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 high elevation insects: How and when did insects from moths to beetles come to colonize alpine areas? What drove diversification in these groups? What traits allow particular groups of insects to survive in these cold, often dry, windswept areas with sparse resources?
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. As a visiting scholar at UC Berkeley and UNLV, I work on the phylogeography and to document the biodiversity of Hawaiian moths. In particular, I am now focusing on those from lava tube caves, high-elevation areas on the Big Island, and those from the genus Carposina; in the recent past I have focused on Hyposmocoma from the uninhabited island of 'Kaho'olawe.
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 historic diversity of moths in other, non-Hawaiian, lava tube caves.