Overall Research Interests
My research focuses on understanding coevolutionary interactions, particularly host-parasite interactions. I use a combination of mathematical modeling and molecular analysis in both field and laboratory settings to address how species interactions influence life history trait evolution, such as dispersal and virulence. Dispersal is a direct way in which a species can modify its own spatial genetic structure. The overall goal of my research is to develop a mechanistic understanding by which abiotic and biotic forces drive the direction and rate of evolution of coevolutionary interactions. My ongoing research broadly fits into the topics below.
Co-transmission of host and symbiont genomes
Intimate host-symbiont associations are ubiquitous in natural communities and require mechanisms that insure that symbionts are transmitted from one host to another each generation. The goal of my research is to develop evolutionary genetic theory for understanding how coevolution between hosts and their symbionts affects co-transmission of host and symbiont genomes.
Evolution of dispersal
Many parasites are highly mobile, use different hosts within a life cycle, and have broad host ranges. Coevolution of antagonistic interactions potentially generates copious spatial variability in fitness in much the same way that host-parasite arms races generate temporal variability in fitness in models of the evolution of sex and recombination. I developed population genetic models to provide an understanding of mechanisms by which abiotic and biotic interactions generate selection on dispersal.
Testing theory with genomic analysis
As an example or recent work, I have recently applied the theory of co-transmission of genomes to understanding the distribution of genes within genomes. In Drown, Preuss and Wade (2012), we discovered that nuclear genes which interact with the mitochondrion are significantly under-represented on the X-chromosome in mammals.