I’m a little behind on my blogging (sorry!), but a few weeks ago, we had Dr. Luke Mahler here at BYU. Luke is currently a postdoctoral researcher at the UC Davis Center for Population Biology (CPB) and was selected by the graduate students for a visit here at the Department of Biology. He gave a great talk at our departmental seminar on his work on convergent evolution and the ‘macroevolutionary landscape’ in Anolis lizards from the Greater Antilles and North American Gulf-Atlantic coast, which presents a new comparative method and was recently published in Science (check it out here).
It was a real pleasure having Luke here and getting to know him. In addition to the benefit of seeing Luke demonstrate to us a nice example of how to quantitatively address ‘big questions’ in ecology and evolution (while presenting his science), I thoroughly enjoyed my time with Luke including our conversations about phylogenetic comparative methods (PCMs).
That said, I highly recommend talking with experts like Luke if you are like me and you have questions about this field or are doing any PCM research at all (even side projects, as I am). It seems that there are (perhaps many) grad students out there that are too intimidated to approach postdocs or senior PIs and discuss research methods and problems with them. But there is much to be gained from doing this, and taking advantage of opportunities to meet these people and network with them at meetings and seminars seems to always be helpful. Obviously, you will want to consult Luke or his friend/colleague Liam Revell if you are interested in applying the new method their Science paper presents, which provides a cool new way of discovering and modeling adaptive peaks over a phylogeny… and will work for you if you have a time tree and morphological data for an adaptive radiation!