We study the ecology and evolution of animal-microbe interactions. Much of our work uses a model insect, the pea aphid, that is host to a community of bacterial, fungal, and viral symbionts that are at times beneficial or harmful to their hosts. We harness natural variation to study how animal-microbe associations evolve and the molecular and immunological mechanisms underlying these interactions. We mainly use genomic, genetic, and experimental techniques. Ongoing projects include: 1) Studying genetic variation among aphid populations in their ability to harbor beneficial bacteria and the effects bacterial symbionts have on host immune gene expression. 2) Identifying the mechanisms that pathogenic fungi use to infect aphids and the genes that protective bacteria use to fight off fungal infection. 3) Understanding how aphids regulate vertically-transmitted viruses, the phenotypic effects these often hidden partners have on their hosts, and why viral genes seem to frequently become incorporated into host genomes through lateral gene transfer.
- B.A. 2007 The University of Chicago, Biology
- Ph.D. 2013 Emory University, Population Biology, Ecology, & Evolution
- Postdoctoral Research: The University of Oxford, Department of Zoology
- Postdoctoral Research: The University of Rochester, Department of Biology