Director, Fuller Evolutionary Biology Program Fuller Evolutionary Biology Program, Cornell Museum of Vertebrates & Cornell Lab’s Academic Affairs
I study the incredible diversity of the world’s birds and work with many different kinds of students through my roles as the Fuller Professor of Ornithology, and the Director of the Fuller Evolutionary Biology Program, the Cornell Museum of Vertebrates, and the Cornell Lab’s Academic Affairs.
I have a hard time deciding what I find most exciting about my profession: making new discoveries about the ways birds have evolved such a wonderful richness of appearances, lifestyles and behaviors; or helping to create opportunities for our inspiring cadres of undergraduates, graduate students, and postdocs, many of whom came to Cornell specifically to study ornithology. Fortunately, in my world these two activities often occur together, since many of our most innovative scientific advances are made by those same student and postdoc researchers! Currently in my area of science I’m particularly impressed by our newfound ability to dissect the genetic basis of bird traits and evolutionary history using cutting-edge comparisons of birds’ entire genomes—I feel like these new big-data tools are giving us a truly novel window on how biodiversity arises, as if we just fired up the equivalent of the “Hubble Telescope” for evolutionary biology.