Current research topics in our group include sexual selection,
life-history strategies, inbreeding depression, and adaptation to environmental change.
Our research is question-driven rather than species-driven, but we primarily work on fishes and insects – see details below for two of our main study systems. We also use meta-analytic methods to address broad evolutionary questions in both animals and plants.
Threespine sticklebacks (Gasterosteus aculeatus) are a widely used model system in ecology and evolutionary biology, with a well-annotated genome and transcriptome. Our lab studies Icelandic stickleback populations found in geothermally warmed lakes and nearby ambient-temperature lakes. This unique study system consists of repeated and independent examples of populations experiencing long-term contrasting thermal environments at a small geographic scale, providing us with a window into the future effects of climate change. By taking advantage of this natural experiment, we can identify the evolutionary changes that take place after living in a warm environment for many generations.
The burying beetle Nicrophorus vespilloides is a common species found in woodlands across the UK and has a wide distribution in the northern hemisphere. It is a great model for studying the evolution of family life and parental care. This species has facultative biparental care, which means that in some broods, both parents provide care, whereas in others, only the mother or father provide care. In some cases, both parents abandon the brood, but the offspring can still survive even in the complete absence of care. Thus, the facultative nature of biparental care in this species allows us to perform experiments where one or both parents are removed – this is not possible in species with obligate care.