Our current understanding of sexual selection, the component of natural selection that deals with differential mating success, is most thoroughly understood at an individual level, but likely has population and species-level consequences. Recent theoretical advances have suggested that sexual selection act as a double-edged sword, both promoting extinction and facilitating extinction. However, experimental evidence of this effect is lacking due to the inherent difficulties of manipulating sexual selection strength over hundreds of generations.
Yeast are emerging as a powerful model organism in studies of ecology and evolution: they have short generation times, are eukaryotic, and utilize both sexual and asexual reproduction. Manipulation of the mating type ratio changes the intensity of sexual selection. My project involves manipulating the strength of sexual selection in different yeast lines to determine the effect of sexual selection on population-level processes, especially extinction and speciation.
This project will form the basis for my Honors thesis next year, co-advised by Dr. John Swaddle and Dr. Helen Murphy. Please check out my Honors blog (link to left) to learn more about my project and progress.
I have broad biological interests, including sexual selection theory, processes of macroevolutionary change, population genetics, mate choice, conservation biology, altruism, and epigenetics.