I am an evolutionary biologist with a background in comparative genomics and developmental biology. Broadly speaking, I want to understand how the generation of phenotypic variation affects how evolution proceeds. This motivation has led me to pursue a diverse set of research questions that span from the developmental origins of novelties to the role of developmental plasticity in evolution – using a range of tools from geometric morphometrics to various kinds of -omics approaches. I am fortunate that most of my research questions can be addressed by studying lizards, and my new ERC-funded project on wall lizards allows me to use a developmental approach to answer one of the big questions in evolutionary biology – why does evolution repeat itself.
I want to understand how evolution works. This requires an integrative approach – from molecular and developmental biology to ecology – guided by mathematical modelling and conceptual analysis. My projects span across a range of topics, but most are designed to reveal how functional processes of organisms – development, physiology and behaviour – influence their evolution. We mostly study lizards, and combine experiments with genomic analyses, field studies and comparative methods. Several projects make use of mathematical modelling to predict or interpret evolutionary outcomes. The integration of development and evolution also raises conceptual issues, which I explore in contributions aimed towards biologists and philosophers of science.
My general research interests are mainly focused on the mechanisms of evolution. I am particularly interested in the genetic basis of evolutionary novelties. The principles of molecular evolution and population genetics, along with the advances in high throughput sequencing technology and bioinformatics, give us the opportunity to study the overall perspective of adaptation on -omics levels. As a postdoc researcher at Lund University, I am working on the project investigating the genomic signature of sexually selected hybridization in wall lizards (Podarcis muralis). We aim to generate a comprehensive understanding of how sexual and natural selection upon secondary contact shapes genome-wide patterns of introgression and geographic variation in phenotypic diversity in the wild.
As an ethologist with a background on evolutionary biology, I aim to understand how behaviour, coloration, and colour vision co-evolve to help animals cope with their environment. In my PhD, I explored the functional significance of colour polymorphism in wall lizards by testing ideas rooted in sexual selection, sensory ecology and animal communication theory. To do so, I adopted a broad approach that combined lab-staged behavioural tests, a long-term natural field study, and two mesocosm experiments where we evaluated morph differences in socio-sexual behaviour and breeding investment. This allowed me to assess colour morph categorization from the perspective of conspecifics (crucial for its possible role as a social signal), as well as challenge the common belief that lacertid colour morphs are maintained because of their link with alternative reproductive strategies. My research at Lund University, embedded within Dr. Nathalie Feiner’s ERC-funded project on parallel evolution, will explore the putative leading role of selection on behaviour (i.e. aggression) in organizing trait correlations among a suite of exaggerated traits that have repeatedly evolved in wall lizards.
I am interested in understanding the causes and consequences of phenotypic variation, in particular for early life history and developmental traits. For my PhD work I measured metabolic scaling with size and temperature during development in marine invertebrates and fish to understand key patterns in life-history theory. I used a combination of field work, measures of physiological rates, and meta-analyses to propose potentially general mechanisms for variation in maternal investment strategies. I also measured selection on metabolic rate and key life-history traits to determine how micro-evolutionary processes can maintain variation in metabolic rates, and drive the pace-of-life across environments. In my current work as a Wenner Gren postdoctoral fellow, I will investigate the contribution of maternal effects as a mechanism for rapid countergradient adaptation in wall lizards. To answer how populations adapt to cool climates, which severely limits embryo growth, I will study populations across the native range, as well as populations introduced from Italy to England. I will combine field sampling and experimental work to determine the biochemical and physiological mechanisms, and the underlying genomic basis, of maternal and embryonic adaptations to cool climate.
I am interested in understanding the mechanisms that underlie phenotypic evolution. My current research focuses on the role of developmental mechanisms in the evolution of phenotypic plasticity. In particular, I am interested in the evolution of polyphenisms, a form of plasticity that gives rise to discrete alternative phenotypes. I aim to reveal how polyphenisms evolve by modeling the evolution of their underlying developmental regulatory architecture. In addition, I will apply the model to the specific case of environmental sex determination and study how evolutionary transitions in sex-determining systems are mediated by the evolution of gene regulatory networks. During my PhD, my research focused on the role of symbionts in the evolution of their hosts. In particular, I worked on Wolbachia, widespread bacterial endosymbionts of insects and other arthropods. These symbionts affect development and reproduction of their hosts in remarkable ways, and I theoretically investigated several of Wolbachia‘s effects on host phenotype and their evolutionary consequences.
l am a behavioural and evolutionary ecologist with broad interests in how individuals interact with one another and their environment, and how social interactions may contribute to phenotypic variation and evolution, and shape communities over multiple scales in vertebrate systems. My PhD, under the supervision of Professor Tim Clutton-Brock at the University of Cambridge, focused on animal social groups. In particular, I investigated helper investment in offspring through allonursing (when a non-mother provides milk to the offspring of another female) in Kalahari meerkats. After completing my PhD I remained in the same department with Dr Rose Thorogood for a postdoc looking at how dietary supplementation influences maternal reproductive strategies in the New Zealand hihi. More recently, I moved to Penn State for a second postdoc with Drs Tracy Langkilde and Michael Sheriff investigating the transgenerational consequences of maternal stress in eastern fence lizards. My current project, which I am undertaking as part of a Marie Curie fellowship, will finally combine all these research interests: sociality, maternal investment, maternal effects, and physiological stress. I will test how post-natal sociality influences the outcome of maternal stress both empirically using the Egernia lizard system in Tasmania, and using a meta-analytical framework.
I am an evolutionary biologist interested in understand how the interactions between gene network dynamics, cell biophysics and environmental variables result in complex and functional phenotypes; and on how these complex phenotypes do evolve. I approach these questions through a prism whose facets are theoretical biology, computational biology and developmental biology. Quite often, my research is not concerned with particular species, but is directed towards finding and interpreting evolutionary patterns that are of general application. During my PhD in the Universitat Autonoma de Barcelona, I published works related to complexity catastrophes in a population-genetic framework, general models of development and the biophysics of early development in invertebrates. During my Postdoc in the University of Southampton, within the Extended Evolutionary Synthesis project, I conducted research on cell plasticity (with conceptual tools from learning theory) and on the relationship between phenotypic plasticity and developmental biases. Most of these works involve intense computational modelling, although I have also published a number of minor conceptual works. My current research project in Lund University is aimed to better understand how natural selection explores a vast -but finite and highly anisotropic- developmentally available space of shapes. Unlike other projects, we will use morphological datasets from living organisms (from the very variable dorsal patterning in Anolis lizards) to inform the computational model and to test the model’s predictions, in a fruitful interplay.
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I am a PhD student at Lund University working with Nathalie Feiner on her ERC-funded project on parallel evolution. I am interested in the developmental basis of adaptive phenotypic changes, in particular the developmental origins of complex phenotypes. During my PhD, I will investigate a suite of exaggerated traits – a syndrome – that has repeatedly evolved in different wall lizard species. My aim it to identify the cellular and genetic changes that are associated with the syndrome to ultimately understand why evolution tends to repeat itself.
I am a PhD student at University of Tasmania, under the supervision of Tobias Uller and Geoff While. I am interested in the mechanisms that generate adaptation, in particular how differences in environment influence evolutionary convergence and divergence. During my PhD I will study the processes that drive geographic patterns of introgression in wall lizards, and the consequences this introgression has for the evolution of sexual dimorphism. To this end I will combine field studies, laboratory experiments and genomic analyses across multiple regions of secondary contact.
I am a visiting master’s student from the University of Glasgow who will be advancing the group’s work on the developmental basis of the dorsal patterning polymorphism displayed in Anolis sagrei. My project specifically will investigate if incubation at extreme temperatures can override the genetic control of this phenotype. I will also be investigating if such treatment will decouple the regulatory linkage with the neighboring estrogen receptor 1 gene, a linkage we suspect is crucial for the polymorphism being limited to females. I’m personally fascinated by how developmental systems can be structured in such a way to produce adaptive phenotypic variation, and am especially interested in gene regulatory networks and modularity.
Dr Alexander Hegg, PhD student Lund 2017-2020
Dr Hanna Laakkonen, lab manager 2014-2019
Dr Illiam Jackson, postdoc Lund 2017-2019
Dr Alfredo Rago, postdoc Lund 2017-2019
Dr Reinder Radersma, postdoc Lund 2015-2019
Konstantinos Plavos, Master’s student Lund 2017
Dr Antonio Cordero, postdoc Lund 2015-2017
Dr Hannah MacGregor, PhD student Tasmania 2014-2017
Bea Anderson, Master’s student Lund 2016-2017
Dr Sozos Michaelides, DPhil student Oxford 2012-2015; postdoc Lund 2016
Dr Elmar Tobi, postdoc Oxford 2015-2016
Dr Sinead English, postdoc Oxford 2012-2015
Dr Geoffrey M While, postdoc Oxford 2008-2010 & 2011-2013
Dr Ursula Paredes, postdoc Oxford 2011-2013
Robert Heathcote, DPhil student Oxford 2009-2013