In their new study, the researchers will test competing speciation hypotheses across various landscapes and diverse taxa-including birds, mammals, reptiles and amphibians-in Africa, Australia and South America. Their goal is to identify the key factors important to speciation in tropical rainforests.
Using remote satellite imaging technology employed by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, remote sensing expert Dr. Sason Saatchi and post-doctoral researcher Dr. Catherine Graham (SFSU) will identify the rate of habitat loss using historical data, and paint a clearer picture of the geographic elements of rainforest systems that are associated with species diversity.
Additionally, to insure that the research results are used, the team is collaborating with the World Resources Institute in Washington, D.C., an international environmental policy center.
"Ultimately, what we're trying to do with this grant is put science and policy on the same track," says Smith. "At present, conservation programs tend to emphasize preserving areas of high species richness, with little attention to the evolutionary processes that generate biodiversity. Our research model is designed to provide the data necessary to define more effective conservation policy."
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Contact: Merrik Bush-Pirkle
San Francisco State University
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