I am primarily interested in using molecular techniques to study micro/macro-evolutionary and ecological processes, essentially trying to understand how populations and species are structured both spatially and temporally. The vast majority of my research has focused on mammals, from larger ungulates and carnivores, right down to rodents and shrews. At present, I am mainly working in four core areas:
1. Adaptation and ecology of invasive species.
Species that have been introduced recently represent ideal models to study and understand the genetics of invasive and/or expanding populations and how these species become adapted to new environments over relatively short periods of time in terms of both genotype and phenotype, and how they rapidly impact native species/populations. I am currently working with collaborators on genomic and phenotypic changes at different points of the greater white-toothed shrew (Crocidura russula) invasion in Ireland and its impacts on the indigenous pygmy shrew (Sorex minutus).
2. Range-wide adaptation in mammals.
Adaptation to the local environment is key to the long-term persistence of populations. This is particularly relevant in the 21st century as human disturbance and climate change become important drivers of rapid evolutionary change. I am currently investigating range-wide adaptation to different environmental variables in red foxes (Vulpes vulpes) in Europe using next-generation sequencing to identify important regions of the genome under selection in particular environments.
3. Landscape genetics/genomics and spatial ecology.
Landscape genetics has changed the way we think about how gene flow occurs in complex landscape and environments. We are investigating how habitat selection and dispersal behaviour in large herbivores in the Rocky Mountains of western Canada (elk Cervus elaphus and caribou) and mammals in Poland (weasels Mustela nivalis, red foxes and voles Microtus sp.) influences gene flow.
4. Phylogeography and colonization history
Phylogeography has revealed much of how species responded to past environments over the millenia. While we certainly know a lot about the effects of past climate fluctuations, what is less certain is what effects these have had in determining the current distribution of species and genetic lineages. We are investigating the roles of more northern refugia and potential adaptation stemming from isolation in certain refugia in multiple European and North American mammals using genomics and ancient DNA.
Subject Editor (Genetics, Genomics and Conservation)