Evolutionary Ecology

Evolutionary ecology comprises the study of the interactions between organisms and their environment that influence their performance, reproductive success, and long-term persistence, where the over-arching goal is to detect the evolutionary mechanisms that contribute to genetically-based morphological, behavioral, and physiological adaptations and diversity within and across taxa.

Evolutionary ecological studies aim to detect the processes that promote or constrain adaptation to changing or to challenging environmental conditions, including natural selection, gene flow, genetic correlations, stochastic environmental conditions, and genotype x environment interactions. By observing and measuring these processes and mechanisms in natural habitats or in controlled environments, evolutionary ecologists aim to explain the ecological forces contributing to a wide range of evolutionary and geographic variation in traits that have strong effects on an individual’s fitness or on a population’s or taxon’s long-term persistence, including its life history, mating system, modes of sexual attraction and behavior, sociality, physiological processes, metabolic rates, disease resistance, body size and shape, and dispersal mechanisms.

Recent applications of evolutionary ecology include intriguing studies designed to detect or to predict the evolutionary responses of plants and animals to climate change, to emerging infectious diseases, to new predators, to changes in community structure, and to the spread of invasive species.

Faculty

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Our laboratory studies the genetic basis of adaptation and speciation using genomic analyses and field-based studies in the genus Aquilegia (Columbines).

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Parasite population and community ecology; marine ecology; crustacean biology.

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Adaptive evolution within and among wild plant species, with a special interest in physiological performance, life history, phenology, floral traits, and mating system.

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Our lab addresses the question of how complex traits originate during evolution. We primarily study invertebrate visual systems and eyes, addressing questions like, when did a particular phenotype evolve? When did the components of that phenotype evolve? Where did those components come from? What evolutionary processes and mechanisms were involved?

Research in the Oono Lab is focused on understanding how symbiotic associations evolve, particularly between plant hosts or communities and bacterial or fungal microbes.

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The Proulx lab is interested in the fundamental processes that govern evolutionary change. We use mathematical and computational approaches to understand evolutionary dynamics.

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Behavioral ecology; evolution; vertebrate biology; ornithology.

Marine microbiology, microbial ecology, nitrogen cycling

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Evolutionary ecology, population and conservation biology; ecology and behavior of reef fishes.