Young Researchers Award winner from Colombia to explore historic patterns of Mexican fauna

Gonzalo Pinilla Buitrago will rely on GBIF-mediated records to analyse species distribution patterns.

Gonzalo Enrique Pinilla Buitrago, a Colombian-Venezuelan Master’s degree student at the Instituto de Ecología in Xalapa, Mexico, is one of two recipients of the GBIF Young Researchers Award for 2015.

In the project outlined for the award submission, Pinilla Buitrago proposes to examine historical distribution patterns of fauna through niche modeling techniques, using data accessed through GBIF and other sources. He will draw upon half a million records related to 493 mammals and more than 7,000 records for 112 beetle species. The research will also use data from the Mammal Networked Information System (MaNIS), and CONABIO (Mexico’s National Information System on Biodiversity, and home of the GBIF national node) along with additional records from published literature.

One result expected from Pinilla Buitrago’s study is the identification of areas of endemism in the Mexican Transition Zone, which spans the overlapping Nearctic and Neotropical biogeographic units in the country, and is broadly recognized for its high species diversity and endemism.

“Most research on dividing biogeographic regions into segments is limited to a spatial perspective. But biogeographic units are dynamic and change with time. It will be interesting to explore and find out about previously unknown patterns that suggest this dynamism,” says Pinilla Buitrago.

In a letter of support to the GBIF Science Committee, Lauren Raz, Pinilla Buitrago’s supervisor for his earlier work at the National University of Colombia, writes, “Despite the fact that Colombia is a megadiverse country, there are relatively few biologists trained to do sophisticated spatio-temporal analyses of biological data. Given the urgency of the problem of climate change, his skills are needed more than ever.”

Pinilla Buitrago was nominated for the award by the Head of Delegation for Colombia on the GBIF Governing Board.

Images: Left - Gonzalo Pinilla-Buitrago, winner of 2015 Young Researchers Award. Right - map of Mexico, CONABIO