University of New Mexico Department of Biology Professor Felisa Smith was recently elected to the board as president-elect of the International Biogeography Society (IBS). Founded in 2001, the IBS is the primary forum for biographers worldwide.

The IBS fosters collaboration, awareness of and education in biogeography, for the study and conservation of the world’s biota. The organization works to understand the role of historical factors in shaping biodiversity and develop predictive capacitates for gauging how biodiversity will respond to our rapidly changing world.

Biogeography is a dynamic and burgeoning field that seeks to understand the role of historical factors in shaping biodiversity and, as importantly, to develop predictive capacities for gauging how biodiversity will respond to our rapidly changing world. Historically largely descriptive, we have seen the transformation of the field into a rigorous science.

Felisa Smith

Now, with rapidly developing technologies (including genomic tools and environmental models) together with the availability of big data and increasingly sophisticated analytical tools, the field is poised for a revolution that brings its relevance into domains far beyond ecology and evolutionary biology, to include paleontology, bioinformatics, global change biology, conservation, and invasion biology, as well as sustainable food systems and ecosystem services.

“I look forward to helping guide our rapidly growing field and increasing our visibility with both the public and policymakers,” said Smith. “In this era of environmental challenges such as climate change and biodiversity loss, interdisciplinary and synthetic disciplines like biogeography provide unique insights into the processes underlying much of ecosystem structure and function.”

As part of her research, Smith works to bridge the gap between paleontology and modern biology by examining factors influencing body size across both ecological and evolutionary time. Her research aims to understand why organisms are the size they are, what the ecological and evolutionary consequences are of being a certain size and the complex and dynamic trade-offs between physiology, life history, environment, phylogeny, and past history.

Smith’s current research projects range across a hierarchy of spatial and temporal scales: from fieldwork examining life history trade-offs in modern rodent populations occupying extreme environments, to paleomidden work on local and regional adaptations of animals to late Quaternary climate, to museum and computer-based studies of continental and global distributions of long-dead mammals that span the entire Cenozoic.

Smith will serve a six-year term on the IBS Board including two as president-elect, two as president and two as past president.

For more information, visit the International Biogeography Society.

For a related story on Smith’s research, visit UNM researchers look to understand decline of large-bodied mammals.