Phylogeography of Non-Vagile Coastal Isopods and the Controversial History of the Megadiverse Gulf of California-Baja.
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The proposed study is aimed at improving our understanding on the controversial geological and biogeographic history of the Gulf of California and Baja California Peninsula; a region that encompasses one of the most biodiverse and productive ocean basins, and one of the most unique and biodiverse desert ecosystems in the world. The complex geological history of this region is regarded as essential to the origin of its extraordinary biodiversity and without a reliable geological framework, interpretation of evolutionary and biogeographic patterns can be misleading. The proposed project will examine phylogeographic patterns (genealogy coupled with biogeography) of five coastal intertidal isopod taxa, using mitochondrial and nuclear genes. These isopods have a high probability of preserving in their genealogies, signatures of geological events that occurred during the formation of this region. Their patterns of evolution will be used to build a consensus on the geological and biogeographical history of the Gulf of California. The results of this study will have a broad impact on the diverse scientific community working in this region, including biologists, geologists, paleontologists, oceanographers, and conservationists. The project will help also to uncover the biodiversity of a poorly studied taxonomic group and the data collected will be important for conservation agencies to design strategies to protect the fragile rocky shore ecosystem of the Gulf of California-Baja Peninsula and California. This study will foster collaborations of the PIs with scientists from Mexican research institutions, scientists from other disciplines, and conservation agencies. A subset of the specimens collected will be deposited in a US museum collection. Others will be used in a pilot US-Mexico collaborative project to study the effects of sea level rise and pollution on rocky intertidal communities of the Gulf of California and California. Undergraduate and graduate students will be trained on different aspects of the project and will present their research at scientific meetings. Both PIs are Hispanic (including one woman) and will seek the participation of students from groups traditionally underrepresented in the biological sciences. Results will be broadly disseminated through peer-reviewed scientific publications, participation in meetings, invited talks, and collection information will be made available on the laboratory website.