Prof. Uma Ramakrishnan - Research
Natural environments around us are changing at unprecedented rates. As wildlands shrink, human populations increase and the temperature escalates, we scramble to understand how the species around us will respond. We hope that such understanding will aid in stewarding species survival in the future. Integral to this stewardship are the fields of ecology and evolution, and I focus on this research interface. I study the processes governing the response of species to environmental history, climatic perturbation and human history in the context of species ecologies, and hence gain a better understanding of their evolution.
In practical terms, my research focuses on revealing the processes that drive patterns of mammalian genetic variation (in the present and the past). I use field-collected samples, assemble molecular genetic data and analyze these data with phylogenetic, phylochronologic, phylogeographic and population genetic inferences. Much of my research over the last few years has focused on the Indian subcontinent because of (1) its geographic setting, representing the intersection of three major biogeographic realms (Palearctic, Africotropical, Indomalayan); (2) its geologically dramatic history, driven by plate tectonics, volcanism and climatic change; (3) its ecologically diverse habitat types from the highest mountains on earth to very dry deserts and tropical forests, including biodiversity hotspots; (4) the presence of Homonins in India for perhaps one million years, and modern humans in relatively high (and ever increasing) densities for about 70,000 years impacting the Indian biota; and finally the fact that (5) virtually nothing is known about patterns of genetic variation in native Indian species, and even less is known about the impact of climate on species in this region in particular.