PhD Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Dartmouth College (advisor: David R. Peart; external advisor: Stephen P. Hubbell)
BA (Hons) Pure and Applied Biology, Oxford University, UK
I spend my days collecting, trying to understand, teaching about, and restoring the beautiful and threatened plant diversity of Indonesia—probably the best job in the world! I am driven by a desire to see evolutionary and ecological patterns in the green riot of tropical plant biodiversity—patterns which will help us understand the complex biogeographic history of the Southeast Asian region, and that should also give us new insights into the processes of speciation and adaptation. To perceive these patterns, I have helped develop theory about the evolutionary relationships we expect to find among organisms in local communities and in biogeographic regions, and I continue to co-develop related software tools (e.g., phylocom).
I also believe that simply collecting and sharing data on the composition of these forests is vital for their conservation. Sharing our knowledge and developing an awareness of the sheer complexity, uniqueness, and beauty of these forests is one of the most powerful influences for conservation that biologists can offer. To this end, we are collecting plants from some of the most underexplored areas in Indonesia, and developing local capacity in biodiversity informatics to help share these data within the region and globally. We are optimistic that current technological tools, including DNA barcoding, new approaches to image matching, and semantic web applications, can be used to speed up the process of documentation and organization of raw biodiversity inventories to help fill the gap between the remaining biodiversity on the planet and our ability to process it.
I am very fortunate to live in the region (Borneo at Sukadana, West Kalimantan), where we are just beginning a three-year, NSF-funded project (with co-PI Sarah Mathews) on the ecology, biogeography, and biodiversity informatics of trees that ties together many of these interests. I also manage a forest restoration program in the nearby Gunung Palung National Park, drawing on biodiversity data collected during my 20 years of research in the park to restore diverse, native lowland forest on barren grass-dominated landscapes. Finally, one of my great joys is teaching field biology courses, such as the ‘Biodiversity of Borneo’ Harvard Summer School course, and bringing students face-to-face with the forest’s biodiversity.
View the full list of publications here.
Chuck Cannon, Greg Gilbert, James Macklin, I Made Wiryana, Sarah Mathews, Bob Morris, Gary Paoli, Toby Pennington, Rick Ree, Susanne Renner, Michael Sanderson, Endro Setiawan, Peter Stevens, Teguh Triono, Hery Yanto, Amy Zanne