Bittersweet moment: Kyle and Fernando depart the lab for new positions

It was a wonderful and productive fours years and although I new this moment will eventually happen, it is sad to see postdocs Kyle Benowitz and Fernando Diaz leave the lab. I am very proud of them for all the success and work they have achieved while in the lab at the University of Arizona. This is especially the case given all that they had to deal with over the last year and a half with the COVID-19 pandemic. It was a tough year to be looking for academic jobs, but they persevered. And although we will still be collaborating on projects and manuscripts for sometime, I will miss their presence and impact on my lab. Kyle is heading to Austin Peay State University as an Assistant Professor in the Department of Biology, and Fernando will be a Visiting Assistant Professor of Biology at Colgate University. Wishing them the very best, much success and happiness.

NPR story about our lab doing science in the time of COVID

Our lab was featured in a story about getting science done during a pandemic. On the written story you can see a picture of Fernando Diaz (postdoc) in the field in Organ Pipe National Monument, a picture of some of our fly cages taken by Carson Allan (lab manager), and the reference to being in the lab around the clock was to the experiments that Kyle Benowitz (postdoc) did.

New USDA-NIFA funded project on the genomics of Bt resistance starts!!

On June 15, 2020 we officially started our work on uncovering the genetics of Bt resistance in the agricultural pest Helicoverpa zea (Corn earworm, CEW). This work is in collaboration with friends and great colleagues from the Department of Entomology at the University of Arizona, Bruce Tabashnik and Yves Carriere, and from the USDA ALARC, Jeff Fabrick.

Chromosome-level genome assembly pipeline paper published in Molecular Ecology Resources

Working on ecologically interesting species is a powerful way to link patterns of variation from genes/genomes to organism level traits to the selective forces shaping it. To facilitate this, having a chromosome-level genome assembly is very helpful.  In this paper we outline how this is an attainable goal.  We provide a step-by-step guide for investigators that work on ecologically exciting species, but do not have a vast computational background.


Comparative genomic analysis of D. mojavensis paper published

Happy to see our BMC Genomics paper out.  This is the first ever paper that examines the pattern of genomic evolution across the four cactus host populations of Drosophila mojavensis.  So glad to see all of Carson’s hard work finally in print.

Allan, C. W. and Matzkin, L. M.  (2019).  Genomic analysis of the four ecologically distinct cactus host populations of Drosophila mojavensis. BMC Genomics. 20(1):732. doi:10.1186/s12864-019-6097-z


Bulk segregant paper out in G3 Early Online

Our paper looking at the underlying genetic architecture of locomotor behavior in Drosophila mojavensis using bulk segregant analysis is out in G3 Early Online.  Kyle Benowitz and Josh Coleman put a tremendous amount of effort in this study.  Awesome work.

Very excited to say that we have several other exciting studies on the genetic architecture of behavior, life history and morphological traits in D. mojavensis coming!!!

Recruiting graduate students

Graduate student opportunities in evolutionary genomics of adaptation and speciation at the University of Arizona

The Matzkin Lab ( at the University of Arizona, Department of Entomology is currently recruiting graduate students (PhD and MS) to join our diverse lab.  Our lab has several themes focusing mostly on the exciting cactophilic Drosophila system.  Among the ongoing projects are:

– Genomic evolution across cactophilic Drosophila.
– Quantitative genetics of behavioral strategies, life history characteristics, morphology associated with local ecological adaptation
– Ecological genomics of adaptation in cactophilic Drosophila (cactus host chemistry, nutrition, desiccation, thermal stress, aestivation, etc.)
– Evolutionary genomics of plasticity and transgenerational effects
– Genomics of speciation and the evolution of reproductive incompatibilities

The fact that we are located in the Sonoran Desert also facilitates field focused projects. If you are interested in these or other related topics please contact Luciano Matzkin (  Graduate students can apply via the Entomology and Insect Science (EIS) Graduate Program ( or the Ecology and Evolutionary Biology Graduate Program (  The application deadline for both programs is December 1st.