Dr. Christopher L. Parkinson
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Professor, Dept. of Biology, University of Central Florida
Special Assistant to the Provost on Faculty Cluster Initiatives, University of Central Florida
Chair, Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUC), Office of Research and Commercialization, University of Central Florida
Provosts Faculty Fellow, Academic Affairs, University of Central Florida
Associate Professor, Dept. of Biology, University of Central Florida
Assistant Professor, Dept. of Biology, University of Central Florida
Post-Doctoral Fellow, Section of Amphibians and Reptiles, Carnegie Museum of Natural History, Pittsburgh, PA 15213
Post-Doctoral Fellow, Dept. of Biology, Indiana University, Bloomington IN 47405, 1996-2000.
Ph.D., University of Louisville, Environmental Biology, 1996.
B.S. and B.S., Ohio University, Wildlife Biology and Field Botany, 1990.
My research interest lies at the intersection of phylogeography and trait evolution. I am interested in understanding how shared ancestry effects trait evolution within a species and among closely related species. The common theme in the research projects I am working on is the use of phylogenetics to understand evolutionary processes. My dissertation research uses Mojave Rattlesnakes, Crotalus scutulatus, as the model to understand the evolution of Type A and Type B venom. Through the use of comparative transcriptomics and proteomics I seek to understand potential selection pressures that are maintaining both venom types within the species in discrete geographic locations. I have conducted field work in the Chihuahuan, Sonoran, and Mojave Deserts of the U.S. and Mexico collecting rattlesnakes for my dissertation. Additionally, I am mentoring Hollis and Alejandra on a project comparing the phylogeography of Long-nosed Snakes (Rhinocheilus lecontei) and Glossy Snakes (Arizona elegans) in the American Southwest. We are comparing the evolutionary histories of these two species with respect to common biogeographic events in the region, particularly the influence of the American Cordillera on speciation.
My research interests are centered on integrating the fields of phylogenetics, biogeography and ecology to answer questions about the roles of adaptation and evolution in speciation processes, especially among reptiles. Currently, I am particularly interested in investigating how evolutionary and environmental pressures have affected venom adaptation in the sub-family Crotalinae. Venoms vary markedly in their composition and function both within and among viper clades but many of the forces governing and directing venom evolution are poorly understood. Of central interest to this topic are 1) the extents to which phylogenetic relationships and environmental factors drive venom adaptation through protein modification and expression, 2) the trade-offs associated with variation in venom complexity and function and 3) if there are recurring or fixed pathways of evolution among venoms with convergent function? Information from this research will be used to further our understanding of how the evolution, environment and natural history of an organism interact to produce variable phenotypes in a mutable system (viperid venoms) under high selective pressure.
Ph.D. Student (Fall 2017)
My research involves the use of corridors connecting inland habitat to coastal habitat likely to be impacted by projected sea level rise in Florida. I use gopher tortoises (Gopherus polyphemus) as my study species at Kennedy Space Center. Gopher tortoises occur in large numbers in Kennedy Space Center, so by tracking their movements via radio telemetry along corridors, beach, and inland habitat it will be possible to tell if managed retreat is a suitable management plan for both gopher tortoises and other terrestrial species including the over 300 commensal species reliant on gopher tortoise burrows. I also aim to determine if artificial barriers such as railroad tracks and roads will be problematic in gopher tortoise and other terrestrial species retreat inland in response to sea level rise. Radio tracking tortoises on either side of the barrier paired with observational studies of tortoises innate 'homing' behavior in response to a barrier will help elucidate the problems that could be faced in the future.
I am interested in the mechanisms underlying dispersal and distributions of species, especially investigating the role that climate plays. By combining approaches from phylogenetics, population genetics, and biogeography I hope to better understand these mechanisms. My current project models the historical dispersal of an organism and aims to predict how it will respond to climate change. Plestiodon egregius, the mole skink, is a semi-fossorial lizard endemic to the southeastern US and has low dispersal rates, which makes is a perfect model organism for my study. This work will also inform the proposal to list subspecies of P. egregius as federally threatened.