Research interests

With my background as a birdwatcher and naturalist, I have a broad interest in ecology and evolution. Currently I am focusing on speciation in birds, which is the theme for my PhD project, but I am also interested in e.g. migration ecology,  the impact of climate change on phenology, and genome evolution.

Speciation in birds

The question on how species arise is central to evolutionary biology. It is also a question of ongoing debate, ever since Darwin’s

Profiles of the four Nesospiza finch taxa of Tristan da Cunha. Photos: Peter Ryan

On the Origin of Species (1859) until modern day. I am interested in broad aspects of different modes of speciation, and I am particularly interested in how speciation may happen on isolated oceanic islands, where the room for physical isolation between the diverging lineages is limited. Whereas my thesis work is on a single theme, I use everal different study systems which cover different aspects of speciation. I therefore work with:

  • Ecological speciation in the Nesospiza finches of the remote Tristan da Cunha islands in the South Atlantic
  • Sympatric speciation vs. double colonization and hybridization in Gulf of Guinea seedeaters
  • Complex evolutionary history and colonization patterns in Afro-Canarian blue tits
  • Phylogeny, taxonomy, and distribution of Calandrella larks
  • Patterns of genetic diversity in Acrocephalus warblers

As tools for understanding the evolutionary history I use traditional molecular methods such as DNA sequencing of individual genes, as well as the high throughput sequencing techniques which have revolutionized genetic analyses lately. This “next generation” sequencing is suddenly driving the field of genetics toward genomics, enabling analyses of genome-wide patterns, and I am excited to take part of this development.

A wordcloud reflecting my cumulative research interests as reflected by published titles and abstracts. Projecting forward, speciation rather than migration might come up as the most prominent word.