Population Genomics and Evolutionary Systems Biology

I am broadly interested in the forces that act on genomic variation within populations, particularly in the context of the many shifts in sexual system that plant species have undergone. My interest in this area was sparked by an investigation (Ref. 4), with Jeff Ross-Ibarra and Brandon Gaut, into how variation in the rate of self-fertilization affects the neutral point mutation rate around insertion/deletion polymorphisms.

More recently, during my postdoc with Kirsten Bomblies, I investigateFigure_3d how the evolution of auto-tetraploidy has shaped genome-wide patterns of polymorphism in the plant Arabidopsis arenosa, and how adaptive evolution has acted on a handful of highly conserved and interacting meiosis proteins to stabilize chromosome segregation in the tetraploids (Refs 9-10).

With Stephen Wright and Marc Johnson, I am currently analyzing a leaf-tissue transcriptome dataset from 30 species of Oenothera, including within-species sampling. Among other things, I am seeking to understand how molecular evolution and gene expression variation interact in the context of gene interaction networks. I am beginning this investigation by analyzing expression covariance of genes controlling the production of secondary metabolites involved in herbivory defense. In the future, I plan to focus on understanding how natural selection acts on protein variants and gene expression levels during shifts between sexual systems, and changes in ecology, in the context of known gene interaction networks. I will develop this  approach in a future research program at the intersection of population genomics, quantitative genetics, and molecular biology. This intersection falls within the category of “evolutionary systems biology.”