Research interests

I have pretty broad interests in population and evolutionary genetics. This page will provide an overview of topics I am currently pursuing.

Dynamics of deleterious genetic variation

One of the more interesting fundamental discoveries to come out of population genetics within the past couple of decades is that a substantial proportion of mutations have very slight negative effects on organismal fitness. I am interested in how the levels of this variation are impacted by the structure and history of populations as well as it’s origin. What regions of the genome tend to have deleterious consequences for fitness and why?

General models for quantitative trait distributions

Neutral models for quantitative trait evolution have been useful for identifying phenotypes under selection in natural populations. However such models tend to assume that the distribution of breeding values is normal and are generally only applicable to a particular scale of population or species divergence. I am interested in developing a general mathematical model for the neutral distribution of quantitative trait using coalescent theory and making as few assumptions as possible about the history and structure of populations, the mutational effect distribution, and the trait architecture.

Model based analyses of selection during population and species divergence

Many interesting patterns tend to emerge as one examines genome-wide variation between populations and recently diverged species. Plotting genetic diversity or divergence along chromosomes may reveal a variety of peaks, valleys, or plateaus. But what are the evolutionary forces responsible for these patterns? When evaluating the evidence for different scenarios it helps to have a predictive model. Simple models models of allele frequency divergence under background selection, selective sweeps, and balancing selection can be built with a normal approximation. Fitting these models to population samples of allele frequencies can allow us to weigh the evidence for different evolutionary scenarios.