Environmental change encompassing processes such as habitat fragmentation and climate change is very rapid today. Consequently, the remaining species in natural areas are faced with increased selection pressures to adapt to these new and changing environments or face extinction. My main research goals are to determine the genetic bases of adaptation (successful growth, survival and reproduction) to heterogeneous and rapidly changing environments and to determine if wild species will be able to successfully respond to selection in these environments. My work combines the study of model plant species (Brassica rapa and Arabidopsis thaliana) in fairly controlled experiments and studies field and greenhouse studies of native prairie species (Lobelia spicata and Chamaecrista fasciculata). The models systems allow me to address in more detail the genetic basis of constraints to evolution in heterogeneous environments, while the prairie plants allows tests of the genetic and ecological consequences of habitat fragmentation and loss in natural systems. In both types of systems, I investigate the breeding system, which determines the packaging of genetic variation; quantitative genetic variation, which determines the potential for adaptation; as well as environmental variation which determines the force of selection. My genetic research focuses on use of quantitative genetic techniques which are powerful for the estimation of the evolutionary potential of traits associated with fitness.
Current Research Projects
Note: for more details on any project click on the species name.
Evolution In Heterogeneous Environments
Using wild populations of Arabidopsis thaliana, we are examining the effect of selection history (soil nutrient availability) on the genetic architecture of the populations.
We are also using the model system Brassica rapa (rapid-cycling lines) to understand the potential genetic constraints to evolution in heterogeneous and novel environments using experimental and molecular approaches.
Habitat Fragmentation of Prairies
We are using empirical and theoretical approaches to understand the evolutionary and ecological consequences of habitat fragmentation in sand (Chamaecrista fasciculata) and hill prairies (Lobelia spicata).
Genetics of Maternal Effects
Maternal effects, if genetically based, may influence species' response to environmental variation. For this area of research I am working with Nemophila menziesii.