Rafael Maia is a postdoctoral fellow in the Department of Ecology, Evolution and Environmental Biology at Columbia University, working in the laboratory of Dr. Dustin Rubenstein. Dr. Maia received his master’s in ecology from the Universidade de Brasília (Brazil) in 2008 and his Ph.D. in integrated bioscience from the University of Akron in 2014. Prior to joining Columbia, he was a postdoctoral fellow with Dr. Luke Harmon in the Department of Biological Sciences at the University of Idaho.
Dr. Maia’s research integrates multiple fields of biology, physics and materials science to understand the evolution and diversification of ornamental traits evolving under sexual and social selection. His research has focused on iridescent colors found in bird feathers, exploring how the optics of these nanostructurally organized tissues interact with light to produce colors, how these arrangements form from tissue interactions during feather development and the consequences of this architecture for the evolutionary trajectories of their plumage colors. His research has shown how the evolution of these colors, which are important visual signals in animal social interactions, can be evolutionary constrained due to these underlying templates and how evolutionary innovations can promote the rapid evolution of novel and unique signals. He also develops open-source software for color analyses and comparative macroevolutionary methods, which have been largely adopted by researchers in these fields.