I began my Ph.D. studying the evolution of spawning strategies in externally fertilizing marine invertebrates. Through the course of my degree, however, my research has increasingly focused on theoretical population genetics. My theoretical work has ranged from examining how sexually antagonistic selection over the timing of reproduction can maintain polymorphism and variances in population phenologies in broadcast spawners, to the population genetic consequences of sex-specific selection and genetic linkage in hermaphrodites.
You can also find some of my current and past research projects on GitHub
My thesis research at the University of Calgary focused on ecological and evolutionary determinants of plant-pollinator network structure. My work addressed the following main topics: 1) to what extent do species phenologies, abundances, and morphology determine plant-pollinator visitation network structure? More specifically, can these factors accurately predict both species’ interaction frequencies and metrics of quantitative network structure? I found that the models that predicted network structural metrics best were very poor predictors of species interaction frequencies (and vice versa). Future analyses of pollination networks should emphasize accurate prediction of species interactions rather than metrics, as it is species interactions which ultimately influence reproductive success and thus network dynamics.
My other work at the UoC investigated the role of community context and pollinator mediated interactions in the evolution of plant species flowering display strategies and gender dynamics. In plants with multiple flowers organized into inflorescences, ‘flowering phenology’ happens at both the individual & population levels, and plants can often augment their flowering display in response to pollinator availability. In protandrous species, individual level flowering phenologies result in individudals having dynamic functional gender throughout their flowering display. My work asks firstly whether community context (presence/absence of a putative competitor) affects reproductive success for two focal species, and whether this can influence selection on phenological traits that determine gender dynamics?
At the University of Hawaii at Manoa I had the good fortune to work with Dr. Tadashi Fukami. Tad’s interest in community assembly rubbed off on me, and I conducted a protist microcosm experiment in his lab investigating the effects of predator arrival timing on prey community succession (The American Naturalist 173: 354-362). Later on, Tad and I conducted another experiment using marine biofouling communities in Kaneohe Bay to investigate how communities of different ages respond to physical disturbance. We found that the timing of disturbance can be very important in determining how communities recover. Preliminary results suggest that the underlying mechanism has to do with differences in recruitment strategies among community members that effectively occupy space made available by disturbance, and their relative abundance at the time of disturbance.