Evolution, Ecology and Population Biology
Graduate Student Coordinator: Melissa Torres
Evolution, Ecology and Population Biology Faculty Director: Jim Cheverud, Ph.D.
The Evolution, Ecology and Population Biology Program combines population genetics, phylogenetic and ecological perspectives to study the origins and maintenance of biodiversity. It is a diverse program that combines field studies with the technical advances of molecular genetics and mathematical theory to gain an understanding of evolutionary history and environmental biology.
Population genetic studies ask: "What kinds of genetic variation (including human populations and medically relevant variation) occur in natural populations? How do population genetic processes lead to the evolution of new species and adaptation?"
Studies of phylogeny ask: "What are the evolutionary relationships of different plant and animal species? How do historically acquired developmental and functional constraints channel morphological and ecological evolution in different lineages? What kinds of developmental processes underlie the evolutionary diversification of different plant and animal groups?"
Ecological experiments provide crucial information on how organisms meet environmental challenges: "At which stages of the life cycle is mortality most severe and how do different species interact to establish ecological communities?"
Studies of these issues are geographically and taxonomically diverse. Local projects include studies of the effects of genetic fragmentation on the evolution of many animal and plant populations in the Missouri glades. Experiments on the behavioral ecology and life history of vertebrate populations are conducted at the local Tyson Research Center which has a diverse vertebrate fauna.
Studies on a global scale address planr diversity in the tropics, South Amercian ethnobotany, adaptive radiation of lizards on Caribbean islands, speciation and adaptive evolution of Hawaiian insect fauna and the conservation biology of African large mammals.
The Program's close association with the Missouri Botanical Garden is conductive to the systematic study of plant diversity on a worldwide scale. Studies of the conservation biology of exotic large animals are facilitated by collaborations with the nearby St. Louis Zoo. Additional major foci of research include the processes of molecular evolution, genetics of transposable elements and multigene families, quantitative genetics of primate morphological evolution and primate behavior and speciation.