Research Summary

Phylogenetics & Biodiversity. Development and application of phylogenetic methods in ecology and conservation biology. Phylogenetics offers a powerful means to explore evolutionary mechanisms shaping ecological patterns and the distribution of species richness. A better understanding of the processes shaping biodiversity patterns will be critical if we wish to reduce current rates of biodiversity loss.


"A history lesson, textbook, and lab manual all in one, this terrific book explores the concepts and methods at the intersection of ecology and phylogenetics, from community ecology to conservation. Perfect for experienced researchers and students new to the field."--David Ackerly, University of California, Berkeley

"With scope and rigor, this book makes a compelling case that there are indeed ways to gain insights into important ecological questions using phylogenetic methods. A significant contribution to the field, the book presents new conceptions of how community assembly and evolutionary history interact, as well as new interpretations of data. This work provides a clear blueprint for moving the field ahead and will greatly catalyze future work."--Mathew Leibold, University of Texas, Austin
Phylogenies in Ecology is the first book to critically review the application of phylogenetic methods in ecology, and it serves as a primer to working ecologists and students of ecology wishing to understand these methods.
Phylogenies in Ecology will interest anyone who thinks that evolution might be important in their data.

Research In The News

The Underground Forests of Africa

Artwork credit:

Savannas are one of the world's major biomes, and today they cover about 20% of the world’s vegetated land surface. Over large parts of their range, savannas occur in mosaics with forests leading to the idea that they are products of anthropogenic fire and deforestation. In this study, we explored the origin of savannas in Africa, using geoxylic suffrutices, White’s underground forests of Africa, as markers for fire-maintained ecosystems. Our results suggest that these savanna ecosystems first appeared in the tropics and then subsequently spread to lower latitudes in southern Africa, but millions of years before humans began to fell and burn forests. This study provides the first evidence for dates of emergence of higher rainfall savannas in Africa and supports the role of fire in their origin and expansion.

Maurin O, Davies T.J., Burrows J.E., 4, Daru, B.H., Yessoufou, K., Muasya, A.M., Van der Bank M, Bond WJ [2014] Savanna fire and the origins of “underground forests” of Africa. New Phytologist doi: 10.1111/nph.12936.


Undergraduate Opportunities

New opportunities will be advertised here

Graduate Opportunities

New opportunities will be advertised here

Contact information:
Dr. Jonathan Davies
Department of Biology, McGill University
Stewart Biology Building
1205 ave Docteur Penfield, Room W3/4
Montreal, Quebec CANADA H3A 1B1

Tel: 514-398-8885
Fax: 514-398-5069