We use a combination of in silico approaches and DNA sequencing and SNP analysis to study evolutionary processes at the sequence, genomic, expression and proteomic levels. Examples of areas in focus for our research include the genomic landscape of species differentiation, the role of evolutionary processes (like recombination) and genomic features (like methylation) on molecular evolution and the evolution of base composition, sex chromosome evolution and conservation genetics.
Eukaryotic sexual reproduction implies the existence of two sexes (males and females) and the existence of two life phases (haploid and diploid). Selection acting differently in the two sexes and the two phases causes conflicts, which affect evolutionary processes. With the help of comparative, experimental, theoretical and genomic tools we address questions about the causes and consequences of sexual selection across ploidy levels in animals.
We explore evolutionary processes in animal systems largely from a genetic perspective. Current research interests in the group include the genetics of speciation with a growing interest in the role of gene expression, the evolutionary implications of animal behaviour and the forces underlying molecular sequence evolution. On the methodological side, we engage in muddy-boot field work, run the pipette in the wet lab and apply population genetic theory to large scale data sets.
Soil dwelling fungi complete their lives entirely or at least for the most part hidden from us humans. Using molecular methods we can start to estimate their diversity and function. We know today that only about 10% of all fungi have been described, and that a large part of the unknown diversity is comprised of soil fungi that live right under our feet but remain unknown. These fungi play important roles in nutrient cycling in soils; among the most striking are the mycorrhizal fungi that enable plant nutrient uptake. Conceptualizing soils as biological systems we explore ecological principles that control the tremendous diversity of soil fungi in natural ecosystems. We use phylogenetic analysis and occurrence in different niches to propose evolutionary processes such as adaptation to host or nutrients as drivers of speciation in soil fungi.
Many major questions in evolutionary biology can be addressed by the comparison of genomic sequences within or between organisms. My research focusses on the computational methodology required to make those comparisons, including the the methods used to infer phylogenetic trees and to propose multiple sequence alignments. Through statistically robust approaches, we aim to characterise the strengths and weaknesses of existing approaches and to create new methods to help us understand how genomes evolve.
Characterizing the genetic basis of traits of importance for local adaptation and species recognition is a major aim for evolutionary biologists of today. We use a combination of genetic mapping, population genetics and comparative genomics approaches to study the speciation process, genetics of adaptation and patterns of genome evolution, primarily using birds and butterflies as study organisms.
The genome is a common feature of all cellular organisms and contains a comprehensive record of evolution. At a closer look, the genome is in fact a ‘genomic microcosm’ – a smörgåsbord of interactions among/between host genes and parasitic genes, such as transposons and viruses. We study how these genomic parasites impact genome structure and speciation of birds, crocodilians, and parasitic nematodes. Beware, some of these jumping genes even jump between genomes!
Our research focuses on the genetic basis of reproductive isolation in naturally hybridising species and physiological adaptation through genome evolution. We are particularly interested in 1) how inter- and intra-specific variation in recombination rate modulates species divergence and 2) how species adapt to fluctuating environments by altering their genome structure and recombination rate. We are investigating complex interaction between structural variations, recombination, and genome divergence in both natural and experimental populations of various species.
Males and females commonly differ in traits from morphology and physiology to behavior and life histories. This is despite the fact that the sexes share most of the genome, which constrains independent evolution of the sexes. Using experimental and genomic tools, my research interests involve understanding what it takes to evolve sexual dimorphism, using mainly seed beetles as a model system.