I am interested in the effects of microevolutionary change on ecological interactions. Specifically, I study how changes in plant defensive chemistry impact interactions between plants and their biotic agents of natural selection, including insect herbivores, microbes, and other plants. When I’m not in the field, greenhouse, or lab, I enjoy backpacking (especially long distances), playing my guitar (poorly), and hanging out with other people’s dogs. I also manage a comical plant appreciation blog on Instagram: @aggressivebotany
My research focuses on...
Experimental evolution in natural habitats
I am using near-isogenic lines to manipulate population means of Boechera stricta's chemical defense traits in natural habitats, and am monitoring the impact of these simulated evolutionary changes in trait values on the biotic selective environment. I conduct my field research at the Rocky Mountain Biological Laboratory in Gothic, CO.
Temporal and spatial scales of natural selection
I will use genomic techniques to discover molecular signatures of natural selection in the major gene controlling glucosinolate profiles in Boechera. I will compare these long-term, broad-scale patterns to contemporary measurements of natural selection in the field to determine whether patterns of selection are consistent across spatial and temporal scales, and to assess the capacity to infer long-term evolutionary outcomes from short-term measurements.
Modeling eco-evolutionary trajectories
I am developing mathematical models to predict evolutionary trajectories of traits when evolutionary changes alter the ecological interactions driving natural selection. By modeling, I can assess the ability of eco-evolutionary feedbacks to maintain genetic diversity for defense traits over time, and compare parameters to conditions observed in nature.
Biotechnology, agroecology, and more!
Before joining the Mitchell-Olds lab at Duke, I did research as an undergraduate at Reed College with David Dalton, as a post-baccalaureate fellow in Costa Rica with the Organization for Tropical Studies, and as a technician and lab manager for Kristina Stinson at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. Those projects focused on investigating the molecular and physiological basis for abiotic stress tolerance in transgenic poplar; determining the impact of agricultural pesticide usage on native plant-insect interactions; and assessing the roles of demographic processes and population structure on the spread of an invasive plant.