I am broadly interested in how interactions at different levels of biological organization drive the evolutionary process, from epistasis between loci within a genome, to social interactions among individuals in a population, to coevolutionary arm-races between species in a community. My work focuses on natural populations and field studies of selection and inheritance in taxa ranging from snakes to insects to flowers.
Broadly I am interested in evolution, behavior and ecology as they pertain to predator-prey interaction. More specifically, I am interested in why predators evolve abilities to overcome anti-predator defenses rather than simply avoiding dangerous prey. I am exploring this by looking for correlated traits, which may be subject to indirect selection, in the prey recognition response of Thamnophis sirtalis, a garter snake that is resistant to tetrodotoxin (TTX) found in its newt prey.
Corlett Wolfe Wood
I am interested in evolution in heterogeneous environments. The environment affects two key drivers of adaptive evolution, selection and heritability (the fidelity with which parents pass on traits to their offspring), and as a result, it plays a central role in shaping trait evolution. Moreover, because the environment affects both selection and heritability, it has the potential to generate systematic association between the two, and may substantially impact the dynamics of trait evolution in the wild. Coupling of selection and heritability may accelerate evolution, for example, if selection is strong under the same conditions that produce high heritability. My dissertation explores the role of these processes in the evolution of a sexually selected traiti—male horns—in a wild population of forked fungus beetles (Bolitotherus cornutus), a species that lives in a heterogeneous environment composed of three host fungi.
I am interested in intralocus sexual conflict and constraints on the evolution of sexual differentiation. Specifically, I look at how the mixing of alleles from mating and fertilization constrains the independent evolution of each mating class in species with complex mating systems. Using the gynodioecious weed Silene vulgaris — in which individuals are either hermaphrodite or female — my dissertation investigates the degree of constraint between-class gene flow imposes, and how this compares to the dioecious case.
Traits involved in social or sexual interactions are ubiquitous in nature. The evolution of these interacting phenotypes involves both direct selection on the trait of the individual, as well as indirect selection arising from the trait values of social partners. Selection on these traits can be measured in natural populations, but the social and ecological interactions that give rise to this selection are often complex. In my dissertation research I explore whether and how selection arising from the traits of social partners drives the evolution of primary sexual characters in the gynodioecious plant Silene vulgaris. This research combines quantitative genetic analyses of social selection in wild populations and experimental gardens, with ecological observations of pollinator recruitment and behavior.
My research goal is to understand processes of adaptation through molecular evolution. I want to investigate patterns of adaptation at molecular levels (gene and protein) that confer toxin-resistance to snakes that prey on toxic newts.
I am interested in the genetic basis of local adaptation. Interactions in the arms race between garter snakes (Thamnophis) and newts (Taricha) vary across the range of the two species. The most toxin resistant snakes tend to co-occur with the most toxic newt populations. I want to investigate the underlying genetics of the traits that mediate this interaction. I plan to examine how patterns of population genetic structure lead to geographic variation in the dynamics of this coevolutionary arms race.
Angela Menna, Joanna Lee, Vi Nguyen, and Sarah Paul
John Massie, Renée Bogda, Jessica Foss, Claire Allen, Elliott Pillsbury, and Adrienne Gillevet
Former lab members
Vince Formica (Postdoc 2012)
Assistant Professor, Swarthmore College
Joel McGlothlin (Postdoc 2012)
Assistant Professor, Virginia Tech
Helen Vasaly (MS 2012)
Science Education Analyst, National Science Foundation
Eric Liebgold (PhD 2011)
Postdoc, Indiana University
John Chuckalovcak (MS 2010)
Field Applications Specialist, Bio-Rad Laboratories
Bronwyn Heather Bleakley (PhD 2007)
Asst. Professor, Stonehill College
Jason Kolbe(Postdoc 2006)
Asst. Professor, University of Rhode Island
Mathias Kölliker (Postdoc 2005)
Asst. Professor, University of Basel
Liz Lehman (PhD 2006)
Center for Elementary Mathematics and Science Education, University of Chicago
Ben Ridenhour (PhD 2004)
Asst. Professor, University of Notre Dame
Stephanie Welter(PhD 2004)
Asst. Professor, Kansas Wesleyan University
Yoni Brandt (PhD 2004)
Aneil Agrawal (PhD 2003)
Assoc. Professor, University of Toronto
Cerisse Allen (PhD 2002)
Adj. Asst. Professor, University of Montana
Maura (Maple) Denman (PhD 2002)
Naturalist, Ginzbarg Nature Discovery Center
Jen Sadowski (PhD 1999)
Assoc. Professor, Viterbo University
Jason Wolf (PhD 1998)
Senior Lecturer, University of Bath
Chris Grill (PhD 1998)
Web Designer, Louisville, KY