Michael Alfaro, Ph.D.
Associate Professor, UCLA Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology
Interests: Evolutionary dynamics of organismal diversification; interdisciplinary and quantitative approaches to study evolutionary morphology, molecular phylogenetics, and theoretical evolution.
The central goal of my research program is to understand the factors that govern the evolutionary dynamics of organismal diversification. Why are some groups morphologically diverse? Are there general laws or themes that can be used to explain the uneven distribution of diversity in physiological traits across lineages? Does morphological diversity always signal mechanical, functional, or ecological diversity? To address these questions, I work largely on marine fishes. My research approach is interdisciplinary and quantitative and crosses traditional boundaries among evolutionary morphology, molecular phylogenetics, and theoretical evolution. I identify and quantify organismal diversity using morphological and functional morphological techniques; construct evolutionary trees and test evolutionary hypotheses using phylogenetic statistical methods; and use models of trait evolution to explore form-function dynamics.