artwork by C Schmidt 2021

My research explores the micro- to macroevolutionary continuum by trying to link microevolutionary processes acting on populations to broader macroecological patterns. I’m interested in how environments shape biodiversity of all kinds (from genes to species, alpha, beta, within species, across species, whatever!), how these levels of biodiversity are interconnected, and how it’s all going to change due to human activity. I’m currently a senior scientist at iDiv, the German Center for Integrative Biodiversity Research.

Macrogenetics, the biogeography of genetic diversity, urban evolution, and conservation form core parts of my work; more detail below. Find my publication list on ORCID or Google scholar.


Concept figure for Leigh et al. 2021 Nature Reviews Genetics

My research is primarily in a field called macrogenetics that leverages publicly available genetic data for synthesis to addresses population genetics questions at broad spatial and taxonomoic scales. During my PhD in the Population Ecology & Evolutionary Genetics group at the University of Manitoba I began building a database of global genetic diversity of wildlife populations (it’s called MMPop!) to explore the effects of historical and contemporary environments on genetic diversity across terrestrial vertebrates.

Relevant papers

Leigh D.M.*, Van Rees C.B.*, Millette K.*, Breed M.F.*, Schmidt C., Bertola L.D., Hand B.K., Hunter M.E., Jensen E.L., Kershaw F., Liggins L., Luikart G., Manel S., Mergeay J., Miller J.M., Segelbacher G., Hoban S., Paz-Vinas I. (2021). Opportunities and challenges of macro-genetic studies. Nature Reviews Genetics 22(12)

Schmidt, C., Garroway, C.J. (2021). The conservation utility of mitochondrial genetic diversity in macrogenetic research. Conservation Genetics 22(3)

Biogeography of genetic diversity

Figure from Schmidt et al. 2022 Evolution

We know a lot about the broad scale distributions of species and species richness. It would be great to have similar knowledge of the spatial distribution of genetic diversity at this extent! Using genetic data from hundreds of locations across multiple vertebrate taxa, a core component of my research looks at the spread of genetic diversity and differentiation, and how they relate to various macroecological patterns (the latitudinal diversity gradient, for example). I also integrate population level processes into existing macroecological hypotheses underlying these patterns to test their ability to explain both genetic and species biodiversity at once.

Relevant papers

Schmidt C., Munshi-South J., Dray, S., Garroway, C.J. (2022). Determinants of genetic diversity and species richness in North American amphibians. Journal of Biogeography 49(11)

Schmidt, C., Muñoz, G., Lancaster, L., Lessard, J-P., Marske, K., Marshall, K., Garroway, C.J. (2022) Population demography maintains biogeographic boundaries. Ecology Letters 25(8)

Schmidt, C., Dray, S., Garroway, C.J. (2022). Genetic and species level biodiversity patterns are linked by demography and ecological opportunity. Evolution 76(1)

Urban ecology and evolution

Figure from Schmidt et al. 2020 Proceedings B

Cities are new environments that are changing wildlife communities everywhere. I look at urbanization from a bird’s eye view to understand the general ways it affects genetic drift and gene flow across terrestrial vertebrates. My work spans from urban-rural gradients to testing how environmental variation within cities (e.g., across different neighborhoods) reshape genetic diversity and differentiation. Environmental variation within cities are most often direct products of human choices. I am particularly interested in using my research to understand the biological effects of societal inequalities and using this knowledge to enable us to take more efficient action focused on building whole-ecosystem sustainability and resilience to ultimately benefit humans and wildlife alike.

Relevant papers

Schmidt, C., Garroway, C.J. (2022). Systemic racism alters wildlife genetic diversity. PNAS 119(43)

Kinnunen R.P., Fraser K.C., Schmidt, C., Garroway, C.J. (2022). The socioeconomic status of cities covaries with avian life-history strategies. Ecosphere 13(2)

Schmidt, C., Garroway, C.J. (2021). The population genetics of urban and rural amphibians in North America. Molecular Ecology 30(16)

Schmidt, C., Domaratzki, M., Kinnunen R.P., Bowman, J., Garroway, C.J. (2020). Continent-wide effects of urbanization on bird and mammal genetic diversity. Proceedings of the Royal Society B 287(1920): 20192497


Figure from Schmidt et al. 2022 (in review)

Aggregating existing genetic data into a single database can make genetic data more accessible for conservation purposes. I am interesting in using macrogenetics to inform conservation genetics policy and develop useful metrics that are generalizable across species.

Relevant work

Schmidt, C., Hoban, S., Hunter, M.E., Paz-Vinas, I., Garroway, C.J. (2023). Genetic diversity and IUCN Red List status. Conservation Biology.

Schmidt, C., Garroway, C.J. (2021). The conservation utility of mitochondrial genetic diversity in macrogenetic research. Conservation Genetics 22(3)