I am an eco-evolutionary biologist that uses integrative approaches to understand how physiological and eco-evolutionary mechanisms interact to affect local adaptation to environmental change.
The propensity to persist in a novel, changed, or stressful environment depends on interactions across multiple levels of biological organization, ranging from the genome to the ecosystem. Therefore, the next frontiers of research must bridge diverse perspectives to grasp the nuance and context underpinning responses to environmental change. The research in our lab connects molecular, developmental, life-historical, ecological, and quantitative perspectives to determine how various mechanisms and dynamics affect species persistence in changed environments.
Much of my research has focused on salt-tolerant, coastal amphibian populations as a model to understand diverse eco-evolutionary mechanisms that contribute to local adaptation to stressful environments. My postdoc with Dr. Molly Womack expanded my work on salt tolerance to identify how these mechanisms interact to affect amphibian distributions, especially where they intersect with other stressors like aridity.
During my postdoc at Northeastern University Marine Science Center (2019-2021), I worked with Katie Lotterhos and Geoff Trussell to develop a new analytical approach to estimate CovGE (covariance between genetic and environmental effects on phenotypes). CovGE can occur at any biological level, in response to any environmental gradient, can scale up to affect community dynamics, and perhaps most importantly, can dictate responses to environmental change. Therefore, using our new analytical approach, we can now integrate CovGE into predictions of responses to future environments.
In addition, I have worked with the network of scientists within the Research Coordinated Network for Evolution in Changing Seas to synthesize, integrate, and advance our understanding of evolution in changing seas. I contributed by co-editing a Proceedings B. special issue on Evolution in Changing Seas and co-authoring a paper that explored how trade-offs manifest across complex life cycles, whether trade-offs across the life cycle will constrain or promote adaptation in response to changing environments, show how genomic data can be used to investigate trade-offs across life cycles, and how to design within-generation selection experiments to test whether climate change affects fitness trade-offs among life stages.
My dissertation research focused on the mechanisms that affect adaptation to contemporary environmental change. I characterized patterns of local adaptation in amphibians inhabiting saline habitats by determining how various phenotypes differ across life stages (egg, tadpole, adult) in response to saltwater exposure. To accomplish this work, I used an integrative approach that incorporated molecular techniques, empirical experimentation, meta-analysis, field studies, and theoretical work.