Recent Extinctions and Presumed Extinctions Research (REAPER)

For the past couple years, I’ve worked with a small informal collaboration (Dr. Alex Bond, NHM; Dr. Kevin Burgio, UConn; and a few others) to do cutting-edge research on the timing and mechanics of biological extinctions. Our small team, which I’ve come to call REAPER, has been responsible for a few interesting results: mapping the distribution of the Carolina parakeet, testing the extinction of species like Bachman’s warbler and the Tasmanian tiger, and reconstructing the drivers of avifauna loss on Tristan de Cunha, the most remote human-settled island in the world.

One particular project is still in development: spatExtinct, an R package we developed that interpolates extinction date estimators to reconstruct sptatial patterns of extinction dates. An initial preprint was posted and a paper returned with revisions from a methods journal, but the project was put on pause due to a simple lack of human capacity. We’d love to bring it back online and finish project development, but a lack of funding and time has prevented us from doing so. At the current moment, I don’t recommend using the build of spatExtinct that’s on Github - it’s available but heavily a work in progress, and we still don’t fully understand how these methods behave.

In 2019 and going forward, I continue to have interest in finishing this project. If you have R coding experience and/or interest in Bayesian statistics and would like to join the team, I hope you’ll drop me an email. We’d love to try to put together a funded project that can continue this work and expand it further in coming years; I hope you’ll consider joining that research team, and help us approach a better understanding of extinctions!

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