I'm currently a postdoc working in the Donohue lab at Duke University. I'm interested in understanding the molecular basis of phenotypic plasticity and adaptation, and I'm exploring these processes by integrating genomics, transcriptomics, and epigenomics to identify the loci and networks that underlie environmentally-labile traits.
Currently, I'm using Arabidopsis thaliana to explore these mechanisms, but I also work with wild populations of non-model species, like Spartina alterniflora and Fallopia japonica. I work in mostly in R and bash to create cloud-friendly pipelines that can analyze and visualize these types of data. Check out my Docker Hub and GitHub below!
I'm also broadly interested in the intersection of biology, informatics, and society, and I love finding the applications of my work to issues in climate change and sustainable agriculture, for example. Engaging with people on these topics is a lot of fun, and I've worked with outreach events like USF's Darwin Day to trade ideas with the community.
When I'm not in the lab, I'm reading, trying out new food, or hiking near the Eno River in Durham.
Stability and evolutionary potential of DNA methylation
DNA methylation is responsive to environmental cues, and there's some evidence that it is stably inherited across meiosis. Use whole genome and targeted approaches, we're attempting to decipher the transgenerational stability of DNA methylation on a locus-by-locus and region-by-region basis in varying conditions, and whether these changes correlate with phenotypic variation.
Epigenetics in the wild
Experiments in free-living, wild populations can provide important insight into the mechanisms of phenotypic change, particularly since regulatory variation, like DNA methylation, might operate differently in different species. Using reduced representation bisulfite sequencing technique (epiGBS) and distance-based methods, we're looking at the relative dynamics of nucleotide polymorphisms and DNA methylation in natural and invasive populations of plants without reference genomes or previous genomic resources.
Ecological transcriptomics in the salt marsh
Salt marsh ecosystems are crucial environments that provide habitat and nurseries for other organisms as well as ecosystem services for humans. Along the US Gulf Coast, salt marshes are dominated by Spartina alterniflora, which is exposed to dynamic natural conditions as well as periodic anthropogenic stressors, like oil spills. We used genome-wide expression assays along with functional genomic approaches to understand the genomic basis of response to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in wild populations of S. alterniflora in Louisiana and Mississippi.
Talking to people is one of my favorite parts about being in academia. Here are a few outreach events that I've participated in.
USF Darwin Day
USF's annual Darwin Day celebration is an outreach to both public school students as well as educators. The University also hosts public seminars by an invited speaker. I worked with my lab mates to help put on this event, which is always a huge hit (and not just because of all the pizza).
USF HHMI STEM ACADEMY
I was fortunate enough to work the office of Undergraduate Research to help put on a one week intensive camp for incoming freshmen interesting in STEM careers. I'm proud to say our STEM academy graduates have gone on to be amazing students and great undergraduate researchers!