting the inordinate diversity of beetles.  

Figure at left from Baca et al. (In review). 

Deep-time phylogenomics

Many questions still exist regarding the early evolution of aquatic beetle lineages. I apply phylogenomic methods, especially the targeted capture of Ultraconserved Elements, across broad spans of evolutionary time better understand things such as the timing of the evolutionary origins of major aquatic lineages. 

Figure at right from Baca et al. (2021)


Insects are the most diverse group of organisms on the planet and the importance of documenting the often poorly-known diversity of insect groups cannot be understated. As such taxonomic research is an important aspect of my work. It is reciprocally the foundation and product of my evolutionary research. 

Figure at left from Baca & Short (2021)