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headshot of James M. Sobel

James M. Sobel

Chair; Associate Professor

Biological Sciences


Sobel is interested in the clustering of this discontinuous diversity into what we call 'species.' His research focuses on the fundamental diversifying evolutionary processes of adaptation and speciation, and some of the questions that motivate him include: Which forms of reproductive isolation are the most important to the speciation process? What is the genetic and molecular basis of traits involved? What role does adaptation to different habitats play in generating new species? How predictable is the adaptive process? When/why will similar selective pressures result in phenotypic and/or genetic convergence? How do novel adaptive traits evolve? Sobel uses a wide variety of ecological, genetic, genomic, and molecular techniques to characterize empirical examples of adaptive traits associated with the emergence of reproductive isolation between recently diverged species. In an effort to reveal general patterns, he gravitates toward comparative methods and instances of convergent evolution. He uses the wildflower genus Mimulus as his primary study system, and has had the opportunity to gain experience working with many species across this diverse and fascinating group.


  • PhD, Michigan State University
  • BS, Western Michigan University

Research Interests

  • Evolutionary genetics
  • Genomics of adaptation
  • Speciation in plants

Research Profile