Our aim is to determine how evolution finds solutions to tough circumstances, both environmental and intracellular. We do this by applying innovative population genomic approaches to wild populations that have overcome clear hazards. That recent advances allow us to unambiguously identify gene candidates underlying adaptation is revolutionary, making this a fabulous time to apply population genomics to wild species.
By understanding natural solutions to important stressors -- from tolerance of extreme levels of metal contamination, to the ability to thrive in high salt soils, to adaptation to the trauma of genome duplication -- we aim to 1) inform our understanding of basic evolutionary processes and 2) help inform rational crop development to cope with a changing world.
Current research in the lab focusses on two adaptive challenges:
Genome Duplication. Perhaps the most radical mutation is the duplication of an entire set of chromosomes. Sudden genome doubling presents novel dynamics to the confined environment of the nucleus. How is such a jolt dealt with? Here's how we're approaching an understanding.
Edaphic Extremes. We are focusing on adaptation to extreme soil conditions, from high salt soils to metal-contaminated barrens. The persistence of diverse species that can thrive in the face of these insults allows us to test for repeated evolution, flexibility of biochemical pathways, and constraint. Learn more here!
Our young lab just had its first major research paper accepted in PNAS!
We used the wild outcrossing Arabidopsis arenosa system to identify candidate genes underlying serpentine adaptation and provided evidence that some selected alleles were borrowed from a related species while others were repeatedly involved in separate adaptation events in different species. This suggests that migrant alleles may have facilitated adaptation of a specific A. arenosa population to this multi-hazard environment and provides a set of strong candidates for interspecies adaptive gene flow. (PNAS, in press)