Our area of interest is evolutionary genetics. We combine genetic, molecular, and population approaches to investigate basic questions in biology. Our main research areas are listed below. There are connections among them. Please click on the links for more information
(1) Genome Evolution – Topics under study include (a) lateral gene transfers from bacteria to animals as a source of genetic innovation, (b) the role of genetic conflict and selfish genetic elements (SGEs) in shaping genome evolution, (c) parasite-host coevolutiona, and (d) microevolution of genomes among closely related species.
(2) Symbiont-Host Interactions: Symbiont-Host interactions are a major driver in evolution. Our primary focus is on “reproductive parasites” – microbes that alter the reproduction of their hosts in ways that enhance increase of the microbe. For example, Wolbachia are common and widespread bacteria that are “master manipulators” of arthropod reproduction. We investigate the genetics, ecology, and evolution of Wolbachia and their hosts, to better understand how reproductive parasites shape evolutionary processes.
(3) Genetics of Species Differences – We use the emerging genetic model system Nasonia (a haplodiploid parasitoid insect) to address basic questions in evolutionary genetics. The system is very tractable genetically, including interfertile species that allow for the dissection of species differences in behavior, development, and reproductive isolation. For example, we are using wing size differences among Nasonia species as a reporter for studying the genetics of organ size regulation (see papers), and investigating the genetics of host preference and other behaviors. A third main area of investigation is the coevolution of mitochondrial-nuclear interactions.
(4) Function & Evolution of Parasitoid Venoms – Parasitoids produce venoms, which they inject into their hosts prior to egg laying. These venoms alter a wide range of cellular processes in the hosts and diverge rapidly, even among closely related species with different host use. A major research area in the lab is to use a combination of rna sequencing, proteomic, and metabolomics approaches to study the function and evolution of venom components. This work also has potential for new drug discovery.
(5) Genetics & Genomics of Parasitoid Wasps – Parasitoids are fascinating organisms, and we are actively involved in genome and transcriptome sequencing of different species, as well as the development of genetic and genomic resources for Nasonia and relatives.
Our webpage is also a resource for people interested in applications of Nasonia and/or Wolbachia in research and teaching. Please browse the links to learn more.
University of Rochester, Department of Biology, Rochester NY 14627 (585)275-3889