Biogeography India

Plenaries & workshops

Plenary 1

Scott Edwards

Scott Edwards is a scientist with broad interests in the evolution of life on earth and the processes that have generated biodiversity.  He mostly use birds as models to study patterns of speciation, biogeography, evolution of the genome, and the process of adaptation.

Title: Multilocus phylogeography: from mtDNA to next-gen sequencing on two continents



Phylogeography is an essential component of modern biogeography, and yet, as a discipline, phylogeography has evolved constantly since its inception in the late 1970s.   As the field first moved from mtDNA into multilocus nuclear genome and more recently into genome-wide analyses, the domain of phylogeography has expanded to include not only biogeographic questions but also the linking of genotype variation to phenotype variation and covariation with the landscape.  In this talk, drawing from avian examples in Australia and South America, I will present examples of phylogeographic work from various stages in the evolution of the field from a single locus to a genome-wide discipline.  I show that critical concepts, such as gene tree / species tree discordance and the distinction between coalescence time and population divergence time are as critical today as they were in the mitochondrial DNA era.  Additional processes that complicate phylogeographic patterns, such as introgression and natural selection, were evident in the mitochondrial DNA era yet are now exquisitely revealed in genome-wide studies.  With the new tools of next-gen approaches in hand, the field is poised to produce a global database of phylogeographic breaks and divergence times, a small example of which I will illustrate using the Gulf of Carpentaria in Australia.  Genome-wide studies, such as we have recently produced for the blue-faced honeyeater (Entomyzon cyanotis) in Australia, involving analysis of over 6 million SNPs, show that reticulations and natural selection overlay an overall pattern of neutral divergence in isolation across areas of endemism.

Plenary 2

Ashok Sahni


Ashok Sahni is an Emeritus Professor at Punjab University. He is widely known as the man who placed India on the fossil map of the world. He is known for his discovery of Vastanavis, a small bird that is thought to be the ancestor of the Great Indian Bustard and is about 52-million-year-old. This represents the oldest bird fossil ever discovered in the Indian subcontinent, and pushes back avian history in India by at least 20 million years. He is also known for the discovery of a new species of dinosaur—Rajasaurus narmadensis

Plenary 3

Michael Donoghue


Michael Donoghue uses knowledge of plant phylogeny to understand morphological character evolution, diversification, and historical biogeography. Several current projects are focused on elucidating the evolution of Viburnum and its movements among continents and forest communities.


Craig Moritz


Biogeography & Conservation

Sushma Reddy

Speciation & diversification

Michael Dawson


Community ecology, phylogeny and biogeography

Title: Comparative biogeography

The challenge for biogeography, like other observational sciences, is to extract general relationships representing causes and effects from complex natural data.  Moreover, approaches must, ultimately, link local scale processes to regional, or even global, scale patterns.  This likely requires methods that are robust to integration across diverse places and times.  I outline one such approach using synchronously diverging co-distributed species, which has potential to clarify the effects of traits — e.g. fecundity, dispersal syndromes — on population genetic structure and elucidate differences in the balance of processes shaping communities.


Pranay Lal

Pranay Lal

Pranay Lal is the author of the popular book Indica, a deep natural history of the Indian Subcontinent. This book dwells into various fields - geology, evolution, anthropology to tell the story of the Indian subcontinent from when life on earth started.

Dr. Lal will talk to us about his own journey of over two decades trying to piece together information from different scientific fields to make it accessible to a larger, wider audience.


Harini Nagendra

Harini Nagendra

Harini has been one of the leading voices of urban biodiversity and conservation in India. Her book Nature in the City tracking the history of the city of Bengaluru (Bangalore) has been well received across academics and the wider public.

Harini has worked on various conservation issues in India and abroad. Her research has been at the forefront of conservation issues in recent times; when a plan to build a steel flyover across a congested part of Bengaluru, her research revealed that the number of trees to be lost to the project was vastly different from the numbers presented to the public. This added to the growing citizen concern and debate on this issue #SteeleFlyover, leading to the eventual shelving of this plan.









Workshop 1

Preparing successful papers in the Biogeographical Sciences

Peter Linder

Editor-in-Chief - Journal of Biogeography

Michael Dawson

Deputy Editor-in-chief - Frontiers of Biogeography, Journal of Biogeography

This two-part workshop will consider the publishing landscape and practice core scientific paper writing competencies.  

Part I - We will briefly introduce the ecosystem of journals publishing bio-geographical research and the different opportunities these venues offer for various kinds of manuscript.  We then discuss commonalities among all of these venues in terms of typical workflow and the characteristics of successful manuscripts (i.e. those that get published). We will explore the ethics and best practices with authorship, data presentation, paper reviewing, and other issues. Expected duration 1.5 hrs.

Part II - A practicum using case studies provided by workshop participants.  Manuscripts submitted two weeks before the workshop <mail to Peter Linder > will be read and commented upon by one or more of the workshop organizers.  The workshop will use think-pair-share activities to identify common patterns in feedback, open discussion to identify common solutions, and time will also be reserved for short one-on-one meetings for author-specific questions and feedback.  Manuscripts should identify the target journal and be prepared according with that journal’s instructions for authors.

We advise participants to bring copies of two or more recent papers from their target journal, preferably on a similar topic as their own manuscript or research.

Duration : 2 hrs

Seats: 30

Venue: CES Seminar Hall

Time: 8.30 am (If you are not there by 8.45 am, your seat will be allocated to someone else on the waitlist)

Workshop 2

Introduction to Bayesian inference of phylogenies with RevBayes

Tracy Heath

Assistant Professor

Iowa State University


Walker Pett

Iowa State University

Details of the workshop are on this GitHub page

Bayesian statistical methods enable analysis of macroevolutionary processes under complex phylogenetic models. This workshop will focus on the theory and practice of estimating time-calibrated phylogenies from neontological and paleontological data. We will teach these concepts by integrating theory-based lectures with hands-on practicals in the program RevBayes. RevBayes is a program that provides a flexible framework for Bayesian phylogenetic inference.


  • Introduction to Bayesian inference and MCMC
  • Probabilistic graphical models
  • The Rev language
  • Inferring phylogenies in RevBayes
  • Model selection using Bayes factors
  • Estimating species divergence times
    • Stochastic branching processes as tree priors, with particular emphasis on the fossilized birth-death model (FBD)
    • Models of lineage-specific substitution rates (or rates of morphological change)
    • Models of discrete morphological character change and accounting for acquisition biases

Venue: Lotka VOlteraa 

Workshop 3

New models and methods for historical biogeography in the R package 'BioGeoBEARS'

Nicholas Matzke

Discovery Early Career Award Research (DECRA) Fellow

Workshop Summary: Historical biogeography methods have long been dominated by the "dispersal versus vicariance" debate, and different computer programs (e.g. DIVA, Lagrange, BayArea) have made different fixed assumptions about the importance of these processes. Researchers typically just run the different programs, and observe whether or not the inferences differ, but they have no ability to judge, statistically, which of the models best fits the data, or whether another model (for example, one including founder-event speciation) might be better than any of these.

The R package BioGeoBEARS allows users to compare speciational models, as well as build more complex models (dispersal probability as a function of distance, island emergence and submergence, inclusion of fossil data). All of the models are directly comparable in the common framework of statistical model choice. Attendees of this workshop will learn how to build and test models in BioGeoBEARS, as well as necessary basic skills in R and statistical model choice.

Previous experience with R is helpful, but NOT required. Attendees may wish to bring their own phylogenies and geography data and run it at the end of the workshop.

We will cover:

Basics: historical biogeography processes and models, basic likelihood-based statistical model selection, diagramming and interpretation of results

Advanced: Biogeographical Stochastic Mapping (BSM), distance-dependent dispersal models, trait-dependent dispersal

Requirements: R experience helpful but not required - I have written a short "Intro to R" tutorial which those new to R may work through beforehand.

Equipment: Bring a laptop or share with someone (cross-plaform).

Setup: You will need to have R installed (free download). To install the necessary R packages, see the beginning of the example script:

Venue: MRDG Conference Hall

Time: 8.30 am (If you are not there by 8.45 am, your seat will be allocated to someone else on the waitlist)