My work focuses on the process of adaptive evolution and its role in facilitating population divergence and speciation. I predominately use next-generation sequencing and comparative genomic approaches to investigate how adaptations arise and what their effects are on overall genetic diversity. Among my current projects are an examination of divergence and selection in two species of hybridizing tiger swallowtail butterfly and an investigation of toxin resistance and sequestration in fireflies.
My primary research interests are broadly situated in the fields of conservation biology and biogeography. There are two main goals of my dissertation research stemming from these interests. The first is to determine the factors that limit the distribution of birds along altitudinal gradients. To accomplish this I am conducting bird surveys along two elevational gradients in the western Himalayas that differ in terms of species richness, climate patterns, and habitat types. The second goal is to assess how disturbance from grazing, agriculture, and logging are impacting Himalayan bird communities both on their breeding and wintering grounds. This is possible in light of the close proximity of breeding and wintering grounds by many species that undergo short-distance altitudinal migrations in the Himalayas. A bonus third goal is to rediscover the Himalayan Quail, an extremely rare and secretive bird last seen in 1876 very close to one of my study sites.
Sam's research is focused on understanding the drivers behind vegetation fire at global and regional scales in order to understand the future impact of burning on ecosystems and the atmosphere. He is especially interested in how changes in land use and land cover, land management practices, fire regimes, and regional climate will affect the Amazon rainforest.
I am interested in mammalian behavioral ecology and conservation, particularly human-wildlife interaction. My research investigates wildlife populations and their interactions with their environment, focusing on how human land use practices affect animal behavior. I am currently studying how cattle grazing influences the behavior of various wild grazers on Kenyan rangelands. This is an important question because forty percent of the earth’s land surface is currently used for grazing domestic animals. These lands are also vitally important for conservation as they can provide a means to preserve open space to sustain wildlife outside of national parks. In some areas, it appears that cattle and wildlife can live side-by-side. However, many issues must be considered and managed properly in order to allow wildlife and livestock to coexist. Therefore, I hope to conduct research that not only furthers ecological theory, but has practical implications for wildlife conservation and management as well.