Jamie Oaks bio photo

Jamie Oaks

Evolutionary biologist.

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Last week, I had the pleasure of visiting the Biology Department of BYU to give a seminar on my research. It was my first time visiting the Utah Valley. Over the years, I have heard about the beauty of the area from many friends and colleagues. Tucked up against the Wasatch Range on the eastern edge of the Great Basin, the Utah Valley was even more breathtaking than I expected. The header photo above was taken through my hotel room window a few blocks from the BYU campus. Below is a shot of Antelope Island (I think) from the airplane on our approach to Salt Lake City International Airport.

View of Great Salt Lake from the plane.

I was hosted by the Lab of Dr. Jack Sites, Jr., and Jack and his lab members made my visit a lot of fun. The morning before my seminar, Jack took me to Robert Redford’s Sundance Mountain Resort, just a short drive up one of the canyons from Provo. I enjoyed learning about the history of the area and taking in the Mountain Vistas surrounding the resort. After returning to Provo, Jack gave me a tour of the impressive research and collection facilities at the Monte L. Bean Life Science Museum.

I presented my seminar in the newly built Life Sciences Building (slides below). The audience, composed of a good mix of students and faculty, was warmly receptive and asked insightful questions. Afterward, I met with several members of the Sites Lab, all of whom are doing cutting-edge collection-based biodiversity research all around the globe.

Generalizing phylogenetics to infer shared evolutionary events from Jamie Oaks

Perry Wood, Jr. (a.k.a. “JR”) and I slipped out of the department a bit early to enjoy a hike up one of the canyons near campus. I was told that Provo is usually snow-covered this time of year, but JR and I had to gain quite a bit of elevation before we found snow. Instead we saw budding trees and green moss along most of our hike.

Looking up the canyon on our post-seminar hike.

My visit was capped off by enjoying the delectable cuts of meat at Tucanos Brazilian Grill with members of the Sites Lab. The food was so good, I didn’t need any breakfast the next morning before hopping in the shuttle to the airport.

Overall, my trip to BYU was full of beautiful vistas, early spring weather, welcoming colleagues, great science, and good eats. I am left looking forward to my next visit to the Utah Valley, hopefully in the not-too-distant future.