Projects

I’m broadly interested in population genetics/genomics, landscape genetics, invasive species, disease vectors, and conservation. My current research combines genetic tools and spatial analyses to understand gene flow and the invasion dynamics of the Yellow Fever mosquito (Aedes aegypti). A. aegpytiis 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.

Invasion dynamics in California

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 for 12 populations in California and 16 populations across the southern United States and northern Mexico, our work shows that the northern and southern CA groups are genetically distinct and originated from separate invasions.


Landscape genetics

Landscape genetics is a burgeoning field that combines population genetics with spatial analyses in order to detect and describe gene flow. It works by assigning resistance costs to different landscape features and calculating ‘effective distances’ through landscapes, and comparing these to genetic distances between populations or individuals. It allows us to detect corridors and barriers to animal movement and gene flow. Using a landscape genetics approach, I’m studying how the Yellow Fever mosquito (Aedes aegypti) moves across different landscapes and through human transportation networks at multiple scales: city, state, and national.


Range limits and adaptation

Numerous factors constrain the distribution and range limits of any given species. For example, the yellow fever mosquito is likely constrained by climate at its northern boundary, and it is thought to be excluded from most of the U.S. southeast by competition with the Asian tiger mosquito (Aedes albopictus), which was introduced . I’m interested in studying how the yellow fever mosquito may be expanding its distribution through adaptation and due to climate change.


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. More details and results are available here.