Research in my lab encompasses processes of evolution ranging from the diversification of major insect lineages to the formation of species boundaries. Our work on patterns of arthropod biodiversity also provides basic training for taxonomists at a time when their numbers are declining but their expertise is more important than ever before. In addition to extensive use of DNA sequences, we use morphological data and phylogenetic analysis, complemented by internet-accessible keys and databases. We are building a foundation for understanding phenomena like plant-insect coevolution, the historical biogeography of endangered communities, and the interaction of genomic architecture with speciation. We also contribute to faunal inventories that are designed to support conservation, agriculture and forestry by facilitating more responsible use of natural resources.
We have several ongoing projects on tortricid (Choristoneura) moths and mountain pine beetle (Dendroctonus ponderosa) that are major pests of forest trees across North America, as well as the systematics of swallowtails and other butterflies. Projects in the lab employ high throughput sequencing and morphometrics to provide integrative taxonomy, time-callibrated phylogenies, and estimates of the genomic architecture of adaptation.
More information is available in the Sperling Lab Page.
An introduction to the principles, methods, and applications of biological systematics, including reconstruction of phylogenies, creation of classifications, historical biogeography, and applications in evolutionary biology. Each student will analyze phylogenetic data and write a description of a species and its relationships. Prerequisite: BIOL 108 or SCI 100 and a 200-level Biological Sciences course; BIOL 221 strongly recommended.Winter Term 2021