I’m broadly interested in population genetics/genomics, landscape genetics, invasive species, disease vectors, conservation, and human evolution and health. My graduate work combined genetic tools and spatial analyses to understand gene flow and the invasion dynamics of the Yellow Fever mosquito (Aedes aegypti). Ae. aegpyti is an invasive species that has colonized much of the tropical and subtropical world, and it is a primary vector for dengue, Zika, chikungunya, and yellow fever. As a postdoc I am exploring population genomics of another widespread species, Homo sapiens!
Migration and adaptation in humans in eastern Africa
The high diversity of ethnicities, languages, and environments in eastern Africa offer an exceptional opportunity to explore the variables that shape migration and genetic structure in humans. I am developing a machine learning method for identifying the variables which best explain migration rates, with migration rate calculated from shared identical-by-descent tracts between individuals. To further test how environment, subsistence strategy, and disease are exerting selection in eastern Africa, I am advising two undergraduates in their research projects using genome-wide selection scans and haplotype networks.
Leadership and bioinformatics with CAAPA
I am co-leader of a population genetics working group with >30 international collaborators through the Consortium on Asthma among African-Ancestry Populations in the Americas (CAAPA). We are currently sequencing >300 individuals from 14 diverse populations, and I am troubleshooting and running some of the computational pipelines for alignment and variant calling. I am also helping to lead the planning of the flagship paper(s) that will be released with the new genomes.
Modeling genetic connectivity in humans and vectors
Landscape genetics involves integrating population genetics with spatial analyses in order to detect and describe gene flow. By combining a random forest modeling approach with an iterative optimization procedure I developed a method to integrate genetic and environmental data to map landscape connectivity. I applied and validated the method for the Aedes aegypti mosquito, with the goal of informing vector control, particularly the release of genetically modified or Wolbachia-infected mosquitoes. I am also adapting the method to take advantage of higher resolution genomic data available for many human populations.
Invasion dynamics in a mosquito disease vector
The Yellow Fever mosquito was first detected in northern California (CA) in 2013 and in southern CA in 2014. Using genetic analyses (microsatellites and SNPs) and approximate Bayesian computation, our work shows that the northern and southern CA groups are genetically distinct and originated from separate invasions. I have expanded on this work to consider the new invasion into Las Vegas (2017), and the invasion history across North America more broadly.
Decision-making in red harvester ants
Social insect colonies use interactions among workers to regulate collective behavior. Previous studies of the activation of foragers in red harvester ants show that an outgoing forager inside the nest experiences an increase in brief antennal contacts before it leaves the nest to forage. With Dr. Deborah, Jovel Queirolo and I investigated whether ants that leave the nest experienced more interactions than those that did not, how the rate of forager return affects the number of available foragers in the entrance chamber, and where most interactions occur.