Adaptive Radiation research by curator Rafe Brown and multiple collaborators uses sequencing of ultra-conserved elements to provide new insights on diversification of Pacific land vertebrates.

Our new focus on UCE target capture strategies for collection of Next-Generation sequencing (NGS) data builds on the KU Biodiversity Institute’s unique strengths as a major repository for genetic resources for studying biodiversity of Pacific island vertebrates.  This work also fuels our new genomic studies of diversification as part our advancing research program studying evolution and assembly of island faunas in the southwest Pacific. 

Building on four past NSF-funded grants, and a five-year collaborative research program in evolutionary processes of diversification, we are now pursuing the next stage of extramural funding for our research programs and graduate student training programs in evolutionary biology of the celebrated vertebrate adaptive radiations of the distant island groups of the Pacific. In accordance with KU’s Office of the Provost’s strategic initiative, our goal is to train students and KU researchers with emerging-field, cutting-edge genomic technology to enable a wide variety of evolutionary studies.  Building directly on our current funding that resulted in collections of densely sampled codistributed vertebrates in island archipelagos, we have brought new bioinformatics genomic analysis tools to more than a dozen EEB and BI researchers which will enable the continuation of a highly-productive, integrative, international collaboration focused on understanding evolutionary mechanisms underlying formation of species-rich faunas of Pacific island biodiversity hotspots.  Our first step has lead to UCE data becoming the staple tool for numerous doctoral dissertations, while simultaneously empowering special research and training funding opportunities (extramural funding proposals now in review).  Going forward, NGS data will be imperative for all BI- & EEB-led extramural systematic and ecological studies including additional systematic work in the Solomon and Bismarck archipelagos, local research in ecological sustainability, response of plants and animals to climate change, invasive species biology, agricultural pests, disease vectors, and the consequent effects on humans society via changes in ecosystem services.