Santiago Ramírez Barahona

I am a plant biologist from the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM), specially interested in the ecological, geographical and historical factors that influence species and gene diversities at different spatial scales. I’ve spent my career studying the climatic history of cloud forest species in the northern Neotropics, focusing on the demographic history, population genetics, morphological differentiation, and ecological niche of cloud forest trees, particularly tree ferns.

You can also find me at ResearchGate


Current research in the lab

  • Molecular Systematics of Tree Ferns: phylogenetics, macroecology, genomics and spatial genetics.

    • Goal: The main goal is to describe the patterns of species diversity and study the factors and mechanisms associated with species diversification in tree ferns. For this, we are studying geographical patterns of ecological, morphological and genetic variation at different spatial scales. We are also exploring the factors associated with heterogeneity in the rates of molecular evolution and species diversification in ferns and other plants. 
    • Principal collaborators: Luis Eguiarte Fruns, Fabricio Villalobos, Mark Olson, Isolda Luna, Marcus Lehnert, Michael Kessler.
    • Students: Josué Barrera Redondo, Gabriel Merino Díaz.
  • Open project:
    • ‘Morphological and genetic variation in the widespread Cyathea bicrenata (Cyatheaceae) in Mexico’

      Aim: To document the phylogeographic patterns across the distribution of C. bicrenata in Mexico, and investigate its association with morphological and anatomical differentiation. Interestingly, this wide spread species also spans a wide range of altitudes, which appear to be linked to its genetic structure.

  • Climate change – from communities to genes

    • Goal: To understand the effects of past and future climate change on the geographical distribution of species and its impact on community composition, population divergence (morphological and ecological) and local adaptation. 
    • Principal collaborators: Andrés Ortíz Rodríguez, Juan Francisco Ornelas, Jonás Aguirre Liguori, Luis Eguiarte Fruns, Peter Tiffin.
    • Students
  • Open project:
    • ‘The impact of climate change on the geographic distribution and species composition of cloud forests in Mexico’

      Aim: To model the impacts of climate change on cloud forests in Mexico by analyzing distribution data for cloud forest plant species. We want to assess the changes in species diversity, community structure and geographic extension of cloud forests under different scenarios of climate change.


– MSc Gabriel Merino Díaz (Graduate, PhD)

‘Genetic, physiological and morphological variation in scaly tree ferns (Cyatheaceae) along altitudinal gradients’.

Gabriel’s doctorate focuses on documenting altitudinal patterns of allelic turn over and their association with morphological and physiological variation among species of tree ferns. So far, Gabriel has documented interesting altitudinal patterns of morphological, anatomical and genetic variation in five species of tree ferns.

Former students

– Josué Barrera Redondo (Bachelor thesis)

‘Morphological and environmental factors associated to changes in substitution rates in ferns’.

Josué’s thesis focused on understanding why the molecular clock ‘ticks’ at different rates across lineages, using tree ferns as a model system. In short, Josué analyzed rates of molecular evolution and their association with ecological and morphological variables in the tree ferns. His work made the cover of Evolution!

If you are interested in joining the lab contact Santiago Ramírez Barahona at or