Research

My research focuses on understanding the proximate and ultimate mechanisms underlying the origin of biodiversity and adaptive divergence in natural systems. Using a range of different organisms and analytical approaches, I mainly want to understand the evolutionary processes by which organisms rapidly adapt to different environments and the functional genomic basis of adaptive phenotypic traits.

I address these questions by integrating different approaches, ranging from ecology to developmental biology, to population and functional genomics, to investigate:

  • Phenotypic patterns associated with rapid and repeated ecological divergence
  • Processes shaping the genomic landscape of divergence
  • The genomic basis of adaptive phenotypes
  • Gene regulatory changes underlying adaptive phenotypes
  • The interplay of genotype and environment in adaptive phenotypic divergence

My research is mostly driven by exciting natural history observations and I aim to generate a better basic understanding of the evolutionary processes and associated functional mechanisms that create the wonderful biodiversity we see around us. Although I am mainly interested in fishes and other aquatic organisms, I also venture out and collaborate with a range of people to study adaptive processes in birds and other vertebrates.

Below is an overview of my main research areas and projects:


The genomic basis of local adaptation under strong gene flow. Using an ecological model organism, the Atlantic silverside (Menidia menidia), I am trying to understand how species can adapt to distinct environmental conditions in the face of strong gene flow. The Atlantic silverside is a small estuarine species that is distributed along of the steepest temperature clines in the world along the North American Atlantic coast.

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Atlantic silversides | Distribution of Atlantic silverside along the East coast of North America and examples of clinal trait variation (from common garden experiment; Hice et al. 2012)

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Rapid adaptation to urban environments in great tits (Parus major).

 

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Understanding the loss of parallelism in an ancient vertebrate, the lamprey.

 

 

 


Integrative analysis of rapid and parallel evolution in Arctic charr. 

Arctic charr is one of the most diverse vertebrate species and has repeatedly evolved diverse ecotypes across lakes in the northern hemisphere, including in lakes in Scotland and Siberia. These ecotypes include benthic-feeding specialists (‘benthivorous’) occupying the littoral-profundal habitat, plankton-feeding specialists (‘planktivorous’) living in the open water, fish-feeding specialists (‘piscivorous’).

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Examples of Arctic charr ecotypes | a. Benthivorous and planktivorous ecotypes from Scotland. b. Planktivorous and piscivorous ecotypes from Siberia. (not to scale)

Despite numerous studies investigating the ecological and phenotypic adaptation to different trophic niches and habitats, we only know little about how phenotypically parallel these ecotypes actually are across lakes and if ecotypes have evolved in the same way across lakes or used different evolutionary and genomic routes. These are the major questions I aim to answer with my research, which will improve our understanding of how flexible evolution is and give us more insights into the evolution of biodiversity.

 

 


Conservation genomics of salmonid fishes.

The functional and genomic basis of rapid ecological and phenotypic re-expansion in European whitefish (Coregonus lavaretus) from Lake Constance.

The evolutionary history and genomic basis of a rare piscivorous brown trout (Salmo trutta) ecotype, the ferox trout.

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