The rainforests of the Gulf of Guinea and Congo Basin are located in western equatorial Africa. These rainforests are among the most important centers of biological diversity in the world, harboring roughly 20% of all known species of plants and animals. Research in Gonder’s group is focused on examining the history of this biologically-rich region with the specific goals of: (i) deciphering spatial patterns of biodiversity across the region; (ii) inferring the underlying evolutionary and ecological processes that generate the region’s rich biodiversity; and (iii) using this knowledge to help inform conservation strategies in western equatorial Africa which recognize and integrate evolutionary patterns and the natural processes that produced them.
Members of Gonder’s group are currently pursing research in a range of tropical organisms, with the explicit aim of improving biodiversity prediction and conservation in central Africa. The research also includes both laboratory analysis in the U.S. and fieldwork in western equatorial Africa, primarily in Cameroon, Gabon, Equatorial Guinea, and Nigeria. The research program also incorporates data from diverse fields, including population genetics, genomics, phylogeography, geospatial modeling, virology and conservation science. Research in her group is highly collaborative, and occurs within a diverse, international network that includes academic researchers, conservation professionals and decision-makers.
An additional focus area is to promote multi-institutional capacity building activities that will boost biodiversity research and conservation efforts in western equatorial Africa, a region undergoing rapid climatic change and socioeconomic transformation. Laboratory members have contributed to several activities ranging from primary research, educational outreach and conservation action planning. Notably, Gonder is a principal investigator on a bold research and educational program unites more than 150 researchers and students from the U.S., Africa and Europe around an innovative research project that seeks to identify meaningful conservation measures to mitigate the effects of habitat loss and climate change in western equatorial Africa.