I am an evolutionary biologist with a diversity of interests, including not only research but also education. I continue to work largely in Hawaii, and often in unusual habitats such as caves and high-elevation areas such as Haleakala National Park. Major questions that drive much of my research are:
1. Evolution of insect flightlessness: Why did some insects lose the ability to fly, given that fight is often such a useful trait?
2. Biogeography of the Hawaiian Lepidoptera: How and when did these insects come to colonize such a remote area of the world? What drove diversification in this group?
3. Phylogenetics and biodiversity of Lepidoptera: What are the evolutionary relationships between moth species, and what new species have yet to be discovered and described?
Some of my current projects include:
1. Teaching at the Urban School of San Francisco. Classes I teach include biochemistry, biology, genetics, and entomology. My classes, especially genetics and entomology, incorporate project-based-learning strategies.
2. Being visiting scholar at UC Berkeley, working on the phylogeography and documenting the biodiversity of Hawaiian moths. In particular, I am now focusing on those from the uninhabited island of Kaho’olawe, lava tube caves, and those from the genus Carposina.
4. Working on the “Drunken Monkey” hypothesis regarding the evolutionary origin of ethanol consumption. I work with Robert Dudley of UC Berkeley on this project.
6. Working to develop strategies for conservation of insects. My Urban School students and I are currently assisting folks from the University of Hawaii and the US Forest Service on a project to evaluate conservation actions on the Big Island of Hawaii.
7. Continuing to document the diversity of moths in Hawaiian and other Pacific lava tube caves.