Projects

DNA analysis of museum and fossil samples is carried out to help understand the evolutionary history and phylogeography of their taxa and relate them to extant representatives of the same taxa or closely related ones. Working on these samples pose technical challenges due to the low amount and poor quality of DNA recovered. We conduct work on these specimens in a dedicated facility located on the 3rd floor of the Environmental Science Center, which is separated from all modern molecular labs to reduce the potential for sample contamination.

We are involved in a variety of projects focused on endangered species. We use DNA based approaches and evolutionary genetic principles and methods to gain insights into the evolutionary history of these species, and current and past population dynamics. By combining genetic analysis on extant and extinct taxa and integrating them with morphological and environmental data, we provide the Organizations in charge of preserving these taxa with empirically based information to develop targeted conservation strategies. 

We are using population genetics and genomic approaches to gain insight on the evolutionary history of disease vectors and their parasites. Data on patterns and levels of genetic differentiation of vector population provide information on the spatial structuring of these populations, their sizes and their stability over time. This in turn provides data to estimate levels of past and present connectivity among vector populations, which can be used to implement empirically based control strategies. Similarly, we are involved in understanding patterns and levels of genetic diversity in parasites and symbionts  to gain insights in their past and current history and provide baseline data to predict their potential spread.

Invasive species, also called introduced species, alien species, or exotic species, are any nonnative species that significantly modifies or disrupts the ecosystems it colonizes. Such species may arrive in new areas through natural migration, but they are often introduced by the activities of other species. Human activities, such as those involved in global commerce and the pet trade, are considered to be the most common ways invasive plants, animals, microbes, and other organisms are transported to new habitats.

We use population genetic and genomic approaches to study the patterns and levels of genetic differentiation among populations within a species and investigate the evolutionary, behavioral, and ecological forces that shape the observed patterns, including understanding the impact of environmental changes. Some of the projects listed under the headings Conservation Genetics and Evolutionary Genetics of Vector and Parasite Populations also fall into this broad category. Check the other listings for more details.