Jennifer A Leonard
I investigate the effect of changes in the environment on natural populations. These changes can be across different environments or environmental gradients, or through time. In the extreme, these changes can provoke speciation or extinction. This type of research can be applied to fundamental questions in evolution, and the more specialized areas of conservation biology and domestication. I am particularly interested in how and why so much of the megafauna went extinct (especially in the Americas) at the end of the Pleistocene, about 10,000 years ago. This is also the time when animals start to be domesticated, a profound evolutionary event. On a more recent timescale human action, through either direct persecution or through habitat modification, has had major consequences on many wild species. My expertise in obtaining genetic and genomic data from historic and ancient material gives me a unique viewpoint to study the impacts of these changes. I am also very interested in the opposite process, the evolution and maintenance of the extremely high biodiversity in the tropics. To better understand these processes I focus on the small mammals of tropical east Asia, especially Sundaland.