The world is changing at a rapid pace. Landscapes are being altered, climate patterns are shifting, and human populations are expanding. Many wild species are also harvested - in sustainable and unsustainable fashions - which influence species' ability to adapt to such changes. Our research aims to understand how these factors effect population dynamics and demography in natural systems.
Why do individuals disperse and what habitat facilitates gene flow? How does migration and ecological variation influence local adaptation? What are the genes underlying phenotypic differences? How have humans impacted the genetic composition of wild populations? These are the basic questions I address through integrating genomic and ecological data and a variety of analytical methods. Good basic research often becomes applied and my goal is to provide tools and information that can help conserve biodiversity.
Of late, I have developed an interest in the analytical and bioinformatic methods used in genomic research. Using empirical and simulated data I am exploring how different genome-wide data sets differ in their ability to resolve complex demographic scenarios and how bioinformatic pipelines influence biological interpretations.
Mountain goats. We are investigating local adaptation and demography of mountain goat populations using genomic sequence. We are also quantifying the drivers of variation in horn size across the mountain goat's range using 40 years of harvest records. Collaborators: Kevin White (Alaska Fish and Game); Krystal Dixon (BC Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations); Tania Lewis (National Parks Services)
Pinnipeds. Using genome wide markers we are addressing questions related to pinniped demography in 17 species. Specifically, has culling and human harvest impacted population genomic patterns? We are also conducting a large-scale population and conservation genomics study on the California and Galápagos sea lions. Collaborators: Jochen Wolf (Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich) and Joe Hoffman (Bielefeld Universitet)
White-tailed and mule deer. We are investigating the spatial genetic structure and factors influencing movement behaviour in deer. We are also exploring the microbiome of deer in Ontario. Collaborators: Joe Northrup (Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources)
Ornaments and comparative genomics. We are using large phenotyping databases and whole-genome sequence to get at the genetic basis to horns and antlers. We are also applying a comparative genomics approach to identify genomic regions underlying adaptive divergence in wild populations of vertebrates. Collaborators: Nagarjun Vijay (Indian Institute of Science Education and Research, Bhopal)
Applied Genetics. My undergraduate teaching appointment focuses on Forensic Biology, more generally how can genetic information be applied to the law in the broadest sense. I am exploring the forensic utility of different genomic data sets via simulation. Theresa Stotesbury and I are developing an approach to age bloodstains using DNA degradation and changes in colour.