Biological & Geological Sciences 3045
Biological & Geological Sciences 2062
(519) 661-2111 x 80470
My research focuses on the effects of landscape features on genetic diversity and structure of populations. The emerging field of landscape genetics combines new molecular tools for analysis of population genetic structure and new statistical tools for analysis of spatially referenced data to assess how landscape structure (i.e. spatial distribution of habitat patches and the nature of the intervening matrix) affects dispersal, gene flow, and the spatial distribution of genetic diversity within species. Comparative multi-species studies, in turn, allow us to investigate how genetic diversity is affected by habitat distribution and life history. During my postdoctoral research I will investigate the combined effects of life history variation and landscape structure on genetic diversity through a comparative study of population genetic structure of several butterfly species occupying spatially structured habitats (Papilio cresphontes, P. troilus, P. polyxenes, P. glaucus).
Within the context of the agricultural landscape of southern Ontario, my study will shed light on the importance of life history traits and spatial distribution of habitats in determining the genetic effects of habitat fragmentation. Despite considerable scientific and practical interest in the issue, we still have much to learn about how the resulting spatial configuration of habitats, the nature of the intervening matrix, or characteristics of the species in question influence the genetic response to fragmentation. Given that fragmentation and loss of natural habitats are among the most serious threats to biological diversity worldwide, understanding how the resulting matrix of habitats influences genetic structuring of populations, particularly for species with specialized habitat requirements, will provide critical information for the maintenance of evolutionary processes in natural populations.
This project is a collaboration with Nusha Keyghobadi and Helene Wagner (University of Toronto, Mississauga).