Biodiversity and Systematics

What we do:

Through a variety of field, laboratory, and model-based evolutionary studies along with the outstanding collections, facilities and other resources of Harvard’s natural history institutions—the Museum of Comparative Zoology, the Harvard University Herbaria, the Arnold Arboretum, and the Harvard Forest—we investigate the origins and maintenance of biodiversity, without restriction to organism.

Two of the strengths in the department are in the areas of documenting and describing biodiversity and in the study of the biogeographical and phylogenetic relationships among organisms.


Current areas of research include:

  • Assembling the Tree of Life (Amphibians, Beetles, Bivalves, Protostomes, Flowering plants)
  • Biogeography of terrestrial arthropods
  • Biodiversity and biogeography of Caribbean Islands
  • Coevolution among butterflies and ants
  • Diversity and biogeography of coastal and deep-sea vent symbioses
  • Evolution of the world’s largest flowers (Rafflesiaceae)
  • Diversity and biogeography of fungi, and interactions between mycorrhizal fungi and plants
  • Systematics and diversification of tropical amphibians
  • The role of interspecific competition in adaptive radiations
  • The use the fossil record to calibrate molecular phylogenies



Faculty in other Departments:

Daniel B. Lieberman (Human Evolutionary Biology)
Matthew Meselson (MCB)
Maryellen Ruvolo (Human Evolutionary Biology)
Richard Wrangham (Human Evolutionary Biology)


Selected courses in Biodiversity and Systematics:

OEB 10. Foundations of Biological Diversity
OEB 51 (formerly OEB 110). Biology and Evolution of Invertebrate Animals
OEB 52 (formerly OEB 124). Biology of Plants
OEB 53 (formerly Biological Sciences 53) Evolutionary Biology
OEB 54. Biology of the Fungi
OEB 59. Plants and Human Affairs
OEB 103. Plant Systematics and Evolution
OEB 107. Evolution of Plant Life in Geologic Time
OEB 114. Vertebrate Viviparity
OEB 123. Biology of Symbiosis
OEB 125. Molecular Ecology and Evolution
OEB 126. Vertebrate Evolution
OEB 130. Biology of Fishes
OEB 155r. Biology of Insects
OEB 167. Herpetology
OEB 168r. Sociobotany
OEB 181. Systematics
OEB 190. Biology and Diversity of Birds
OEB 221. Microbial Diversity
OEB 234. Topics in Marine Biology
SCIENCE B-53. Marine Biology

Biodiversity and Systematics related courses in other departments:

Anthropology 2305. Advanced Topics in Human Evolutionary Biology
Anthropology 2460. Issues in Human Evolution
EPS 181. Paleontology and Historical Geobiology