RESEARCH

Diversification and speciation in high altitude endemics

In this research I aim to determine the role of reproductive character displacement (RCD) in causing rapid speciation in the genus Phonochorion (Orthoptera: Phaneropterinae), a small group of bush crickets  specialized to montane habitats of the Lesser Caucasus. For this purpose I use phylo-comparative methods together with genome wide sequence data to characterize genomic signatures of selection, determine the mode and tempo of trait divergence and to quantify the role of selection and drift in the speciation process.

Maintenance of clinal variation in body size and coloration

Here we investigate maintenance of clinal variation in body size and coloration in the bush cricket Isophya rizeensis. Using climatic modeling, experimental manipulation and population genomic analysis we aim to determine the selective variable(s) (temperature, humidity, diet quality, predation etc.) behind observed patterns of variation. More recently we are conducting phenotype-genotype association studies based on high density RAD sequencing to determine candidate regions of the genome responsible for local adaptation.

Adaptive responses of brown bears in a human-dominated landscape

Large carnivores are known for altering life history strategies in response to environmental change. One such shift was recently discovered by Şekercioğlu and his team in Eurasian brown bears (Ursus arctos) within eastern Turkey where availability of city dumps as food sources have led to the evolution of two distinct life strategists: sedentary bears that use city dumps as primary food source and bears that never use dumps and migrate in search of food. Together with Çağan Şekercioğlu of the University of Utah, we are working to determine genomic processes responsible for the two life-history strategies, using genome wide data from over 1,400 bear scat samples.

Evolutionary history of Devils Hole pupfish 

Devils Hole pupfish (Cyprinodon diabolis, DHP) is one of the rarest vertebrates on earth. All wild individuals live in a small, 1.8×5.5 m pool, which is the opening to a large aquifer (Devils Hole) in the middle of the Nevada desert. DHP is commonly referred to as an icon of population persistence having survived in this hole, in complete isolation, for thousands of years. Together with Michael Miller and Jason Baumsteiger from UC Davis, we are using phylogenomic methods to understand how and when DHP colonized Devils Hole. We are also trying to characterize the level of inbreeding and genetic variation within DHP to serve as a genetic monitoring resource for the captive breeding program at the Ash Meadows Fish Conservation Facility.

Population genomics and migratory behaviour in Masu salmon

Together with Itsuro Koizumi from Hokkaido University and Michael Miller from UC Davis we are working on characterizing the population genetic structure of Masu salmon populations around Hokkaido island and the influence of hatchery programs on local diversity patterns using high density RAD sequencing. We are also conducting phenotype-genotype association studies to understand genomic regions responsible for
life-history variation in migratory behaviour within populations (residency vs anadromy).

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