Ben Marks, currently the head of Zoological Collections at the Field Museum of Natural History, will be returning to Illinois State University to give a presentation on his research on tropical bird speciation processes. Marks received his M.S. ’00 working with Associate Professor Angelo Capparella on the level of endemism in the Wedge-billed Woodcreeper. Marks continued his research work in avian systematics at Louisiana State University, receiving his Ph.D. in 2008. After several years of working with bird collections in Louisiana and Texas, he has returned to Illinois to a position at the Field Museum.

Marks’ presentation “Avian diversification in the African tropics”, will be  4-5 p.m. Thursday, April 30, in Moulton Hall, room 201.

Abstract of his presentation
Widespread bird species in the African tropics are generally considered to be uninformative for determining priority areas for conservation. I will discuss studies of geographic variation in widespread birds inhabiting the west-African and Congo Basin lowland rainforests that suggest the opposite conclusion. These studies show that we are vastly underestimating avian biodiversity in the Afrotropics, an area already known to harbor some of the highest levels of vertebrate diversity on Earth. This also illustrates the critical importance of continued specimen-based research and associated museum collections to characterize complex biodiversity patterns and elucidate the underlying biogeographic causes.