Molly A. Albecker, PhD
Department of Biology and Biochemistry
University of Houston
maalbecker [at] uh [dot] edu
Orcid ID: 0000-0002-5121-8101
I am an eco-evolutionary biologist who uses integrative approaches to understand how physiological and eco-evolutionary mechanisms affect local adaptation to environmental change.
Persistence in a novel, changed, or stressful environment depends on interactions across multiple levels of biological organization, ranging from the genome to the ecosystem. Therefore, future frontiers of research must bridge diverse perspectives to understand the nuances and contexts underpinning responses to environmental change. 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 the 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.
Releasing Hyla cinerea back into the salt marsh surrounding Bodie Island Lighthouse in the Outer Banks after an all-night experiment.
Wordcloud of my research from the abstracts of my papers
Great lab mates can make the most tedious tasks fun (counting snails, Summer 2018). Miss these awesome people!
Making friends in the Smoky Mountain National Forest
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, most importantly, can dictate responses to environmental change. Therefore, using our new analytical approach, we can integrate CovGE into the predictions of responses to future environments.
In addition, I worked with a 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 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, 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 changes. I characterized patterns of local adaptation in amphibians inhabiting saline habitats by determining how various phenotypes differ across life stages (egg, tadpole, and adult) in response to saltwater exposure. To accomplish this, I used an integrative approach that incorporated molecular techniques, empirical experimentation, meta-analysis, field studies, and theoretical work.