We investigate evolutionary and ecological mechanisms that shape genetic and phenotypic variation within and among populations and species. Many of our questions are centered around understanding the contribution of demography and adaptive evolution to spatio-temporal variation in natural populations that may eventually lead to speciation. We are further interested in deciphering the mechanistic basis of phenotypes, including life-history traits and coloration that are under strong spatially varying or sexual selection in natural populations.
To address these questions, we combine state-of-the-art bioinformatic approaches at the genomic, transcriptomic and epigenetic level with lab- and field-based quantitative phenotypic assays focusing on two insect model systems:
- closely related scavenger fly species of the genus Sepsis
- fruit flies of the genus Drosophila
In addition, we want to better understand eco-evolutionary dynamics resulting from host-microbe interactions. To this end, we primarily investigate fitness-related and behavioral effects of Wolbachia endosymbionts on Drosophila melanogaster hosts. Our analyses are not limited to the core nuclear genome, but will be extended towards the hologenome, i.e. the collective genome of the host and all of its symbiotic microbes. This allows to unravel genetic signals of conflicting and cooperative interactions between the host and its tightly associated microbiota.