What we do

We direct much of our energy towards testing evolutionary theory of species interactions. We tend to focus on parasites, which can impose strong selection in natural systems. We’re often thinking about coevolution, the consequences of coevolution, and the factors that can generate variation in the strength of coevolution in the wild. 

Questions that we’re currently interested in include:

  • Does genetic variation limit the spread of disease?
  • What use is sex?
  • Does reciprocal adaptation limit the efficacy of biological control?
  • Do migrating hosts escape their parasites?
  • How do parasites adapt to heterogeneous host populations?
  • Why be a generalist? (i.e. why do some parasites have such large host ranges?)
  • Why do parasites vary so much in virulence? 

Some approaches we use:

  • field sampling
  • experimental evolution
  • microcosms and mesocosms
  • theory
  • phylogenetic comparisons
  • meta-analysis

We often study nematodes, including:

  • The nematode Caenorhabditis elegans
    • plus its natural parasite, the microsporidia Nematocida parisii
  • Plant-parasitic nematodes of the genus Meloidogyne
    • they attack lots of plant species, including peanuts
    •  Meloidogyne are in turn attacked by bacteria of the genus Pasteuria

Some detailed summaries of our work