Plasticity and the Expanded Evolutionary Synthesis:
I am investigating whether the evolution of adaptive plasticity can change the course of evolution strongly enough to require an update of our theories.
I explain the project’s rationale in this blog post. So far, this project produced one paper showing how adaptive plasticity can evolve when it’s selected against.
We also published a rather philosophical paper on the reasons why phenotypic plasticity is so polarizing in evolutionary research. We argue that more traditional genetic arguments “simplify away” the role of plasticity to address important questions, and argue for a more explicit recognition of the idealizations at the base of different research programs.
Sexual Development without Sexual Chromosomes:
My PhD project at the University of Birmigham, in collaboration with the Colbourne Group.
I compare gene expression in males and females, from embryo to adult in two organisms: The jewel wasp Nasonia vitripennis and the water-flea Daphnia magna.
Currently, I’ve published the re-annotated version of the Nasonia genome, as well as a method to detect splicing variants without a reference transcriptome. I am in the process of publishing the actual analysis of sex-biased gene expression in Nasonia, but my PhD thesis contains a good preview for those interested enough.
Phenotypic plasticity and adaptation to new environments:
A collaboration with Nathalie Feiner to describe how wall lizard embryos (Podarcis muralis) use gene expression to deal with cold stress.
One of our papers investigates how Italian and French populations introduced to England have adapted to its cold winters, and asks whether there is a convergence in their gene expression patterns.
Another paper instead compares multiple native populations which are adapted or not adapted to cold environments. This allows us to identify shared transcriptional responses to cold stress.