Appointments and Education
- PERT Postdoctoral Fellow, Ecology & Evolutionary Biology, University of Arizona, May 2011-present
- Ph.D., Environmental Sciences, Policy & Management, University of California, Berkeley, May 2011
- B.S., Biosciences & Technology/Genetics, University of New Hampshire, May 2005
The Family Drosophilidae is a speciose and diverse group of flies, and my research focuses on understanding what drives this diversity. Within Drosophilidae is the genus Scaptomyza, a large clade ideal for studying biogeographic patterns and ecological diversification. While most Drosophilidae, such as the genetic model Drosophila melanogaster, are saprophages, Scaptomyza larvae exploit a wide variety of unusual food sources, including spider eggs and mining living plant material. I use phylogenetics and genomics to address new questions of my own and augment ongoing studies in the Whiteman lab on the evolution of herbivory and leaf-mining. Over the course of my postdoctoral tenure I will:
- Infer the phylogenetic relationships in the genus Scaptomyza. This large radiation of flies is found throughout the world, on all of the continents except Antarctica, and remote islands in both the Atlantic and Pacific. Placing this diversity into a robust taxonomic framework is important for framing further research questions in an evolutionary context.
- Examine the evolutionary history of ecological adaptations, specifically leaf-mining. I use phylogenetic methods to infer when, where and how often traits, such as leaf-mining, have evolved in Scaptomyza.
- Explore the genomic changes underlying the transition to herbivory. Using next generation sequencing, I am assembling the genome of Scaptomyza flava, a leaf-mining species, and comparing it to non-herbivorous Drosophilidae to understand at the genetic level how S. flava has adapted to this novel lifestyle.
I graduated with a B.S. from the University of New Hampshire in 2005 and received my Ph.D. in May of 2011 from the Department of Environmental Sciences, Policy and Management at the University of California, Berkeley in Dr. Patrick O'Grady's Lab. My PhD thesis revolved around the Hawaiian Drosophila, a hyper diverse radiation of Hawaiian endemic species that display a wide spectrum of ecologies, morphologies and behaviors. I focused on a large clade of Hawaiian Drosophila species, using phylogenetic and population genetic methods at several different temporal and biogeographic scales.