Disruptions in panmixia (random mating among individuals) ultimately leads to genetic structuring. Because the pattern of genetic structuring depends on the ecological mechanism that generates the disruption, population genetics data can be used to elucidate these disruptive mechanisms and provide indirect inferences on important aspects of population biology such as mating systems, dispersal patterns or historical processes. Population genetics data are of special relevance for parasitic organisms and illusive species of conservation concern where direct observation of population dynamics, dispersal or even species identification is either impossible or logistically difficult. My research incorporates population genetics theory combined with field collections and laboratory manipulations to investigate fundamental but largely unstudied aspects of parasite ecology and evolution, mating system dynamics and host conservation biology.
Parasite Molecular Ecology and Evolution
I am interested in the interplay between host-parasite ecology and evolution. Parasites are ubiquitous and integral components of aquatic and terrestrial habitats. However, little is known about the factors that can shape the genetic diversity and population structure of digenean and monogenean parasites. Moreover, parasites are rarely considered within the context of ecological theory outside of their influence on host species. I integrate population genetic data into investigations of theoretical ecological principles in order to bring parasites into the larger conservation of interactions between organisms, heterogeneous environments and eco-evolutionary processes.
Applied Conservation Genetics
The complexity of host-parasite systems is such that it is often difficult to disentangle ecological patterns and processes without investigating both parasite and host in concert. I apply population genetics and demographic monitoring to examine population connectivity and viability for host species of conservation concern or management interest. By combining data from both host and parasite, I am better able to isolate the mechanisms that drive host and parasite population connectivity and provide managers with a unique approach to conservation.