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Jill Jankowski, PhD candidate

Florida Museum of Natural History and Department of Biology
University of Florida 
My research centers on the study of diversity patterns and species' range boundaries in tropical montane landscapes. Species belonging to these regions often show thin, belt-like distributions along mountain chains, perhaps ranging hundreds or thousands of kilometers in latitude, but only a handful of kilometers in elevation.  Imagine standing at treeline in the panorama above, preparing to set out on foot down this tropical forest mountainside -- it may take only a few hours to cross through the entire elevational range of hundreds of species.  Perhaps with a clear view into a montane valley, one could throw a frisbee over a few species' ranges.  This characteristic of species in tropical montane forests makes these global biodiversity hotspots exceptionally susceptible to anthropogenic climate change and fragmentation.  Our ability to evaluate and predict the threats that species face with such environmental change hinges upon understanding the abiotic and biotic determinants of their distributions. 

My doctoral dissertation research at the University of Florida has focused on montane birds, including the collection of high-resolution census data to understand species distributions combined with focused tests of mechanisms that may underlie species' range boundaries.  I have conducted this research in two regions of the Neotropics:  Monteverde, found in the Tilarán Mountains of Costa Rica, and Manu National Park, located in the southern Peruvian Andes.  I am also currently developing projects in both study areas that will incorporate advancing remote sensing techniques with avian census data and vegetation information to model distributions and map biodiversity patterns in these largely inaccessible mountain landscapes.

I've also collaborated with faculty, graduate and undergraduate students, and other researchers on projects related to avian ecology and evolution.  These approaches include using phylogenetic relationships and ecological data to understand forces structuring communities ("community phylogenetics"), using host-parasite relationships to shed light on evolutionary histories of avian groups, and investigating ecological pressures that affect characteristics of bird song and nesting.  

Click here to learn more about each of these projects.

Visit the website for the Florida Museum of Natural History and the Department of Biology, at the University of Florida.