Friday, November 20, 2009

Ross Crozier, evolutionary biologist and conservation biologist

Sadly, one of Australia's leading evolutionary biologists, Ross Crozier passed away suddenly last week (Nov. 12th, 2009). As a Professor at James Cook University, he worked on a plethora of evolutionary issues, from understanding the evolution of sociality in insects to population genetics and molecular phylogenetics. To my mind, his most influential papers were on how we can use patterns of evolutionary history in guiding conservation decisions -the agony of choice. While he promoted the conservation of phylogenetic diversity, per se, his great insight was that even comparing species that are relatively divergent does not mean that they are equally valuable, and we should consider information content as well. That is, a species with 80,000 genes is more valuable than a species with 20,000 genes, since the 80K-gene species has greater information content.

"Differences in the information content of genomes led to the realization that, other things being equal, some organisms have intrinsically higher conservation worth than others." -Ross Crozier

Ross also recently was the handling editor, at Ecology Letters, on a paper of mine and his insights and support were greatly appreciated and helped to improve our manuscript in numerous ways.

Here are my two favorite papers of his.

Crozier, R. H. 1992. GENETIC DIVERSITY AND THE AGONY OF CHOICE. Biological Conservation 61:11-15.

Crozier, R. H. 1997. Preserving the information content of species: Genetic diversity, phylogeny, and conservation worth. Annual Review of Ecology and Systematics 28:243-268.

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