Research in the Frishkoff Lab

Human impacts on the environment are recasting ecological and evolutionary patterns forged over millennia. Research in the lab focuses on understanding this reordering—why many species fail while others benefit in an increasingly human-dominated era. Specifically, my work involves four inter-related research areas pertaining to populations and communities in human-modified landscapes: (1) elucidating the ecological mechanisms that permit and prevent species from surviving after anthropogenic change, (2) understanding how biogeography is changing in the Anthropocene and why species from some areas of the globe are particularly successful,(3) determining how habitat conversion is pruning the phylogenetic tree of life, and whether past macroevolution (e.g. convergence, adaptive radiation) prepares species to handle rapid ecological change, and (4) developing statistical methods that permit researchers to better test eco-evolutionary hypotheses from observational data. The lab conducts field, lab, and computer work to accomplish these goals, weaving together biological field surveys, hierarchical statistical modeling, species distribution modeling, physiological experiments, and genomic sequencing.

Where we work

Coto Brus, Costa Rica

The Coto Brus valley and the Las Cruces Biological Station have been centers for the development and testing of Countryside Biogeography, which seeks to understand the ecological forces that structure communities, and determine range boundaries at the landscape scale. Here we’ve tested whether phylogenetic history predicts how bat species respond to land-use change and intensification, the physiological mechanisms that determine amphibian tolerance of deforestation, and the abilities of private-lands to conserve biodiversity.

Guanacaste, Costa Rica

The Guanacaste peninsula contains a strong precipitation gradient spanning from dry forest in the interior (~1500mm rainfall per year) to moist forest closer to the coast (~3000mm rainfall). Since 2016 in collaboration with the Karp lab we’ve conducted bird abundance surveys along independent land-use and climate gradients to understand how the interaction between these forces shape communities. This work will help forecast non-linearities and synergies for biodiversity under increasing threats from habitat conversion and climate change. See our recent publication from this system: Agriculture erases climate‐driven β‐diversity in Neotropical bird communities

The Caribbean

The islands of the Caribbean act like individual test tubes in a massive evolutionary experiment unfolding over tens of millions of years. We study the Anolis lizards of the Caribbean to understand how adaptive radiation, and convergent evolution inform our understanding of how species respond to Anthropogenic change. Do unrelated lizards on different islands with convergent morphologies repeatedly propser in human habitats? Or is tolerance to anthropogenic change phylogenetically conserved, even when other aspects of species ecologies are not? Since 2016 we’ve been conducting mark-resight surveys of Anolis lizard communities, spanning climate gradients from lowland to highland, wet to dry, hot to cold, and land-use gradients from pristine to highly disturbed. This project will help address the prevalence of convergent pre-adaptation to anthropogenic change.