Senior Curator of Herpetology
Area: Natural History, Biodiversity
Exhibitions & Galleries: Life in Crisis: Schad Gallery of Biodiversity
B.A., Pasadena College, California, 1970
M.A., San Francisco State University, California, 1976
Ph.D., Biology, University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), 1982
I am a Senior Curator of Herpetology in the Department of Natural History at the ROM, Professor of Zoology in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at the University of Toronto, and Senior Visiting Professor, Laboratory of Molecular Evolution & Genome Diversity, Kunming Institute of Zoology, Chinese Academy of Sciences.
I joined the ROM in 1984 after postdoctoral studies at UCLA Medical School, where my research focused on flow cytometry and the diagnosis of forms of cancer, as well as the conservation genetics of fishes. Since joining the ROM, I have maintained an active research programme that includes a steady stream of graduate students from the University of Toronto.
My research interests and publications extend far beyond herpetology and enter into the development of molecular technologies for documenting genetic diversity, to conservation genetics, evolutionary relationships, genomics, DNA barcoding, and behavioral genetics. I also describe some new species. In terms of organisms, my interests span from viruses, bacteria and fungi through insects and other invertebrates to all groups of vertebrates. For example, one current focus of my lab involves the conservation genetics of Polar Bears. This collaborative project also engages Inuit hunters and elders, and thus it is an interdisciplinary initiative.
My specialty in animals and collection building is amphibians and non-avian reptiles and I have studied them in diverse places such as Australia, Mexico, Russia, The Republic of Georgia, Armenia, China, and Vietnam. This effort has resulted in the ROM being famous for having one of the world's largest collections of amphibian and reptilian tissue samples for genetic research.
Among my activities, I am a co-founder of the Genome 10K project (see link below), an initiative to sequence the complete genomes of 10,000 species of vertebrates, as well as ColdCode, the international effort to DNA barcode species of amphibians and reptiles. I am committed to the ROM’s display of living organisms discovered by ROM researchers, and to their conservation through genetic research, education and captive propagation. My home page at the University of Toronto contains more information about my travels, lab and research projects, and even a phylogenetic rock opera! A link is provided below.