I combine field experiments, molecular genetics, and analytical techniques to learn how natural selection and other evolutionary forces affect plant reproductive adaptations and population genetic structure.
In my current major project, I am learning how gene flow might counteract natural selection on a steep altitudinal gradient near the Continental Divide in Costa Rica. The trait I am focusing on is self-incompatibility, which permits plants in some families to recognize and reject self-pollen. My study species, Witheringia solanacea, is ancestrally self-incompatible, but mutations in some lineages have allowed self-fertilization. I’m interested in the role of the genetic and ecological setting in determining the fate of these mutants.
In collaboration with Nat Wheelwright of Bowdoin College, I’m developing a new project to explore the evolution of self-fertilization that may accompany colonization of islands in the Bay of Fundy.