Unravelling the interplay between development, evolution, and ecology remains one of the great challenges in mathematical biology. Developmental biologists and ecologists alike prefer to emphasize phenotypic traits, but the availability of genetic data makes genetic models uniquely powerful, in addition to being fundamental to evolutionary processes. I present three vignettes of integration. First, G-matrix patterns that are typically attributed to pleiotropic constraint can also be caused by clonal interference in a rapidly adapting population. Second, I describe circumstances in which development, through its impact on relative mutation rates, can alter the direction of adaptive evolution even in the presence of clonal interference. Third, to integrate population genetics with population dynamics without assuming separation of timescales, I present a novel variable-density generalization of the Wright-Fisher model. Traditional population genetic approximations break down when populations are not at demographic equilibrium, and when there is pleiotropy between traits affecting different stages of the life cycle.
Most of the work in my group these days is connected in some way to evolvability. I am most interested in models that explicitly capture mechanistic constraints, whether from biochemistry, genetics, cellular biology, physiology, or ecology, and work out their evolutionary consequences. Specific interests at the moment include the robustness and evolvability of biological systems, the origins of coding sequences from non-coding ancestors, and the tension between relative and absolute competitions in evolution, ecology, and economics.
I am a Professor in the department of Ecology & Evolutionary Biology, and am a member of Graduate Interdisciplinary Programs (GIDP) in Applied Math, Genetics, and Statistics, the Ethology and Evolutionary Psychology graduate program, and the Biochemistry and Cellular Molecular Biology graduate program. I am also a member of the BIO5 Institute.