The Simison lab investigates the processes that generate, maintain, and reduce biodiversity. In particular, we are interested in the process of speciation. We use comparative genomics techniques such as RADseq, Ultra Conserved Elements, transcriptomics, and whole genomes to study the role of admixture and introgression in speciation. We are currently focusing on the globally invasive red eared slider turtle system (Trachemys scripta elegans) native to North America.
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My research as a cultural anthropologist examines the scientific cultures within museums. I study how museum collections are currently being re-evaluated as sites for mining new kinds of data across disciplines, such as genetic sampling or as preserved cultural heritage. My ethnographic research explores the behind-the-scenes spaces of museums, where I work alongside scientists in the collections, laboratories and biorepositories to study the cultural practices of collecting, preserving and understanding the diversity of life.
My research focuses on improving the tree of life for arthropods. Weevils (Curculionidae) are my focal taxon of choice. Weevils have specialized ecological habits, such as feeding on fungi, seeds, pollen, wood, roots and even kangaroo dung, weevils make an excellent system to study the evolution of different ecomorphologies. Currently I am focusing my efforts on whole genome sequencing and functional genomics in the genus Pachyrhynchus as well in the Cryptorhynchinae.
Research interests include the systematics and evolutionary biology of octocorals (soft corals, gorgonians, and pennatulaceans), which comprise 65% of all coral species diversity. Fieldwork is currently focused on two bathymetrically opposite regions of the world's oceans: coral reefs of the tropical western Pacific (the Philippines, Melanesia, and Micronesia), and the deep-sea benthos (particularly the west coast of North America and various deep ocean basins worldwide).
My colleagues and I engage volunteers – “citizen scientists” – in discovering, observing, and documenting biodiversity. From creating a complete current plant record and herbarium collection of Mt. Tamalpais, to monitoring species along California’s incredible and diverse coastline, to bringing the public together to bioblitz local parks and open spaces, we give people opportunities to connect to the outdoors, to science, and to each other.