graduate students

Nicolas Medina

Doctoral Candidate


I’m an evolutionary biologist, a botanist, a traveler, and an avid athlete. My career in science started as a plant taxonomist more than ten years ago when I began studying diversity of strangler figs. In grad school, my love for nature rapidly progressed into a passion for knowledge and science. Nowadays, I use modern DNA sequencing and high-performance computing to reveal the processes that drive tropical diversity. Nevertheless, from time to time, I find myself looking a herbarium specimens for fun and enjoying field work botanizing.


No other plant genus compares to Ficus (figs) in terms of species richness, growth form diversity (trees, shrubs, climbers, stranglers), and ubiquity in tropical ecosystems; these traits make them an excellent system to study diversification and adaptation processes. My doctoral project focuses on the strangler figs of tropical America (Ficus section Americana) and aims to understand how species have adapted to various ecosystems that range from deserts in Baja California, rainforests in the Amazon, and cloud forests in the Andes. My fieldwork was based in seven countries (Brazil, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Mexico, Peru, and Venezuela) where I made botanic collections for molecular studies (RADseq and genome sequencing) and my goal is to find out how hybridization, niche evolution, and biogeography interact to shape diversity.

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