In the Theoretical Ecology and Evolution lab, we use theoretical and statistical approaches to quantify the relative roles of ecological and evolutionary forces for the buildup and maintenance of diversity. Specifically, we study the influence of fitness differences and fitness interactions (epistasis), mutation, and gene flow on adaptation, speciation, and the composition and stability of ecological communities.
Here are some examples:
What is the shape of the fitness landscape?
The fitness landscape is a useful theoretical concept that illustrates the relationship between genotypes or phenotypes, and fitness. We develop ways of measuring and comparing empirical and theoretical fitness landscapes, with the aim to better understand the prevalence of epistasis (i.e., interactions of mutations for fitness) and to quantify the predictability of evolution.
What is the role of epistasis during speciation and hybridization?
Epistatic interactions can result in barriers to gene flow when populations interbreed. We develop models to characterize the temporal allele-frequency dynamics of epistatic alleles, and to quantify the contribution of epistasis to speciation processes.
How can viruses escape the effects of mutagenic drugs?
Based on the theory of mutational meltdown, we model different mechanisms of adaptation of viruses to mutagenic drugs. We quantify the probabilities of evolutionary rescue and assess our ability to identify signatures of such adaptation in time-serial genomic data.