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Plasticity and evolution

Bio

I'm currently a postdoc working in the Donohue lab at Duke University. I’m really interested in how the environment and the genome interact to create interesting and/or adaptive phenotypes. Right now, I'm really fascinated with how plasticity across time, space, and scale can influence adaptive dynamics and evolutionary trajectories. To address this question, I’ve been using genomics, transcriptomics, epigenomics, and new computational methods to identify the loci and epialleles that are responsible for generating plastic traits.

I use plants as a tractable and convenient model to study these ideas. Currently, I'm using Arabidopsis thaliana to focus on the mechanisms of transgenerational plasticity. However, I also work with wild populations of non-model species, like Spartina alterniflora and Fallopia japonica.

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 Duke’s FEMMES and USF's Darwin Day to trade ideas with the community.

Twitter

RESearch

 
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Plasticity, epigenetics, and evolution

Organisms can respond to environmental cues, sometimes across generations. We’ve found genetic variation in the ability to express this response, and we’re currently genomic and epigenomic approaches to understand the induction, persistence, and stability of transgenerational effects.

 

Selection and plasticity in the wild

Selection and plasticity aren’t mutually exclusive, and I’m interested in the relationship between these processes during local adaptation. To that end, we’re looking at both genetic and DNA methylation variation to figure out their roles in shaping gene expression patterns across environmental clines. We’re taking advantage of natural and invasive populations of plants without reference genomes or previous genomic resources to do this, which is both challenging and rewarding.

 

Statistical and machine learning approaches to association analyses

Associating loci and epialleles with environmental conditions is challenging, particularly given population structure, cell-type heterogeneity, and other latent effects. I’m interested in using machine learning techniques to build fast, scalable, and accurate models that can identify associated variants without picking up false positives.

Outreach

Talking to people is one of my favorite parts about being in academia. Here are a few outreach events that I've participated in.

 

Females Excelling More in Math, Engineering, and Science

The FEMMES program connects undergraduate, graduate, and postdoc mentors with young women (4th-6th grade) to share hands-on experience in STEM research. The elementary students seem to have a few things to teach the mentors, too!

 
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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. This event is always a huge hit (and not just because of all the pizza).

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USF HHMI STEM ACADEMY

USF’s office of Undergraduate Research puts on a one week intensive camp for incoming freshmen interesting in STEM careers. Our STEM academy graduates have gone on to be amazing students and great undergraduate researchers!