a well-studied group of plants can serve as a model for addressing issues in conservation, evolution, and biogeography, making it possible to assign conservation status with confidence and detecting not only those taxa that are most threatened but also those that represent basal, unique, and/or relictual members of entire lineages. clarified higher-level phylogenetic relationships open the door to more refined systematics of clades without having to worry if they are para- or polyphyletic. a well-studied group can also be an excellent testing ground for new or under-utilized tools and independent data sets. research on the burseraceae, with over 100 taxa in the amazon, is rapidly arriving at the point where the family can be used effectively both as a tool for conservation and as a model for studying the processes influencing the origin and maintenance of high diversity in the amazonian flora. first, we are resolving higher-level phylogenies as well as species-level taxonomy in various clades, allowing comparative approaches. second, the family occurs throughout amazonia and is well-represented in most habitats overall, but most of the taxa are restricted in their distributions and/or habitats; this makes it possible to test the relative importance of geographic barriers vs. habitat diversity in the speciation process. the family is sufficiently large to provide adequate statistical power for hypothesis testing and yet small enough to achieve the necessary sampling intensity, allowing us to assess the relative impacts of morphological innovation, ecological opportunity, and biogeographic events on the diversification of burseraceae and related groups.