LA REUNION

The University of La Réunion is a young institution that gained full autonomy in 1982. It is the only European university in the south western Indian Ocean (SWIO) and is the interface between Europe and this part of the world. The University has grown considerably in the last 20 years, as the number of students has risen from 2,000 to 10,000. The University has 19 Research Departments and a scientific staff of 370 (Lecturers and Professors). Research Departments (including 5 joint University-National Research Institutes Units) are the research backbone, where some 30 PhDs are completed each year. Reunion University has established a plan for research development for the 2009-2012 quadriannum which has been organised among three themes: i) Biodiversity and Health, ii) Human and social Sciences and iii) Environmental changes, remote sensing and monitoring.

TEAM LEADER

Prof. Dominique Strasberg is Deputy-Director of the joint research unit CIRAD-University of La Réunion, dedicated to tropical plant ecology and plant pathology (30 permanent scientists, 15 PhD students). He is internationally recognized for his expertise on island biodiversity, particularly within the Mascarene archipelago. Over the last 15 years his research has been focused on (i) the ecology of tropical rain forests (colonisation and diversity of tropical tree communities and mechanisms of dispersion), and (ii) the role of perturbations and biological invasions in plant community dynamics. He has supervised 11 graduate students, and from 2006 to 2010, he has co directed a major research program on the South-West Indian Ocean Biodiversity Hotspot (ANR BIOTAS), a biota-level study of diversification on land and sea, including 8 national and international research teams. In 2008 he became the Vice-President of the University of La Réunion, responsible for Research and Relations with economic and industrial partners.

OTHER TEAM MEMBERS

Dr Ben Warren is an evolutionary biologist specialising in insular environments, with particular emphasis on patterns of insular diversification and extinction, and their relation to geography and environmental history. He has played a coordinating role in two major international research networks focussed on insular environments during his postdoctoral career (South Africa Big Genera Group, 2004-2007, and ANR BIOTAS, see above, 2007-present). He has worked on the SWIO biodiversity hotspot for over eleven years, and his work has included a wide range of taxa including plants, vertebrates (birds and lizards) and numerous invertebrate groups (snails, spiders, and insects). He is co-supervisor of three PhD students working in the SWIO. Specific foci of his work include: (i) explaining the distribution of species diversity across component lineages of insular communities, (ii) determining the role of immigration versus in situ radiation in explaining the diversity of insular environments, (iii) modelling the influences of varying probabilities of extinction (and speciation) on the shape of phylogenetic trees, (iv) reconstructing the responses of insular biodiversity hotspots to past climatic change.