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Adam Siepielski, PhD

Assistant Professor, Biology

Adam Siepielski, PhD, joined the faculty in 2011. He teaches an introductory level course in organismal diversity, and upper level courses in ecology, evolution and statistics. Siepielski is an ecologist and evolutionary biologist. His research focuses on understanding the ecological and evolutionary determinants of community structure. He primarily works with damselflies, which are found throughout aquatic systems worldwide.

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Ph.D. in Zoology, University of Wyoming

M.S. in Biology, New Mexico State University

B.S. in Wildlife and Fisheries Sciences, Pennsylvania State University

Postdoctoral Research Associate, Dartmouth College

Scholarly and Creative Work

Research in the Siepielski laboratory focuses on how species interactions and community structure contribute to the origins and maintenance of biological diversity. The two main areas we currently address are the evolution of interactions between species, and the causes and consequences of community structure. Biologists commonly endeavor to understand species interactions and community structure by studying only the proximate mechanisms of multispecies interactions. However, we cannot fully understand why species are engaged in some interactions and not others, and why communities are structured as they are today without also understanding how evolutionary dynamics in component taxa have shaped both their abilities to engage in those interactions and their distributions across the landscape. Our goal is to further develop and explore linkages between these two topical areas. To achieve this goal requires a combination of intensive studies of species interactions to understand the factors affecting the demographic performance of species at the individual, population and community level; micro- and macro-evolutionary studies of species at both the phenotypic and molecular level to explore how community structure and species interactions may have developed through organismal adaptation and diversification; and biogeographical studies to investigate how major environmental gradients (e.g., climate, geology) can influence community structure and the evolution of species interactions. Our research integrates theoretical explorations of these issues with laboratory and field studies in relevant ecological systems. We primarily work with damselflies, which are found throughout aquatic systems worldwide. This system is ideal for addressing questions concerning the evolutionary determinants of community structure because of their wide geographic distributions, high taxonomic diversity, the discrete nature of local communities, and their amenability for lab and field based experimentation. Lakes, ponds and streams found throughout the Southwest support diverse assemblages of these organisms, making San Diego an ideal location from which to base our studies.

Teaching Interests

Dr. Siepielski teaches upper and lower division courses in biodiversity, ecology, evolution and statistics. He enjoys the challenge of integrating teaching and research as an academic biologist. Teaching forces one to think outside the narrow realm of their current research focus, while research allows one to explore and maintain their own passion and curiosity about how nature works. In many ways, they are the same endeavor. As a biologist, he greatly enjoys struggling to understand biological diversity, and he hopes that he can help students gain that same appreciation for wanting to understand how nature works. The intellectual exchanges he has with his students, through focused examination, lectures, and discussions are one of the best parts of his job.