- Professor & Chair, Department of Ecology & Evolution, The University of Chicago
Department of Ecology & Evolution
The University of Chicago
Ida B. and Walter Erman Biology Center
1103 East 57th Street
Chicago, IL 60637
Phone: (773) 702-3855
Fax: (773) 702-9740
I am generally interested in the ecology and evolution of plant-enemy interactions, and have studied a number of systems over the course of my career. At the moment, we are focusing quite strongly on the coevolutionary interactions between Arabidopsis thaliana and its bacterial pathogens. This work was originally motivated by a desire to ask whether there is a signature of coevolutionary arms evident in the resistance genes of A. thaliana. We have found, contrary to expectation, that R genes retain allelic variation in resistance for millions of years. That is, they show evidence of ancient balanced polymorphisms. This has led us to investigate how selection acts to maintain genetic variation, both by performing field and greenhouse experiments and by collaborating on models of the coevolutionary process. In addition, we have been working to understand the evolution of virulence in natural bacterial pathogens of A. thaliana. A common approach to all this work is to use genetic engineering to understand the ecological importance of particular genes, and to link short-term ecological and micro-evolutionary processes with the long-term evolutionary patterns that they generate.
Our ultimate goal is to understand how reciprocal selection shapes the interactions between plants and their pathogens.