electron microscope image of scale

Research

Our research tries to understand evolutionary processes such as adaptation, divergence and speciation. In particular, we want to understand what the genetic changes are that bring about evolutionary change and the interplay between genetics, ecology and evolution.

The Evolution of Structural Colour

Structural colours are colours produced by sub-micron-scale structures that cause optical effects such as diffraction, scattering and interference. These colours are often much brighter than pigment based colours and can also be angle dependent (iridescent). We are currently trying to identify genes and genetic pathways involved in producing these colours and understand the developmental processes that give rise to structural colour. We are also interested in the role these colours play play in animal evolution, particularly their use as sexual and warning signals.

Adaptation to Altitude in Tropical Insects

Interest in organisms’ adaptation to their thermal environment has grown in recent years as we try to understand and predict how organisms will respond to climate change. Tropical insects are estimated to make up around half of all species on Earth, but we know comparatively little about thermal adaptation in this group. Insects that occur at different elevations will experience different temperatures and so show different physiological and genetic adaptations. The slopes of the Andes in South America provide an environment where we can characterise these differences.

Convergent Evolution and its Genetic Underpinnings

Convergence is frequently observed in nature and suggests that there are constraints in evolution that lead to certain outcomes arising repeatedly. We are interested in what these constraints are and in particular, if they are driven by processes within the genome. For example, are certain genes particularly likely to be targeted by natural selection?

Genomic approaches to divergence, speciation and adaptation

We are interested in the changes that happen in the genome to bring about divergence and adaptation. What are these changes and how are they distributed in the genome? How do these changes accumulate during the process of speciation?