Dr. Starkey joined the Department of Biology at the University of the Incarnate Word in the fall of 2014. Prior to beginning his position at UIW, Dr. Starkey worked as a Research Scientist for the USDA. He is originally from Hurst, Texas.
The goal of my research is to understand how changes in biogeography can influence, or alter, gene flow leading, ultimately, to speciation. In order to understand the correlation between these processes, my lab utilizes field work, molecular and analytical techniques, and patterns of distribution to infer how and/or when speciation events may have occurred. My lab will soon be investigating, in conjunction with Dr. Andy Gluesenkamp, the San Antonio Zoo and Drs. Rick Shine and Drew Davis at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley, the patterns of distribution in the softshell turtle, Apalone mutica. Our goal with this project is to determine if the present-day patterns of distribution in this turtle reflect historical patterns i.e., does the present-day distribution of this species still suggest a single species or do multiple species exist. My lab is also investigating the patterns of distribution in Trachemys scripta, the red eared slider, to determine if urban areas in San Antonio are serving as refugia for this species which, potentially, could be leading to allopatric speciation. My lab has also begun a project, in conjunction with the San Antonio Zoo, to investigate life history characteristics in several threatened or endangered species including the Psychedelic rock gecko (Cnemaspis psychedelica) and Henkels leaf tailed gecko (Uroplatus henkeli). The goal of these projects is to gain a base line understanding of the growth rates of these geckos and determine the size at which reproduction begins.
Another major area of focus in my research lab is codon bias. In this ongoing study, my students and I are investigating the patterns of codon usage in two mitochondrial genes in order to determine if patterns of usage are consistent across turtle families. Our preliminary results suggest that there are differences between families which we are using to reconstruct phylogenies for these families in order to determine if they support the most widely accepted hypotheses. Overall, the research in my laboratory is focused on questions related to speciation and phylogeography. The lab is currently focusing on reptiles to address these questions. However, past projects have utilized a wide variety of taxa including bacteria, fish and invertebrates to address phylogeographic questions. Therefore, if you have an interest in genetics and speciation, contact the lab and we can discuss how you can become involved in one of our ongoing projects or we can discuss your interests and design a project specifically for you.