Matt Pennell

Dr. Matt Pennell


Field of research : Evolution, PaleontologyEmail : pennell[at]

"Macroevolution: linking paleontology and evolution"

30th July 14:40-15:00 (Open to all)

Venue: The Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters

(Drammensveien 78, Oslo)

Patterns of biodivesity, both across the globe and through time, are influenced by variations in the rate at which new species form and species go extinct. Historically, there have been two, mostly distinct ways to investigate and explain this variation: by examining the fossil record and by reconstructing the historical dynamics of diversification using molecular phylogenies. In my talk, I will draw from my own work and that of others to highlight major macroevolutionary trends that have emerged using both approaches. I will then consider questions for which fossils and phylogenies provide conflicting results and attempt to explain why precisely these conflicts arise and how we can resolve them using some emerging approaches.

Dr. Matt Pennell is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Zoology at the University of British Columbia (UBC) and a Canada Research Chair in Biodiversity Theory and Informatics. Prior to his appointment as assistant professor, Dr. Pennell was an Izaak Killam Memorial and NSERC postdoctoral fellow in the Department of Zoology at UBC. He also worked as a Graduate Fellow at the National Evolutionary Synthesis Center in Durham, NC. He received his PhD in Bioinformatics and Computational Biology at the University of Idaho and his bachelor’s degree from Simon Fraser University in Burnaby, BC. He received a Young Investigator Award from the American Society of Naturalists in 2016 and the Theodosius Dobzhansky Prize from the Society for the Study of Evolution in 2019.

He is fascinated by life’s variety and seek general explanations for how it arose and how it is maintained. A basic premise of his research is that these two aims are interdependent: what we see today is the result of ecological and evolutionary processes operating in concert across ‘deep time’. In his research, he builds theory, statistical methods, and computational tools to investigate how the interactions of these processes have played out over history. He has a particular fondness for phylogenetic trees, the historical pattern of branching that connects organisms to one another, and work to understand what these can tell us about the long-term dynamics of evolutionary change. To complement this work, he also develop general informatics tools for handling, manipulating, and sharing biodiversity data.