A major theme of my research is understanding the extent to which genome evolution is driven by Darwinian natural selection as opposed to the accumulation of random genetic changes (neutral evolution). I use bioinformatic approaches to study the various processes that effect the composition of genomes, such as mutation, selection, recombination, population history and genetic drift. I am interested in the effect of these processes on patterns of genetic variation both within and between species. Some specific projects are:
Genetic basis of adaptation in honeybees
The honeybee Apis mellifera is vital for maintaining levels of biodiversity and agricultural production through its role in plant pollination. However, it is threatened by several factors, including pathogens, biological invasions, climate change and pollution. We are surveying genetic variation across the entire genome in these populations using next-generation sequencing in order to identify the molecular basis of traits under selection for adaptation to different environments and disease resistance. This project is collaboration with Ingemar Fries.
The role of selection in dog domestication
Dogs are the most phenotypically diverse mammal. But what is the origin of their huge genetic variation, and what genetic factors control it? By comparing patterns of genetic variation between dog breeds and their wild ancestor, the wolf, we are investigating the role of natural selection in generating the genetic diversity present in modern dogs.
Dog disease genetics
We are analysing large-scale dog genotyping data as part of the LUPA project. We are using association studies to identify causative alleles for a wide variety of diseases in dogs. This project is in collaboration with Kerstin Lindblad-Toh, Leif Andersson and more than 20 other groups across Europe.
Recombination and genome evolution
Meiotic recombination is a fundamental biological process for two reasons: it is required for the proper segregation of chromosomes, and it maintains genetic variation upon which natural selection can act. In addition, recombination can affect genome evolution through nonadaptive processes such as mutation or biased gene conversion. Recombination events are not randomly distributed along chromosomes but occur in distinct hotspots. We are using bioinformatic approaches to study the evolution of recombination hotspots and their effects on genome evolution in mammals.