Mapping, monitoring and forecasting

How biodiversity is defined and measured is a fundamental question for conservationists and ecologists alike. To address this issue, we are developing quantitative techniques for biodiversity assessment and species delimitation based on genetic and phenotypic data. We are currently working together with BirdLife International to apply and develop these methods for the world’s birds. As an example, one regional study suggests that Amazonian bird diversity is seriously underestimated, and we are investigating the implications for biogeography, patterns of endemism, protected area coverage and conservation priorities.

We are working with engineers to develop technology for remote monitoring of diversity in a range of taxa by sound. In particular, we are developing hardware and software to (1) monitor species diversity and abundance in tropical environments (i.e. beyond the reach of smart phones), and (2) to harness soundscapes as barometers of ecosystem health globally.

We are applying the findings of our research on species interactions and communities to move beyond the conventional over-simplistic view of biodiversity framed around species richness or environmental niche modelling. Our focus on biotic interactions and functional traits at the global scale is paving the way for more realistic ecological forecasting models. Current work involves integrating trait data, phylogenetic data and spatial models to (1) develop a quantitative framework for understanding ‘forbidden combinations’ of species in novel communities under future climate and land-use change scenarios, and (2) predict the structure, function and resilience of degraded or regenerating habitats.

Main collaborators