Collaborative Research: Integrative ecological perspectives on extinction processes - a multi-proxy case study of Hispaniolan subfossil and extant rodents

Project: Research project

Project Details


This project brings together researchers and educators specializing in genetics, anatomy, and ecology to explore the factors that led to the recent extinction of endemic rodents on Hispaniola. Hispaniolan rodents provide an exceptional case study for examining the triggers and timeline of island extinction events. Biodiversity loss is a global concern, and over 70% of mammalian extinctions in the last 500 years have occurred on islands. The Caribbean has suffered the greatest species loss of any region in the world. Fossil data generated from this project have the potential to contribute to conservation policy by clarifying which factors most contributed to extinction events, and will be helpful for understanding the disappearance of species on other islands. This project will contribute to education by providing mentorship to young scientists at multiple levels, including Caribbean and Caribbean-American undergraduates and by developing teaching modules for K-12 students. Finally, a database of extinct Hispaniolan mammals will provide better public access to scientific information both in Haiti and the USA.

This project will use morphometrics, stable isotope ecology, and ancient DNA to (1) identify the ecological relationships among Hispaniola's extinct endemic rodents, (2) determine the timing of species loss, (3) resolve phylogenetic relationships among extinct taxa, and (4) clarify extinction triggers. The research team will rely on previously collected fossil material from three paleontologically-rich caves on the Tiburon Peninsula in southwestern Haiti. The data generated will allow a more nuanced understanding of the roles that human behavior, climate, and individual species characteristics (e.g., body size, habitat, genetic diversity) have played in extinctions on Hispaniola. The data generated can be leveraged by conservation biologists to inform conservation policy aimed at preserving the remaining biological diversity on Hispaniola and in island systems more generally.

This award reflects NSF's statutory mission and has been deemed worthy of support through evaluation using the Foundation's intellectual merit and broader impacts review criteria.

Effective start/end date7/1/216/30/24


  • National Science Foundation: $140,941.00


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