Rapid environmental change results in elevated extinction rates and thus poses a major threat to biodiversity. One way in which organisms might respond to these changes – and thus persist into the future – is through adaptive evolution. Our research investigates this possibility by connecting traits related to Darwinian fitness (i.e., survival and reproductive success) with their underlying genetic architecture in relevant ecological scenarios. The extent to which evolution is predictable is a major unresolved question in biology, and crucial for understanding how populations will evolve in response to rapidly changing environmental conditions. Although natural selection is a deterministic process, the predictability of evolution might be limited because the ecological sources of selection and the genetic basis of adaptation can be complex. Our research combines a variety of approaches and study systems to help understand this complexity. We generate and test hypotheses about the predictability of evolution through a combination of ecological field transplant experiments, molecular biology, genomics, and computational biology. Our main study systems are threespine stickleback fish (Gasterosteus aculeatus), deer mice (Peromyscus maniculatus), and anolis lizards (A. sagrei and A. carolinensis), but we sometimes work with other organisms too (such as bacteria, Galapagos finches, or Heliconius butterflies). We aim to quantify the contributions of genome-wide genetic variation to fitness, and to understand the ecological and evolutionary forces that have shaped these patterns of variation between individuals, populations, and closely related species.
You can click on an organism below to see photos of our fieldwork.