Ecological and Evolutionary Genomics at the University of Arizona
Our lab investigates how the ecology of a species shapes patterns of variation at multiple levels (genes, pathways, transcriptomes, genomes, physiology, behavior and life history), how populations adapt to environmental shifts (natural or human created), how genetic architecture can dictate the evolutionary trajectory of populations, the implication of ecological adaptation in the process of speciation and the role of sexual selection and sexual conflict in the evolution of reproductive incompatibilities. Our research revolves around these fundamental aspects of evolutionary biology. We work on a group of cactophilic Drosophila that inhabit the deserts of North America. These Drosophila species are an excellent system to study given that their ecology is well understood and the fact that we can perform many genetic, genomic, manipulative and life history experiments. In addition, we have ongoing projects and grants on the genomics of insect pests, both agricultural [Helicoverpa zea (corn earworm), Frankliniella occidentalis (western flower thrip), Lygus hesperus (western tarnish bug)] and vectors of human diseases (Aedes aegypti)
A bit more specifically, our lab works on: (i) the study of the genetical basis of adaptation; (ii) speciation genetics/genomics and the evolution of post-mating pre-zygotic (PMPZ) reproductive incompatibilities; (iii) the effects of ecological adaptation in behavioral evolution and its consequence on the evolution of reproductive isolation; (iv) genomics of plasticity and transgenerational effects; (v) population/comparative genomics via the sequencing and assembly of genomes of several cactophilic Drosophila species; (vi) examining the effect of different genetic architectures in the evolution; (vii) assessing the genomic basis of the resistance to Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) toxins in H. zea; (viii) using new genome editing techniques, CRISPR-Cas9 and phiC31 integrase, to generate transgenics to assess the molecular mechanism of reproductive incompatibilities and ecological adaptation; (ix) investigating mechanisms of biological control using novel gene drive systems in D. melanogaster and Ae. aegypti; (x) creating protocols and surveying populations of the western flower thrip (F. occidentalis) for the presence of the Impatiens necrotic spot virus (INSV).