James P. Herrera
PhD Candidate in Anthropological Sciences
'The History and Mystery of Life on Madagascar'
Synopsis: The endemic primates of Madagascar, called lemurs, are an exceptional example of evolutionary processes. They are extraordinarily diverse, and ~100 species are currently found in rainforests, dry forests and deserts. Seventeen giant species have gone extinct in the last 2000 years. Lemurs have fascinated researchers since the first natural history studies. How many species are there? How did they diversify in form and function? Did species diversify because of ecological specialization, or were species geographically isolated by rivers and mountains? I approach these research questions from a comparative perspective, testing hypotheses in the framework of the lemur evolutionary tree.
Biography: James P. Herrera is a PhD candidate in Anthropological Sciences who became fascinated about primates when he started working at a zoo part-time. The job led James to take his first Anthropology class at University of Miami, where his advisor suggested he should join a Study Abroad program in Madagascar. James was amazed with Madagascar and its diversity of plants, animals and cultures. Since his experience abroad, James has never stopped wondering - how did the life on Madagascar come to be? This question led him to Stony Brook where he is currently pursuing his PhD in the Anthropology program.