Mating behaviors usually involve other non-behavioral traits and can be shaped by ecological and environmental factors. Therefore, behaviors often experience complex selection pressures, including strong sexual selection. The lab works on characterizing the interacting roles of morphological traits, mate quality, and environmental factors in mate choice and sexual selection. Focusing on sexual selection facilitates integrative studies that incorporate animal behavior, mating patterns, ecology, and population dynamics. We use both empirical and theoretical approaches to understand these complex dynamics.
Selection can drive genetic differentiation between populations of a single species in coding and non-coding regions, and many questions remain regarding the relative importance of selection and stochastic processes in causing differentiation, how genetic variation is maintained, and how the genetic architecture of traits impacts genetic divergence. The lab uses individual-based simulations to address these complex evolutionary questions.
We use next-generation sequencing tools to distinguish between signatures of neutral and selective pressures. We are primarily interested in how spatially varying environments and selective pressures impact evolutionary processes. Most of the work to date has been done on the Gulf pipefish, but we are expanding our work to include other Syngnathids.