Robert E. Ricklefs

University of Missouri-St. Louis


Election Year: 2009
Primary Section: 63, Environmental Sciences and Ecology
Secondary Section: 27, Evolutionary Biology
Membership Type: Member

Research Interests

As an ecologist, I have been interested in the origin and maintenance of diversity in the natural world, particularly the number of species but also their variety of form and life histories, including rates of growth and development, reproduction, and aging. A part of my work concerns the how the faunas of oceanic islands are shaped by colonization and extinction, which I have placed in a temporal context using the DNA-sequence-based methods of phylogeography. These studies have demonstrated non-synchronized phases of expansion and contraction in birds of the West Indies (taxon cycles) possibly resulting from intrinsic evolutionary dynamics between pathogens and their hosts, for which studies on the distribution of avian malaria serve as a model system. I have also used phylogenetic reconstruction to explore the diversification of evolving clades and its relationship to the filling of ecological space. Another aspect of my interest in diversity has been the interpretation of life-history traits as both ecological and evolutionary (adaptive) responses to variation in the environment, most recently in regard to constraints on the prolongation of potential life span in organisms that suffer little extrinsic mortality.

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