Thomas B. Smith

Director, Center for Tropical Research Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology

La Kretz Hall, Suite 300

Los Angeles, CA 90095-1656

Campus Mailcode: 149605

Tel: (310) 206-4712

Fax: (310) 825-5446

Personal Website

Dr. Smith has over 20 years of experience working in the rainforests of Africa, Australia, Latin America, and Hawaii, and has published more than 100 articles. As founder and Director of the Center for Tropical Research, Dr. Smith oversees a host of research projects and directs the research of a growing number of graduate students and postdoctoral scientists on projects based in tropical countries around the world. A central focus of his research is investigating how speciation occurs in tropical rainforests.

Combining molecular genetics and field biology, Dr. Smith identified a new theory of how speciation occurs in rainforests. In a series of studies published in the journals Science, Nature,and the Proceedings of the National Academy, he has shown that for a wide range of taxa in rainforests worldwide, the processes of diversification and speciation take place not only within “biodiversity hotspots” but also along environmental gradients or ecotones representing the transition from one habitat to another. The implications of this discovery are far-reaching. With climate change threatening large-scale shifts in species distributions and the habitats on which they depend, the hotspots of today may not be the hotspots of tomorrow. The results of Dr. Smith’s research point to new and more effective ways of prioritizing regions for conservation.

Dr. Smith is a frequent consultant to the World Bank and numerous conservation organizations, helping them implement conservation programs and establish new parks in tropical countries. In recent years he has received more than eight million dollars in research funding from the National Science Foundation (NSF), the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), the National Geographic Society, the Environmental Protection Agencies (EPA), the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), the National Institutes of Health (NIH), and the Turner Foundation.

Dr. Smith holds a B.S. in Natural Sciences and an M.S. in Wildlife Ecology from the University of Wisconsin at Madison and a Ph.D. in Zoology from the University of California, Berkeley. He gives numerous invited talks and has received more than a dozen academic honors for his research, including honors from Fulbright, the Zoological Society of London, the California Academy of Sciences, and the American Ornithologists' Union