Felipe Zapata

Postdoctoral Research Associate, Dunn Lab
Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Brown University


I am an organismal evolutionary biologist broadly interested in the origin and evolution of biological diversity (i.e., lineage, phenotypic, and ecological diversity), particularly plant diversity. In my research, I use an integrative, quantitative approach combining natural history, molecular phylogenetics, statistics, genomics, and computational biology to address questions such as: what is the evolutionary history of species? what factors and mechanisms promote or restrict genetic, lineage, and phenotypic diversity? how and why species multiply?

Research Interests

evolutionary biology, plant systematics, phylogenetics, plant biology, computational biology.

Previous Positions & Education

2010—2012 Postdoctoral Research Associate Department of Integrative Biology, University of California, Berkeley
2010 Ph.D. Ecology, Evolution & Systematics Department of Biology, University of Missouri, St. Louis
2000 B.S. Biology Departamento de Ciencias Biológicas, Universidad de Los Andes, Bogotá, Colombia



Understanding how biodiversity originates and evolves is a central question in ecology and evolution. I am particularly interested in evaluating how geographic and environmental factors interact to allow and cause organisms to evolve and diversify. I am studying the role of these factors in the evolution of plants from the highland (Escallonia) and lowland (Protium) forests of South America.

Relevant publications: AJB, J. Biog., Evolution
Species Delimitation

Delimiting species confidently is not just a classificatory issue, it is the manifestation of the core problem in evolutionary biology that has puzzled naturalists for generations: how do species form? how do species multiply? I am working on statistical approaches to infer species boundaries using phenotypic and geographic information derived from natural history collections, and on integrative approaches to species delimitation

Relevant publications: Sys. Bio., bioRxiv

High-Throughput Sequencing (HTS) enables phylogenetic inference with lots of data (i.e., phylogenomics) and provides critical genetic data to address questions in evolutionary genomics (i.e., evolution of functional genes). I have been collaborating in the development of computational tools to facilitate the execution, transparency, and reproducibility of phylogenomic and functional genomic studies, and on statistical approaches to accomodate uncertainty when processing HTS data.

Relevant publications: BMC Bioinf., PRSb, PLOS One
Functional Diversity

Functional traits have fitness consequences in natural populations. I am particularly interested in studying the genetic basis of these traits to gain insight into the molecular mechanisms underlying eco-phenotypic variation, adaptive evolution, and functional species differences. I have studied the molecular basis of plant secondary metabolites that mediate biotic and abiotic interactions in tropical rain forests trees of the genus Protium.

Relevant publications: MPE


See my Google scholar profile. If you do not have access to PDFs, please send me an email [felipe_zapata[AT]brown[DOT]edu].