Neobartsia matuy, a new species to science!!

I’m extremely happy to announce that I described a new species of Neobartsia: Neobartsia matuy Malagón, Humberto Mend. & Uribe-Convers, in an article published today.

The name “Matuy”, was chosen to honor my parents, Maria Luisa Convers and Ernesto Uribe, whose support was invaluable during my dissertation on the genus. My parents do not use their given names and are better known by their nicknames “Marily” and “Tuchi”, respectively, and the word “Matuy”—a combination of their nicknames—has been used for years among family and friends to refer to both of them.

This basically concludes my research over 10 years on this beautiful group of plants, and I couldn’t have dreamed of a better way to end it. ❤️

A new position and a new direction

You need to find what makes you happy, what makes your curiosity and heart tick. For many years I thought academia was that for me but I’ve come to understand that it’s not. In my pursuit of happiness, I have accepted a position as a data scientist at Phylagen, a startup in San Francisco committed to harnessing the unseen world of microbes to improve our daily lives. I’ll get to work with large sequencing datasets, combining my love for bioinformatics, big data, and biodiversity.

Here’s to a new start, a new path, and a whole new adventure!

Fungal Tree of Life 🍄

Wow, what an awesome project!

As a postdoc at the University of Michigan, I have been working on building the Fungal Tree of Life using all the Sanger data available on Genbank! I couldn’t have done it alone though, my advisor Stephen Smith and ~10 other collaborators—each one an expert on a single fungal lineage—were instrumental in the project, so thank you!

The final phylogeny has data for 13 of the 15 fungal subphyla and has 29,993 tips—yes, that’s ~30K different species of fungi! 🍄🍄🍄

It’s, of course, way too big to display correctly, but here it is anyways! 😊


Evolution of Woodiness

Lately, I have been working on mapping the evolution of woodiness on the Plant Tree of Life.

For this project, I used the trait data collected by Botanic Gardens Conservation International (BGCI)—available through GlobalTreeSearch—and the phylogeny built by Stephen Smith and Joseph W. Brown. The tree contains almost every plant species (~353,000!!)  and the paper describing the process of building it can be accessed here.

The main findings are 1) that being herbaceous might be the ancestral state and 2) that the evolution of wood has happened many times but only on certain clades.

Here is a figure of this super cool project that uses amazing data and research by others—I’m definitively standing on the shoulders of giants.

New Position!

I’m very excited to have accepted a Postdoctoral Research Fellow position at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor! I’ll be working with Stephen Smith on bioinformatic and genomic methods for phylogenetics with a strong focus on angiosperms. This is a great opportunity for me to expand my computational skills and learn new approaches to generating large genomic datasets!

#Go Blue!

Evolution Meeting!

I spent five incredible days in Portland, Oregon, at the Evolution Meeting. This is one of  the largest evolutionary meetings in the world, and my brain was overloaded with information!

I gave a talk on the phylogenomic work I’ve been doing on Burmeistera using all the genomic data that we’ve generated. I really enjoyed my time in Portland, getting inspired by cool science and hanging out with friends from across the country!

My talk was recorded and you can watch it here:

My latest and first paper as a postdoc!

My latest paper on Burmeistera was just published in Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution! In this paper, we investigated the best approach to combine complete plastome data generated with high-throughout sequencing and traditional Sanger sequences. This is really important because there are many publicly available Sanger data that people tend to forget about, and it would be a waste not to use them. We also produced the largest Burmeistera phylogeny to date, laying a foundation for a future taxonomic revision of the group.

You can find the article in the “Publications” tab on my website or here:

Department Seminar at OSU!

simon-at-osu I was invited to give my first Department Seminar at Oklahoma State University! I presented (September 14th, 2016) work from my dissertation on Neobartsia as well as current and future work on speciation and the accumulation of species properties. I spent two days in Stillwater and everything went really well. My host, Mark Fishbein, and his students were great and I had many good and stimulating conversations with them and other people in the department.

What a fantastic experience! 🙂


Botany Conference in Savannah

Oh the Botany Conference, one of my favorite events of the year… Every year, 1000 or so botanists take over a city for three days to talk about all things plants: evolution,systematics, taxonomy, seeds, etc. It was my first ever international conference in 2010 and I’ve made so many friends and colleagues that it seems strange when I can’t attend.

This year we met in beautiful Savannah, GA, and spend the days going from seminar to seminar, talking science, and interacting with friends and colleagues. It was also a great venue to present my preliminary results on Burmeistera and an approach to incorporate Sanger with high-throughout sequencing data.

My talk was recorded and you can watch it here: