Professional and Biographical Information

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Degrees

Ph.D., North Carolina State University (1996)
M.S., University of Virginia (1992)
B.A., University of Virginia (1991)

Research Interests

My research addresses the ecological and evolutionary forces that shape systems of inheritance and the dynamics of disease in natural populations, both aspects of what could be called 'transmission biology.' In particular, I am working on how different genomic regions interact with an organism's reproductive strategy. Regions such as sex chromosomes, autosomes, and cytoplasmic components differ in their modes of inheritance and are therefore exposed to conflicting patterns of natural selection. At the same time, all of these regions are connected through their effects on individual fitness. My work addresses the resulting instability of genetic systems (at both individual and population levels), its proximal causes, and how some organisms cope or even adapt to genomic plasticity. I also have a long-standing interest in the biology of infectious diseases in natural populations. In many ways, host-pathogen interactions have conflicts of interest and instabilities that are analogous to those involved in the evolution of genetic systems. This is most clearly seen in the dynamics of "genomic parasites" (such as repetitive DNA elements or invasive mitochondrial types), but also in the general principles of horizontal transmission and co-evolution that allow antagonistic relationships to persist. Most of my current studies use the parasitic fungus Microbotryum, which causes anther-smut disease on plants of the Caryophyllaceae.

Teaching

Genome Biology (Biol 380/381): This course addresses how genetic systems are structured and how they interact with the organism's natural history.  As part of this course, there is a laboratory section where we conduct novel experiments in genome evolution.

Plants as Models in Organismal Biology (Biol 211): In this course we address various approaches to ecology and evolutionary biology, using plants for our investigations.  This class includes a lab/field component and exposure to the challenges of experimental design.

Introduction to Field Biology: Disease Ecology (Biol 201): Here we emphasizing infectious diseases and their natural histories, focusing on how to derive research questions and the variety of field-based approaches to address them. 

Seminar in Disease Biology (Biol 411): We cover the classic studies and current literature on the evolutionary ecology of infectious diseases in domestic and wild populations. 

Mathematical Modeling of Biological Systems (Biol/Math 240): This course is part of and other efforts emphasize quantiative and theoretical approaches in the Biology curriculum.

Adaptation and the Organism (Biol 181): This is one of the core introductory courses in Biology.

Selected Honors and Awards

NIH Award - #R15GM119092, Mating Compatibility and Degeneration of Non-Recombining Chromosomes.  2017-2020.
NIH Award - #R01GM122061, Ecology and Evolution of Multiple Transmission Modes. 2016-2020.
The Linnean Society Fellow, 2016-current.
NSF Award - #1115765, Disease at the Margins of Species Ranges. 2011-2016.
NSF Award - #0747222, CAREER Award: Impact of Host Radiation on Genome Evolution in Parasites 2008-2013.
John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship, 2008-2009.
NSF Award - #0640681, Opportunities for Promoting Understanding through Synthesis. 2007-2010
Trustee Faculty Fellowship. Amherst College. 2008-2009.
NSF Award - #0446671, Evolution of Molecular Parasites 2005-2007.
NSF Award - #0346832, Karyotype Dynamics and Automixis in Microbotryum. 2004-2007.
NSF Award - #0129995, Sex Chromosome Evolution with Haploid Sex Determination 2002-2004.

Resources:

Microbotryum Research and Community Portal
Microbotryum Tetrad Collection

 

See also: Publications