I obtained a BS degree in Biology at the Javeriana University (1999), and a specialization on Bioethics at the same institution (2005). I earned a PhD in Biology with concentration on Ecology, Evolution and Systematics at Saint Louis University and the Missouri Botanical Garden (2012). For my BS thesis I studied the vegetation structure and composition of the Chicaque Natural Park. My thesis in Bioethics was about a two-way bridge of knowledge between Ethics and Life Sciences. My dissertation research was on the systematics, biogeography and climate change impact on the frailejones (Espeletiinae, Asteraceae).
I did a postdoctoral research project at Saint Louis University working on the modification mechanisms of the mitochondrial genome of fungi. In addition I did two postdoctoral research projects at the National Museum of Natural History at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington D.C. (2012–2014), investigating the biodiversity patterns of the Guiana Shield, and the response of three clades of Andean plants to climate change.
I spent seven years (2000–2006) working as full-time Instructor (non-doctoral teacher) and director of the Herbarium HPUJ at the Javeriana University, and recently I worked for almost two years (May 2014– Jan. 2016) as Director for Science at the Bogotá Botanical Garden. Under this position I led a group of 84 professionals and 135 technicians and gardeners, carrying out 73 research projects with an operational budget of USD ~$4.5 million (http://goo.gl/ZUDm0M). My research projects have mainly focused on taxonomy, systematics, biodiversity, ecology and biogeography of plants from the páramos and Andean ecosystems. My taxonomic specialization is the Synantherology (i.e. the study of the plants belonging to the Asteraceae), particularly along the Andes, and I am a world’s specialist on frailejones (Espeletiinae). I have 27 publications and 126 presentations in conferences and meetings, and I have taught 12 different subjects. During my career I have received 10 honors and awards, including a summa cum laude BS thesis, the best BS student, the best PhD student, the best doctoral paper at the VI Colombian Botany Meetings (2011), and the best doctoral paper on systematics (George R. Cooley Award) at the 2012 Botanical Society of America Meetings. My research projects have been funded by well-known institutions such as the National Geographic Society, the National Science Foundation and the Smithsonian Institution.
I have particular interest in the páramos, a widespread ecosystem in the high elevations of the northern Andes of South America, considered the fastest evolving biodiversity hotspot. As a critical ecosystem threatened by rising global temperatures and changes in rainfall patterns, páramos are an ideal study system for understanding not just rapid radiations but also the impacts of climate change. During my dissertation I worked with one of the most important groups of plants of the páramos: the subtribe Espeletiinae (Compositae). These plants have intrigued naturalists and botanists, not just for their appealing beauty and impressive morphological diversity, but also for their remarkable adaptations to the extremely harsh environmental conditions of the páramo. The subtribe contains more than 145 species (plus 13 new species I am currently describing). I am investigating the phylogenetic and biogeographic relationships within the subtribe, and the impact of climate change on their distribution. For my current postdoctoral research I am expanding this approach to other clades of Compositae distributed along the Andes.