ecological adaptation

Animals can be shaped by their environments through natural selection, phenotypic plasticity as well as epigenetic mechanisms. Teasing apart the roles of these complex processes is key not only to understand how organisms are adapted to their ecosystems (i.e., both abiotic conditions and biotic interactions), but also to understand how resilient or sensitive they may be to environmental changes and human impacts. Additionally, identifying key genes underlying specific traits such as environmental tolerance or life history (e.g., homing & migration) can serve as diagnostic tools to promote resilient populations or assess risk.

2017 NOAA field team scanning the waters for leatherback turtles in Eastern Pacific foraging grounds, where we successfully took our first samples for the leatherback genome project!

Our research group studies these questions by combining functional genomic tools (e.g., transcriptomics and whole genome sequencing) with collaborative, complementary approaches to assess organismal responses and traits, such as environmental tolerance, biochemical assays, metabolic rate, habitat utilization (via animal telemetry & stable isotopes), and body condition assessments. Current projects include:

Pacific leatherback foraging off the California coast after making the long-distance migration from Western Pacific nesting grounds (this turtle was previously tagged in Indonesia).                                                                                                          Photo: H. Harris; NMFS Research Permit #1596


We will likely have upcoming opportunities on current and future ecological adaptation research. If you are interested in these projects, please see our opportunities page! 


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