I have a long standing interest in understanding how organisms cope with the challenges they face and how this drives phenotypic evolution. New genomic techniques are providing new insights into understanding adaptation and phenotypic evolution.
Stapley J, Reger J, Feulner, PGD, Smadja C, Galindo J, Ekblom R, Bennison C, Ball A, Beckerman AP and Slate J. (2010) Adaptation Genomics: the next generation, Trends in Ecology and Evolution 25:705-712 (pdf).
Kokko H, Chaturvedi A, Croll D, Fischer MC, Karrenberg S, Kerr B, Rolshausen G and Stapley J. (in press) Can evolution supply what ecology demands? Trends in Ecology and Evolution.
Mutation and recombination
Adaptation is determined by two fundamental parameters; mutation, that generates heritable genetic variation, and recombination, that determines the efficacy of selection to fix beneficial adaptive alleles. These parameters influence the genomic context of an adaptive allele and the adaptive potential of a population or species. How these evolutionary parameters evolve is a long-standing question in evolutionary biology and the focus of much of my current research.
Variation in mutation rate
Mutations are the ultimate source of genetic variation, and mutation rate can vary temporally and spatially. One of my current projects is investigating how mutation rate is influenced by stress in Arabidopsis. The other is investigating how Transposable elements (TEs) are involved in adaptation and how these may contribute to the success of invasive species.
Stapley J, Santure, AW and Dennis, SR (2015) Transposable elements as agents of rapid adaptation may explain the genetic paradox of invasive species. Molecular Ecology 22: 2241-2252 (pdf)
Variation in recombination rate
Recombination rate varies across species, between individuals and across the genome. For example, in the zebra finch the recombination rate varies between chromosomes as well as along the chromosome (for more detail). There has been a lot of progress in this field recently and together with Philine Feulner, Susan Johnston Anna Santure and Carole Smadga we are editing a special issue of the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society on “Evolutionary causes and consequences of recombination rate variation in sexual organisms”.