2007 B.S. Biology and Chemistry, Valparaiso University, Valparaiso, IN
2013 Ph.D. Ecology, Evolution, and Population Biology, Washington University, St. Louis, MO
Populations of a species are often distributed across environments that vary greatly in their climate, geology, and biotic communities. Characterizing when and how populations adapt to thrive in local habitats is an essential goal, as it allows us to understand patterns of natural variation within and among species, discover agronomically important variants, or determine the ability of populations to adapt to changing conditions. In my lab, we use plants as model systems to explore the process of adaptation via identifying the genetic variation that underlies adaptive phenotypic variation, and characterizing the selective forces that create and maintain phenotypic variation in nature.
A number of basic questions in evolutionary biology underlie my research including: What types of genes and mutations underlie adaptive variants? How fast and predictable is the process of adaptation? What are the constraints and ecosystem consequences of adaptation? I am particularly focused on how adaptation occurs in response to drought stress, herbivore pressure, and competition, as these are almost universally important agents of selection for plants that are essential for predicting responses to climatic change and developing improved crops. The way plants adapt to these selective factors is often complex. Adaptations involve multifarious selection pressures targeting several phenotypes and genes, and these selection pressures may vary over time and space. Disentangling this remarkable complexity to distill general conclusions about the adaptive process remains an essential but elusive challenge. My research confronts this challenge with an integrative approach that combines ecological field studies, manipulative experiments in the greenhouse, and population genetic theory with modern genomics and bioinformatic tools.
Please visit the Kooyers Lab website to learn more about our work.