George B. Mayer Chair in Urban and Environmental Studies, Associate Professor
Michael F. Benard joins us from the University of Michigan, Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology. His research program investigates how populations adapt and persist in response to environmental variation over space and time. This research program has three inter-related components. First, Dr. Benard investigates how the strength and targets of natural selection vary between different environments. Second, he investigates how other factors, such as genetic variation and the frequency of different environments on the landscape, affect the rate of evolution. Finally, he asks how changes in phenotypic variation affect local population growth rate, and thus the probability that populations will go extinct. As part of his research, Dr. Benard uses laboratory experiments, large-scale studies in nature, and demographic modeling. Understanding the factors that affect species’ responses to changing environments provides insight into how to best conserve biodiversity, and is particularly important because of the high rate of environmental change caused by human activities.