Ants are an extremely diverse group of organisms, and are interacting partners for many different species. They’re important to our global ecology and human agriculture – and they’re quite cool to boot.
Our project is operating at the nexus of phylogenetic methods development and empirical biology and paleontology.
What are our goals?
Firstly, we’d like to revisit the ant tree of life. There has been a lot of really fantastic work on ant relationships, so we can stand on the shoulders of giants here. Particularly, we’re interested in applying new fossilized birth-death models that more completely incorporate morphological data to update our understanding of the timing of divergence events in the ant tree.
Secondly, ants have a fascinating fossil record. Ants live in a variety of environmental conditions, which affect their preservation. Some ant fossils are more complete than others, and some ant fossils can only be keyed to higher taxonomic levels. All of these biases in data availability can affect the way in which we model our data. We’d like to get a better handle on how best to manage these biases in the empirical data.
Lastly, the Heath lab does extensive software development. In the course of this project, we will be developing software tools for posterior predictive model assessment, as well as extending existing methods to model data with greater biological realism.
Our full proposal can be found here.