2016 Hellman Fellow
Assistant Professor, Environmental Science, Policy and Management
Project Title: Genomic Responses to a Century of Climate Change in California
Landscapes, and the ecological and evolutionary processes that play out on them, change through time, yet we still know very little about genetic responses to environmental change in natural systems. These responses can result from adaptation to new conditions or changes in population connectivity or demographics, and organisms are expected to experience a range of responses. Under this project, we will perform a temporal landscape genomics study of the western fence lizard (Sceloporus occidentalis) over a century of climate change across California. Using modern population genetics, GIS, and spatial analysis, this study will examine adaptive and non-adaptive variation across the genome and identify how specific components of environmental change have driven evolutionary genetic responses in this species across space and time.
Climate change has already had demonstrable effects on biodiversity, and increasing rates of human-induced environmental change at local and global scales necessitate the development of better approaches for predicting the effects of climate change on species of interest. Arguably the best way to predict how species will be affected by climate change is to account for how they have responded to changing environmental conditions before. In this study, we will integrate population genomic and landscape ecological data to answer fundamental questions regarding evolutionary responses to climate change. Our dataset will include genomic data from samples collected across California from 1910-1920, 1960-1970, and 2010-present day along with GIS climate data corresponding to each time period. We will focus on three geographic areas that have experienced different climate change trajectories over the past century, which will allow us to examine how genetic diversity, gene flow, and population sizes are affected by a changing climate.
“It is an incredible honor to receive this award because it will allow my lab to pursue an exciting new avenue of research that will further our understanding of how species and populations respond to climate change and because it will open up new opportunities to involve students in research using cutting-edge technology.”