Research

Post-doc:

The sea lamprey (Petromyzon marinus) is an invasive species throughout the Great Lakes of North America.  Each adult lamprey kills up to 40 lbs of commercial fish during its lifecycle and modern control measures have been in place since the 1950s to combat this incredible loss to native fish populations.  With the potential for genome editing and genetic control mechanisms on the horizon, an outstanding evolutionary question in all lampreys is, "What is their sex determination system?"  It remains to be seen if sea lamprey have sex chromosomes, another form of genetic sex determination, strictly environmental sex determination, or if sex determination depends on both genetic and enviromental factors.  Since September of 2019, I have been a post-doctoral fellow funded by the Great Lakes Fishery Commission and supervised by Dr. Margaret Docker and Dr. Colin Garroway at the University of Manitoba, and Dr. Alison Wright at the University of Sheffield.  We are combining comparative genomics and population genetics to investigate the mechanism for sex determination in this invasive species.  This project will bolster the bioinformatics skills I developed during my PhD and expose me to cutting-edge techniques in population genomics.

Sea_Lamprey

Dissertation:

My work is focused on uncovering the genomic changes underlying the repeated independent (convergent) losses of flight reported within the Palaeognathous birds (e.g., Emu, Kiwi, Ostrich).  I am using genetics, genomics, evo-devo, and transcriptomics to identify and test genes and regulatory regions that harbor changes related to this convergent phenotype.

Photo credit: Museum of Comparative Zoology, Harvard University. © President and Fellows of Harvard College. 

Flightless ratites (e.g., Kiwi) share morphological traits across convergent flight losses.  Three common phenotypes are related to forelimb reduction, keel loss and feather modification.

Stage HH21 Rhea americana embryo.  Adult Rheas and Emus (Dromaius novaehollandiae) are flightless Palaeognaths with reduced wings.  Rhea and Emu embryos appear to share a convergent developmental process whereby the forelimb (black arrow) is initiated later than the hindlimb (white arrow) and remains smaller throughout development.  

Additional Projects:

Following up on work from my MSc, I am also investigating the gene family evolution of the newly-discovered Izumo1 binding partner (Juno) on the mammalian egg.  Izumo1 and it's partner Juno are both essential for sperm-egg fusion. Knockouts of these genes result in healthy, but sterile, males (for the Izumo1 knockout) and females (for the Juno knockout).