Ecological Genetics Stream

This research stream focuses on understanding how surrounding ecological environments have evolutionary consequences for organisms. Thus, students ask questions aimed to better understand the reciprocal interactions between ecology and evolutionary processes over time and space. For example, they study how genetically modified plants with silenced genes behave under different treatments and how that affects their survival and ability to reproduce. This is done in collaboration with a national research initiative for undergrads, unPAK (Undergraduate Phenotyping of Arabidopsis Knockouts).

Besides investigating the link between genotype, phenotype and environment, students explore how humans exert pressures over the environment and the consequences that these anthropogenic pressures have for the evolution of populations and species. In many cases, the results obtained from this topic have practical implications as management for threatened species or developing control strategies for invasive species.

Ecological Genetics is cross-disciplinary in nature

Ecological Genetics

Evolution: Selection, Genetic Drift, Migration
Ecology: Biotic Interactions, Abiotic Interactions
Physiology: Tolerance to Stressors Development
Genetics: Genome Variation, Gene Expression, Epigenetics

Ecological genetics is a multidisciplinary stream which intersects the disciplines of genetics, physiology, ecology and evolution using state-of-the-art techniques in genomics, transcriptomics, ecophysiology, field ecology and bioinformatics.

Ecological Genetics Research Educator

Image: Dr. Christina Baer (center) with students in the field
Dr. Christina Baer (center) with students in the field

Dr. Christina Baer is the new Research Educator for Ecological Genetics. She researches how organisms’ behaviors and traits influence their interactions with each other and the environment. She studies how effective different traits are as defenses against predators and how other traits can predict organisms’ responses to human-caused environmental changes such as climate change. Her research focuses on insects and other invertebrates because they are both easy to manipulate and are some of the most diverse animals on the planet. She uses a combination of molecular taxonomy, phylogenetics, physiology, field experiments, and behavioral observations to answer these questions. For more information about her research and publications, check out