Habitat destruction and climate change are causing the world’s flora to disappear at a rapid pace. Unfortunately this comes at a time of disappearing botanical expertise coupled with diminished funding for fundamental botanical exploration and research. As a result, botanists must learn to work faster, better, and more efficiently than ever before to catalog and conserve biodiversity. Fundamental to increasing the rate of scientific discovery are new applications of existing algorithms, novel algorithms, and the development of Artificial Intelligence (Machine Learning) tools. Dr. Damon Little will present a selection of recent and ongoing research projects focused on the development of novel tools for biodiversity inventories, systematic treatments, plant identification, and phylogenomics designed to enable new and more efficient ways to understand biodiversity.
Damon Little, Ph.D., received a B.S. in botany from the University of Vermont in 1998. His undergraduate research, supervised by Dr. David S. Barrington, was focused on the systematics of holy ferns (Polystichum). He went on to pursue a Ph.D. in plant science at the L. H. Bailey Hortorium (Cornell University) under the supervision of Dr. Kevin C. Nixon. At Cornell, he studied the evolution and circumscription of the true cypresses (Cupressus and Callitropsis). Upon the completion of his Ph.D. in 2004, Dr. Little joined The New York Botanical Garden (NYBG) as a postdoctoral research associate under the supervision of Dr. Dennis Wm. Stevenson. As a postdoc, Dr. Little developed computational tools and molecular techniques for plant DNA barcoding. In 2007, he was appointed as an Assistant Curator of Bioinformatics at NYBG and in 2014 he was promoted to Associate Curator. His current research focuses on bioinformatics and biodiversity informatics.