Evolutionary and Ecological Functional Genomics

Interactions between genotype and environment result in morphological, physiological and behavioural variation among individuals. Understanding the role of these interactions on phenotypic diversity is at the heart of evolutionary and ecological functional genomics.

Microarrays can quantify gene expression in individuals
collected from their natural environment. This
technology helps to identify candidate loci
responsible for mediating a behaviour.




The genomic era has ushered in a new multiple disciplinary area of research called evolutionary and ecological functional genomics. This research focuses on the genes that affect ecological success and evolutionary (DARWINIAN) fitness in populations living in their natural environments. At the root of this discipline is the use of genomic tools such as MICROSATELLITES for mapping quantitative traits, MICROARRAYS for quantifying gene expression profile in the transcriptome, and MUTAGENESIS and RNAi for gene knock-out and functional analysis. These tools can now be applied to ecological and evolutionary model systems, and this application is a significant advancement because an individual's phenotype is determined by the interaction of genes and environment (G×E). Thus to understand the natural function of genes, they must be studied in their natural environment. For example, in the plant Arabidopsis thaliana, a traditional model system for functional genomics, flowering time in the wild is governed by an additional set of genes that were not identified in the controlled environment of the laboratory.

My lab and collaborators are conducting research on the evolutionary and ecological functional genomics of three fishes comprising bluegill, guppy and Chinook salmon. In bluegill, we are targeting genes involved in mediating the alternative male life histories, kin recognition, parental care, and foraging polymorphisms. In the guppy, we are examining immunity genes including those of the MAJOR HISTOCOMPATIBILITY COMPLEX, and genes involved in the alternative mating tactics (courting and sneaking). In Chinook salmon, we are examining genes involved in migration time, precocious maturation, and immunity. Some of this work will involve MICROARRAYS, with a species specific array for Chinook salmon (from Dr Daniel Heath) and specific arrays that we will develop for bluegill and guppy.