I am interested in phylogeography and conservation genetics: the role of population genetics and ecology in determining the past and future evolution of animal species. Until the 1990's I focused on such topics as the genodynamics of hybrid zones (using Australian frogs, Pseudophryne), the role of gene flow and parapatric divergence in speciation (using Bahamian land snails, Cerion), and the co-evolution of host-parasite compatibility (using human schistosomes and their freshwater snail intermediate hosts). Although these retrospective studies of species evolution continue in my laboratory, most attention is now devoted to helping biologists meet their greatest challenge: that of ensuring the future evolution of animal species. To this end we have contributed to the development of molecular genetic methods of noninvasive genotyping, of defining evolutionarily significant units (ESUs) for conservation management purposes, and of detecting and monitoring genetic erosion in isolated populations. Recent projects have focused on:
BIOGEOGRAPHIC TRANSITION AT THE ISTHMUS OF KRA -- We have initiated a study of the history and dynamics of the interaction of the Indochinese and Sundaic biotas that meet today on the Thai-Malay peninsula. Funds are being sought to conduct comparative ecological and phylogeographic studies.
ENVIRONMENTAL CHANGE IN SOUTHEAST ASIA -- Recent studies have focused on the impact of the projected rise of sea level on coastal ecology and on the impact of Chinese hydropower dams on the Mekong River on downstream communities.
SUSTAINABILITY OF CAPTIVE POPULATIONS -- We are conducting the first historical assessment of any major zoo and contributing to the development of metrics for evaluating the sustainability of captive populations.
PRIMATES -- We have conducted noninvasive studies of phylogeny, phylogeography, population structure and mating systems of free-ranging chimpanzees, gibbons, marmosets and lemurs. Research continues on gibbons only.
BIRDS -- We developed noninvasive methods of genotyping birds and used them to show the endangered San Clemente loggerhead shrike was genetically unique, reproductively isolated, and exhibiting genetic erosion. Research completed.
ELEPHANTS -- Using DNA amplified from dung, we discovered three different taxa of elephants inhabit Africa today and demonstrated a method of genetic censusing of forest elephants. Former student, Dr. Lori Eggert, is continuing this research at the University of Missouri.
POPULATION VIABILITY AND GENETIC EROSION FOLLOWING RAINFOREST FRAGMENTATION -- In the first demonstration that genetic erosion could be monitored noninvasively we studied populations of small mammals in rainforest patches that were isolated as islands when the filling of a reservoir flooded a forested valley in Thailand. Funds are being sought to conduct a 20-year follow-up.
David Woodruff received his Ph.D. and D.Sc. from the University of Melbourne, Australia. He spent the period 1969-74 at Harvard University where he was a Frank Knox Fellow and an Alexander Agassiz Lecturer on Biogeography. He is an elected Fellow of AAAS and the Linnean Society of London. He served as the founding Chair of the Ecology, Behavior & Evolution Section at UCSD, and is a Trustee of the Zoological Society of San Diego where he fosters research and conservation at the San Diego Zoo, San Diego Zoo’s Safari Park, and the Institute for Conservation Research (formerly known as CRES).