What are the genetic and genomic changes that underlie phenotypic evolution? How do these changes lead to adaptation to new environments and the formation of new species? Although these questions are of longstanding interest to evolutionary biologists, until recently they have been intractable, particularly in vertebrate species. In order to address these questions, I have helped to develop the threespine stickleback fish (Gasterosteus aculeatus) as a model system for evolutionary genetics and genomics. Work conducted during my postdoctoral fellowship with David Kingsley focused on the genetic basis of morphological variation in sticklebacks. Since starting my own laboratory in 2003, first at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle and now at the University of Bern, I have investigated the genetic and genomic mechanisms that underlie morphological, behavioral, and physiological traits that differ between stickleback populations that have adapted to divergent habitats. These studies have provided important insights into the genetic architecture of phenotypic evolution, adaptation and speciation, as well as the evolution of sex chromosomes. My laboratory has also begun to examine the effects of natural selection on these genetic variants in the wild.
My long-term goals are to combine genetic and genomic approaches in the lab with evolutionary and ecological studies in the field to tackle three fundamental questions in evolution: (1) what is the genetic and genomic basis of adaptation and speciation?; (2) what is the genetic and neural basis of behavioral evolution?; and (3) how and why do sex chromosomes evolve?
I am dedicated to teaching and training the next generation of scientists. I welcome motivated students and postdoctoral fellows with interests in bringing creative and interdisciplinary approaches to the study of evolution to join our Division of Evolutionary Ecology!