Ecological Genetics Student Research Projects

All FRI students present their research posters at campus events. Each cohort presents two posters, the first is a pre-proposal developed in the fall first-year Research Methods Seminar. The second poster represents results from the research proposed in the spring first-year course and then conducted in the fall second-year course. These posters are presented at a public session at the annual FRI Research Day in December. At that event, each student team has an opportunity to talk with other faculty and students about their research results.

Ecological Genetics Research Themes

The ecological genetics research stream focuses on advancing our understanding on how evolution is influenced by ecology. The main topics in this stream are:

  • how do species adapt to a new environment
  • how have populations at a genetic and phenotypic level changed through time and space and
  • how do specific changes in the genome affect the phenotype and ultimately the fitness of populations

With all this information we can better understand the link between genotype and phenotype and also provide management advice to preserve our natural environment.

Ecology and evolution go hand-by-hand. The illustration shows interconnections among evolutionary forces and ecological interactions (biotic and abiotic) through population-level demographic and genetic parameters (adapted from Lowe et al. 2016).

Cohort 9 2022-23 in Fall 2022, as first-year students (pre-proposal stage)

  • Deer exclusion fences promote growth and richness of plant species 
  • Effect of increasing soil salinity on wheat fitness
  • Heat shock protein gene upregulation at critical thermal maxima
  • The effect of relative humidity on the mechanical properties of spider silk
  • The effectiveness of different treatment methods against the invasive emerald ash borer

Cohort 8 2021-22 in Fall 2022, as second-year students (research results)

  • Hsp70 regulation in Aedes albopictus under different temperature treatments
  •  Impact of invasive plants (Phragmites australis) on native wetlands
  •  Light pollution’s effects on opsin gene expression in dragonflies
  • The relationship between water quality and pathogen infection in amphibians

Cohort 8 2021-22 in Fall 2021, as first-year students (pre-proposal stage)

  • Acclimation of mosquito (Culex pipiens) metabolism during winter diapause
  • Determining how leaf-mining insects affect the cytokinin levels in plants
  • Parasitic niche construction inducing natural selection in amphibians
  • The effects of light pollution on insect biodiversity
  • The impacts of changing precipitation on tree growth

Cohort 7 2020-21 in Fall 2021, as second-year students (research results)

  • Effect of diapause on PERIOD expression in Rhagoletis pomonella
  • Investigating geographic variation in caterpillar silk genes
  • The effect of long wavelength (LW) light on opsin gene expression in dragonflies
  • The effects of polyethylene microplastics on arugula
  • Thermal tolerance of Aphaenogaster picea and A. rudis ants: a genetic and physiological lens

Cohort 7 2020-21 in Fall 2020, as first-year students (pre-proposal stage)

  • Effect of microplastics on plant growth
  • Increased temperatures affect phenology, life span, and populations in the Drosophila genus
  • Investigating environmental differences in spider silk gene expression
  • Temperature tolerance in acorn ants (Temnothorax curvispinosus) in urban and rural environments
  • The effects of temperature on the larval phenology of dragonflies (Odonata: Anisoptera)

Cohort 6 2019-20 in Fall 2020, as second-year students (research results)

  • Analyzing native and introduced lines of Arabidopsis thaliana through the CSR profile as a predictor of invasiveness
  • Effects of heavy metal pollution on genetically diverse plant populations
  • Genetic differences in the PERIOD gene of Rhagoletis pomonella
  • Is the SVP gene differentially expressed in populations of Mimulus ringens?

Cohort 6 2019-20 in Fall 2019, as first-year students (pre-proposal stage)

  • Arabidopsis thaliana: naturalized vs. native
  • Hunting for symbiotic viruses on parasitoid wasps
  • The effects of climate change and latitude on climate change
  • The maternal effects on mutant lines of Arabidopsis thaliana when exposed to heavy metals
  • What are the maternal effects of heavy metals on Arabidopsis thaliana?

Cohort 5 2018-19 in Fall 2019, as second-year students (research results)

  • Blinded by the light: how light pollution affects the development of Xenopus laevis
  • Climate change impact on seed establishment of a critically endangered species
  • Population structure of Mimulus ringens across a latitudinal gradient
  • Variation in drought response in locally adapted populations of Arabidopsis thaliana

Cohort 5 2018-19 in Fall 2018, as first-year students (pre-proposal stage)

  • Phenotypic changes over increasing altitude in Arabidpsis thaliana along its non-native range
  • The effect of CO2 and drought on stomatal surface on an endangered endemism
  • Variation in cold tolerance across latitudinal gradient of Mimulus ringens (Monkey flower)
  • Adaptation through gene loss in Arabidopsis thaliana
  • The effects of light pollution on the behavior and development of frogs