The evolution of separate sexes not only creates manifold gender differences and specialized structures, but also potential conflict between them. My lab uses experimental evolution of fruit fly populations to address basic questions about sexual conflict and coevolution. Our work has recently revolved around understanding adaptations to markedly different life cycles that have been imposed for hundreds of generations. This has led us to experiments involving behavior, mate choice, effects of mutation, sperm-female interactions and sperm competition between males, and even gene-expression during development – we are a diverse lab group!
The lab will be accepting two or three students to Biology 537 and is open to cosupervisory arrangements (e.g., we currently have several students with Dr. Montgomerie). Potential projects include:
1) Sperm ecology and competition: When a female accepts mating with more than one male within the same breeding round, there is direct competition between them for fertilization events within the female reproductive tract. The mechanisms of sperm competition in Drosophila are fascinating and complex, and depend critically upon the complex structures of the female. We have adopted state-of-the-art (fluorescent sperm!) techniques to visualize sperm-female interactions. Recent work suggests that males also allocate sperm carefully based upon the genotype and condition (age, fecundity, mating status) of the female they are mating with; this suggests that males may be sperm-limited. Several experiments related to storage, behavior and competition are possible. This research will involve microscopy as well as behavioral experiments.
2) Sexual Conflict: Genes that have reversed effects on the two sexes (e.g., good for females but bad for males) reflect genetic conflict. We have used clonal propagation and other genetic tricks with the fruit fly genome to examine this conflict.
*** Special Note: I am on sabbatical leave right now, away during the second half of the semester. This will only affect the interview process. Please contact me via email! ***