Join the Lab

Prospective Graduate Students

If you are interested in joining the lab as an M.S. or Ph.D. student, you should send me an email (mylastname /at/ to explain your interest in the lab. It helps if you provide information about your academic background, including prior research experience, academic performance, and GRE scores so that I can see how you’re likely to fare in the applicaton process. It is also important to explain what specifically interests you about our lab.

Note that the Biology Department deadline for applications is January 1st, which is substantially earlier than the deadline set by the university.

Graduate students are likely to join one of the following projects, but are encouraged to develop their own angle within the broader goals of the lab:

1. The evolution of Cryptophyte biodiversity. This is a collaboarative project with Tammi Richardson’s phytoplankton ecology lab. Cryptophytes have unusually diverse photosynthetic pigments, and a complicated evolutionary history involving secondary endosymbiosis. We are broadly interested in the relationships among taxonomic divergence, niche differentiation with respect to light spectrum, and molecular evolution in explaining the diversity of Cryptophyte photosynthesis. Students who join this project could pursue work in biogeography, phylogeneomics, experimental transcriptomics, experimental evolution, phylogenetic comparisons, community ecology, or some combination of these.

2. The evolution of vision in Daphnia. Daphnia have remarkably sophisticated vision, and we have been exploring both the consequences of variation in eye size (which controls how much light is necessary to see), and of variation in color vision. We have documented genetic variation of eye size within populations, variation among species, sexual dimorphism, variation of sexual dimorphism, ontogenetic variation, and phenotypic plasticity of eye size — and now we’re interested in understanding what all this variation means. We have recently shown that there can be strong directional selection on eye size. With respect to color vision, we have traced the evolutionary history of the opsin gene family in Daphnia, and predicted which genes are associated with variation in visual function. Students who join this project could pursue work in experimental ecology (e.g., identifying the mechanisms of selection on eye size), comparative physiology (e.g., measuring visual function under different conditions), or molecular ecology (e.g. comparing expression of different opsins).

3. The consequences of spontaneous mutation for phenotypic plasticity. We are interested in how spontaneous mutations influence environment-specific gene expression, and how that links to plasticity of organismal phenotypes. Students joining this project could exploit existing mutation accumulation lines (some have >400 generations of mutation, others are at ~70 generations), initiate their own mutation accumulation experiment, or focus on undertanding the strucure of life history tradoffs across multiple scales of geneetic differentiation.

For more information on projects, see the Ideas & Projects page, the Publications page, or the Lab Haiku Project.

You can find more information on our graduate program here.


Prospective post-docs should contact me well in advance to discuss funding opportunities and fellowship applications. Post-docs are likely to work on projects related to those described above, but may potentially work on other evolutionary topics with Daphnia or Cryptophyta. We have an open post-doc position in phenotypic plasticity and spontaneous mutation in Daphnia. Currently, NSF Post-Doctoral Fellowships include an emphasis on using museum collections, and we have some ideas about how to incorporate that in our work on vision.