Phoenix Group

Evolutionary Ecology & Genetics

Juan Carlos Garcia Ramirez <>
About myself:

I was born in Cali (, a city in southwest Colombia ( I received my Bachelor in Ecology at the Fundacion Universitaria de Popayan in 2002 studying frog communities in the cloud forest of Munchique National Park. I carried out several field based studies in different parts of Colombia, from the desert to the rainforest, and from the sea to the Paramos. It was a great opportunity to see the species and ecosystems of one of the biologically rich regions. I have also participated in expeditions to Biogeographic Choco, a high rainfall area of unexplored rainforest and high biodiversity and endemicity between the Andes and Pacific Ocean. In 2009, I did a Master of Science in Evolutionary Ecology at Universidad del Valle ( This line of study helped me further integrate points of view about mechanisms that promote species and population divergence. In particular, it helped me understand the ecological relationships between populations and species and the processes underlying different levels of diversity (genetic, species and ecosystems).



My Research:

I am a PhD graduate studying Evolutionary Ecology at Massey University. My research focuses on the processes of diversification and speciation in an interesting group of birds, the rails, and in a magnificent laboratory site, the Oceania region. Rails are a large and cosmopolitan group of birds which include New Zealand species as weka, takahe, auckland rail and many extinct species. Despite being widespread and common, this group of birds shows lineages with high rates of historical diversification (Porphyrio, Gallirallus, Porzana and Gallinula). But, how could this happen if dispersal ability should limit differentiation with a high frequency of gene flow?  To explain this conflict requires an accurate estimation of phylogenetic relationships, evaluation of genetic variation both within and between populations, and estimation of divergence times.

I am focusing my research on reconstructing family and genus level phylogenies to provide a framework in which to explore microevolutionary processes and population genetic mechanisms operating in speciation. Fundamental to these diversification processes are the effects of genetic, demographic, ecological, behavioural and environmental factors (e.g. climate and geomorphology).

Two major goals on my thesis are to identify the patterns of diversification and inferring phenotypical, geographical and ecological traits driven speciation at broad spatial and temporal scales. This requires (1) broad taxonomic and population sampling, (2) accurate estimation of phylogenetic relationships and population parameters, (3) substantial molecular data, and (4) time constrained and confidentally assigned fossils to calibrated molecular clocks.

I used rails (Aves: Rallidae) as an example in order to address central questions related to how biological entities originate and why biological diversity is distributed as it is, and to help to reveal the degree of historical biogeographic signal and net diversification retained in a cosmopolitan bird family. The phylogenetic and population approaches that I use in my research allow me to infer the spatial and ecological diversification in Rallidae associated with morphological innovation (frontal shield, body size and flightlessness) and the causes of the global retention of diversity in several of its lineages.

Academic background:
Fundacion Universitaria de Popayan, Popayan, Colombia, 1996-2002, BSc. Ecology. Thesis title: Distribution of anuran fauna in relation to habitat variables at La Romelia, Munchique National Park, Cauca.

Universidad del Valle, Cali, Colombia, 2006-2009, MSc. Biology. Thesis title: Genetic diversity and population structure of frogs of the genus Pristimantis from the Western Ranges of Colombian based on mitochondrial DNA sequences.
Massey University, Palmerston North, New Zealand, 2010-at present, PhD student
Thesis title: The influence of space and time on the genetic architecture of rail species (Aves: Rallidae).

colombian coot?Colombian frogs


García-R JC, Gibb G, Trewick SA. 2014. Eocene diversification of crown group rails (Aves: Gruiformes: Rallidae). PLoS ONE, 9:e109635.

García-R JC, Gibb G, Trewick SA. 2014. Deep global evolutionary radiation in birds: diversification and trait evolution in the cosmopolitan bird family Rallidae. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution. 81: 96-108.

García-R JC, Trewick SA. Dispersal and speciation in purple swamphens (Rallidae: Porphyrio). The Auk. Accepted.

García-R JC, Posso C, Cardenas H. Diet of direct-developing frogs (Anura: Craugastoridae: Pristimantis) from the Andes of western Colombia. Acta Biologica Colombiana. Accepted.

García-R JC, Mendoza ÁM, Ospina O, Cardenas H, Castro F. 2014. A morphometric and molecular approach to define three closely related species of frogs of the genus Pristimantis (Anura: Craugastoridae) from the Cordillera Occidental in Colombia. Journal of Herpetology. 48: 220-227.

García-R JC, Crawford AJ, Mendoza ÁM, Ospina O, Cardenas H, Castro F. 2012. Comparative Phylogeography of Direct-Developing Frogs (Anura: Craugastoridae: Pristimantis) in the Southern Andes of Colombia. PLoS ONE. 7:e46077.

Mendoza AM, GarcÍa-Ramirez JC, Cardenas-Henao H. 2012. Blood puncture as a nondestructive sampling tool to obtain DNA in frogs: comparison of protocols and survival analysis. Molecular Ecology Resources. 12:470-475

Mendoza Á, García-Ramirez J, Cárdenas-Henao H. 2012. Epithelial mucosa as an alternative tissue for DNA extraction in amphibians. Conservation Genetics Resources:1-3.

García-R JC, Lucas, L, Cardenas, H, Posso, C. 2012. Ecología alimentaria de la rana de lluvia endémica Pristimantis jubatus (Craugastoridae) en el Parque Nacional Natural Munchique, Colombia. Acta Biologica Colombiana. 17: 409-418.

Garcia-R JC, Galindez L. 2011. Caracterización ecológica preliminar de la microcuenca que abastece de agua al acueducto municipal de San Jose del Guaviare, Colombia. Revista de Ingeniería de los Recursos Naturales y del Ambiente. 10:31-44.

Garcia-R. JC, Cardenas-H. H. 2010. Efecto de Rapoport en las ranas Terrarana de America continental: Gradientes de riqueza latitudinal y altitudinal. Revista Novedades Colombianas. 10:1-16.

Garcia-R JC, Cardenas H, Castro F. 2007. Relación entre la diversidad de anuros y los estados sucesionales de un bosque muy húmedo montano bajo del Valle del Cauca, suroccidente colombiano. Caldasia. 29:363–374.

García-R JC, Lynch JD. 2006. A new species of frog (genus Eleutherodactylus) from a cloud forest in Western Colombia. Zootaxa, 1171:39–45. 1171

García-R JC, Castro F, Cárdenas H. 2005. Relación entre la distribución de anuros y variables del hábitat en el sector La Romelia del Parque Nacional Natural Munchique (Cauca, Colombia). Caldasia. 27:299-310.

Garcia-R JC, Pardo L. 2004. Escarabajos Scarabaeinae saprófagos (Coleoptera: Scarabaeidae) de un bosque muy húmedo premontano de los Andes occidentales colombianos. Ecologia Aplicada. 3:59-63.