ProjectThe impact of anthropogenic activity on the evolution of Darwin's finches on the Galápagos Islands
One of the most important ideas in science in the last 200 years is the theory of natural selection elaborated by Charles Darwin. This theory is recognized as the foundation for the study of evolution on a scientific basis. Our understanding of the processes leading to evolutionary change in populations is ever increasing, but key questions remain. Of particular relevance at the present time is how biodiversity is generated, maintained, or lost under the context of human disturbances. Darwin dedicated one chapter in The Origin of Species to the influence that humans have on the morphology of some species through domestication. But what is the effect of human activities on the evolution of organisms in their natural habitats? More precisely, to what extent are human populations facilitating or preventing the formation of species? I investigate this question by focusing on the iconic populations of Darwin’s finches on the some of the largest islands in the Galápagos. With the increase in tourist activity and the rising human populations in the Galápagos archipelago, these islands provide a unique field laboratory to address test the effects that human activity may be having on the evolutionary trajectories of these species. Using cutting-edge molecular techniques, I am studying the molecular evolution of finches in two different types of sites, that will be replicated multiple times: those with a high influence of urbanization and those representing undisturbed, pristine habitat. This work will help improve understanding of how humans can influence the emergence or collapse of biodiversity.