Eli Greenbaum, Ph.D.

Associate Professor, Evolutionary Genetics
Director, UTEP Biodiversity Collections
Department of Biological Sciences
University of Texas at El Paso
500 West University Avenue
El Paso, TX 79968*

Office: (915) 747-5553; Lab: (915) 747-5645
FAX: (915) 747-5808
*zip code 79902 for FEDEX deliveries


2006. Ph.D. (Ecology and Evolutionary Biology). The University of Kansas, Lawrence. Dissertation title: Molecular systematics of New World microhyline frogs, with an emphasis on the Middle American genus Hypopachus. Dissertation defense: 25 January 2006 (defended with honors). Advisor: Dr. Linda Trueb.

1998. M.S. (Biology). University of Louisiana at Monroe, Monroe. Thesis title: Sexual differentiation in the spiny softshell turtle (Apalone spinifera). Advisor: Dr. John L. Carr.

1996. B.S. (Biological Sciences). Binghamton University, Binghamton, New York.


Research Interests

The rapidly emerging field of molecular systematics is central to my research program, because it allows me to utilize phylogenies to test biogeographic hypotheses within a statistical and evolutionary framework. Other related biological phenomena can be addressed with my systematic focus, including morphological and behavioral character evolution, species boundaries, and identification of ancient, unique lineages that are in need of conservation. My research interests are equally divided among examination of specimens in collections, laboratory investigations, and fieldwork. An amalgamation of these approaches will bridge traditional morphological taxonomy with molecular data, and utilize behavioral and ecological observations made in the field.

My early field experience was in the New World; however, I want to concentrate most of my future efforts in Africa. Comparisons of the rates of new species descriptions between the New World and Africa reveal that during recent decades, more new taxa have been described from the New World than from Africa. This may reflect the geological complexity of the Americas, but it also surely reflects the greater numbers of professional herpetologists engaged in fieldwork in the Americas than in Africa. Moreover, widespread disease, political instability, and poor infrastructure have limited herpetological biodiversity inventories in many areas of Africa, especially in Central Africa where many species are known from only the type locality or extremely limited distributions. Thus, continental Africa doubtless holds hundreds of unknown species of amphibians and reptiles, which are destined to extinction in the current century as deforestation, global warming, and chytrid fungus infections continue.

It follows from the relative dearth of alpha taxonomic work in Africa that there have been few phylogenetic studies that include African herpetological taxa as ingroups. Few molecular studies have included African species, and nearly all have used existing stocks of tissues in museums and private collections. Because of advances in political stability (in specific areas), tropical medicine, GPS technology, and a growing network of biologists working in Central Africa, it is now possible to conduct fieldwork in areas that were previously difficult or impossible to reach. I will concentrate my fieldwork efforts in areas of Africa that (1) have little or no representative specimen and tissue collections; (2) have experienced severe deforestation such that it is imperative to collect tissues before species become extinct; and (3) occur at the intersection of key biogeographic areas so that tissue samples for hypothesis testing can be collected. When possible, I will recruit enthusiastic local biologists to participate in fieldwork, foster long-term collaborations and encourage local conservation efforts.

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