Research

We are interested in how differences in the environment produces variation among individuals, and the consequences of this for how populations and species change over time. We address these questions using a combination of mathematical models, DNA sequencing, lab experiments and field study. Currently, our research falls into three broad areas.

Evolutionary dynamics in laboratory insect populations

In collaboration with Matt Gage’s group at UEA, we study how and why populations change over time using mathematical and insect (red flour beetle) models. We also combine experimental evolution and whole-genome sequencing to study how genomes evolve in response to natural selection, in real time. Current questions include i) how do populations adapt to high temperatures? ii) What is the genetic basis of thermal adaptation? iii) How do populations establish and spread in novel environments? iv) When and how does genetic rescue occur?

Population genetics and ecology of insect pests

In collaboration with researchers at the John Innes Centre and SUgar Beet Research Organisation, we are using genetic markers to understand the natural history, taxonomy and ecology of insect pests. Current research focuses on leaf mining flies of sugar beet (Pegomya spp): these are a significant pest of an important UK crop, but we no virtually nothing about them. We are using molecular tools and fieldwork to uncover what these organisms are, how they interact with their hosts, and how they can be sustainably controlled.

Ecological genetics in wild birds

My PhD study looked at adaptation and differentiation among island bird populations, and we still use bird systems as a model to study ecological and evolutionary questions. In particular, we use genomic tools to understand evolutionary history and ecological adaptation in great tits (part of the ‘Great Tit HapMap project‘), and in various island bird species (Berthelot’s pipit, Seychelles warbler). We aim to use information gained from genetic data to inform conservation.