Latest News

Cameron shares his work at Botany 2020 VIRTUAL!

July 27, 2020

Cameron So defends his Masters thesis over Zoom!

June 6, 2020

Abstract: The persistence of any declining population in the face of an environmental perturbation may depend on how fast natural selection restores fitness, a process called “evolutionary rescue”. Evolutionary rescue depends on the adaptive potential for fitness: the additive genetic variance for fitness (VA(W)) divided by mean fitness (). I conducted an outdoor warming experiment to estimate the change in VA(W) and  in the annual Brassica rapa using a predicted 2100 temperature regime. Surprisingly, plants exposed to a warmer climate exhibited greater , suggesting plasticity may enable population persistence to climate change, but could also hinder the adaptive potential by increasing denominator . Nevertheless, the magnitude of VA(W) expressed under heated conditions was considerably higher, thereby a greater adaptive potential was observed. My findings suggest that standing genetic variation in B. rapa may be sufficient to buffer and facilitate rapid adaptive evolution to warmer temperatures imposed by climate change.

Sarah Hall successfully defends her Masters thesis!

April 4, 2019

Abstract: Tolerance is thought to evolve as a generalized response to different types of damage experienced in the plant’s lifetime. Flexible flowering schedules and the production of ‘spare’ late-produced flowers, which is widely observed, can be a very general mechanism used by plants to tolerate a variety of environmental insults. I have conducted two experiments to investigate how damage-induced shifts in flowering schedules in Camelina sativa contribute to tolerance of heatwaves and floral herbivory. We found that while heat damaged plants initiated compensatory responses through additional flower and branch production, reduced fertilization and increased seed abortion led to lower total yield than unheated plants. Floral herbivory did not result in compensatory growth, but rather a shift in resource allocation to remaining flowers, resulting in tolerance. Camelina sativa responds differently to heatwaves and herbivory because the extent of damage to plant tissues is greater during heat stress than floral herbivory.

Sydney successfully defends her Masters thesis!

December 19, 2018

Abstract: As suitable environmental conditions for species shift rapidly under anthropogenic climate change, populations that are not well adapted, or maladapted to these novel environments can face serious challenges. Evolutionary rescue of a population in decline depends on genetic variation in fitness. The adaptive potential of a population to a particular environment can be evaluated by estimating the mean and additive genetic variance in fitness itself. I used quantitative genetics coupled with ‘animal’ model MCMCglmm analysis to estimate the adaptive potential of a wild population under an expected future temperature regime. I found very low estimates of genetic variance and heritability in fitness components, however these results may correspond with the rarity of evolutionary rescue in wild populations. I did find correlations between fitness components that indicate possible selection at the germination stage of early life history stages that may be eroding genetic variance in fecundity later on.

Madeline Peters and Colin Bonner both publish in Evolution!

Abstract: Coexpression of genes in plant sporophytes and gametophytes allows correlated gametic and sporophytic selection. Theory predicts that, under outcrossing, an allele conferring greater pollen competitive ability should fix within a population unless antagonistic pleiotropy with the sporophyte stage is strong. However, under strong selfing, pollen competitiveness is immaterial as superior and inferior competitors are deposited on opposite stigmas, producing assortative competition. Because many plant species have mixed‐mating systems, selfing should be critical in the spread and maintenance of pollen‐expressed genes affecting competitiveness. We present two one‐locus, two‐allele population genetic models for the evolution of a locus controlling pleiotropic antagonism between pollen competitiveness and diploid fitness. Analytical solutions provide minimum and maximum selfing rates allowing invasion of alleles with greater diploid and haploid fitness, respectively. Further, polymorphism is only maintained when diploid selection is recessive. Fixation of the allele conferring greater pollen competitiveness may be prevented, even with weak sporophytic counterselection, with sufficiently high selfing. Finally, selfing expands and limits the range of haploid–diploid selection coefficients allowing polymorphism, depending on dominance and selfing mode.

 Abstract: Urbanization is an important component of global change. Urbanization affects species interactions, but the evolutionary implications are rarely studied. We investigate the evolutionary consequences of a common pattern: the loss of high trophic‐level species in urban areas. Using a gall‐forming fly, Eurosta solidaginis, and its natural enemies that select for opposite gall sizes, we test for patterns of enemy loss, selection, and local adaptation along five urbanization gradients. Eurosta declined in urban areas, as did predation by birds, which preferentially consume gallmakers that induce large galls. These declines were linked to changes in habitat availability, namely reduced forest cover in urban areas. Conversely, a parasitoid that attacks gallmakers that induce small galls was unaffected by urbanization. Changes in patterns of attack by birds and parasitoids resulted in stronger directional selection, but loss of stabilizing selection in urban areas, a pattern which we suggest may be general. Despite divergent selective regimes, gall size did not very systematically with urbanization, suggesting but not conclusively demonstrating that environmental differences, gene flow, or drift, may have prevented the adaptive divergence of phenotypes. We argue that the evolutionary effects of urbanization will have predictable consequences for patterns of species interactions and natural selection.


Colin Bonner successfully defends his Masters!

Thesis Abstract: Adaptation to changing environmental conditions and subsequent recovery in population growth through evolutionary rescue is critical for many declining species, but it relies on populations having sufficient genetic variation. Assisted gene flow provides a solution to low genetic variance by introducing gene flow between distinct populations, allowing evolutionary rescue to proceed. Assisted gene flow, however, requires that these populations can interbreed. Many populations are divergent in reproductive phenology, reducing hybridization rates. The potential for hybridization between plant populations can be estimated from flowering schedules, but for these estimates to be useful they must be proven accurate. In a pair of two-generation experiments, I compared prospective estimates of hybridization, derived from flowering schedules, to retrospective estimates, derived from an analysis of offspring, using flowering time as a genetic marker. In both cases, hybridization was asymmetric. The prospective and retrospective strongly agreed under controlled pollination conditions, but less so under natural pollination in the field.

Congratulations Colin!

New Papers

Bonner, C., Sokolov, N., Westover, S.E., Ho, M., and Weis, A. E.  2019. Phenological divergence impedes hybridization: experimental tests and their implications for assisted gene flow. Ecology and Evolution. PDF

Start, D., A.E. Weis and B. Gilbert. 2019. Indirect interactions shape selection in a multi-species foodweb.  The American Naturalist. PDF