From an evolutionary perspective, the most important thing that an organism does is reproduce. Given that most organisms at least attempt to reproduce, fundamental questions of when?, how much?, and with whom? are pertinent to understanding the expression and evolution of reproduction. Questions of when to reproduce and how much reproducing to do are generally addressed by the field of life-history evolutionwhile questions of with whom to reproduce are addressed under mating-system evolution.
In my research, I am interested in exploring how life-history and mating-system evolution interact, not just because they are both related to reproductive fitness, but also because they involve many of the same traits. Particularly, I am interested in studying how genetic and environmental factors interact to determine the expression of traits and ultimately reproductive fitness. I work with a variety of tools and systems to address questions at the intra-specific (often intra-population) and inter-specific levels. Throughout all of my research, I have an interest in how reproductive traits evolve and how they are adapted to natural, variable environmental conditions. Thus, the evolution of adaptive phenotypic plasticity is a theme that runs throughout a majority of my work.
Most of my work focuses on hermaphroditic freshwater snails like the ones shown in this picture. Each individual is simultaneously male and female allowing them to either self-fertilize their eggs or outcross with another individual. I study factors that affect this process such as inbreeding depression and inter-specific interactions like predation. I am also studying how individuals allocate their resources to male and female reproductive functions (i.e., sex allocation), how this changes as a function of the environment, and how it is affected by senescence.
- Evaluating the interaction between dispersal and inbreeding
- The evolution of senescence in male and female reproductive function
- Patterns of mating-system evolution in hermaphroditic animals
- The role of natural enemies in mating system expression and evolution
- Understanding constraints on the evolution of adaptive phenotypic plasticity
- The correlated evolution of traits across ontogeny