David P. Mindell is an evolutionary biologist with research interests in molecular evolution and the phylogenetics of birds. His current research projects with colleagues concern the phylogeny and conservation biology of hawks, eagles, and vultures in the family Accipitridae, as well as studies of the coevolution of birds and retroviruses. Mindell is a professor of ecology and evolutionary biology at the University of Michigan and a curator at its Museum of Zoology.
During the fellowship period, Mindell will work on a book about the variable speeds of evolutionary change over time as compared across genes, genomes, and diverse groups of organisms throughout the tree of life. Existing research on rates of evolution has led both to advances in understanding and to lingering controversy. Some proponents of intelligent design have used a misunderstanding of the shared mechanisms of evolution within species (microevolution) and among species (macroevolution) to make a false distinction and an argument against evolution. Mindell’s work will synthesize historical and current views on micro- and macroevolution, elucidating their shared evolutionary mechanisms—including natural selection and drift—and their shared susceptibility to changing environments.
Mindell has held visiting professorships at the University of Konstanz in Germany and the Institute of Statistical Mathematics in Tokyo and has served as the director of the University of Michigan Museum of Zoology. In his book The Evolving World: Evolution in Everyday Life (Harvard University Press, 2006), he discusses the many applications of evolution to our everyday lives.