Our broad-scale research goals are to understand the genetic basis of variation in behaviour and the genetics of species isolation.
One of the great unanswered questions in biology is how new species are formed and maintained. It is believed that selection initially acts upon standing genetic variation in mating behaviour within a continuous population, causing subpopulations to diverge and become individual species. Yet the genetic basis of variation in courtship and mating behaviour, either within or between species, remains entirely unknown. In cases where species are able to hybridize, the resulting offspring are often sterile, yet the genetic basis of this mechanism (which prevents species from merging) is also poorly understood.
Our research focuses on identifying the genetic basis of variation in courtship and mating behaviour within a species, and the genetic basis of behavioural isolation and hybrid sterility between species. We use the model system of Drosophila due to the extensive genetic and molecular tools this species offers, as well as the availability of species that can be hybridized in the laboratory. We use a mix of quantitative genetics, molecular genetics, behavioural assays and genomics in order to understand these complex traits.