Evolutionary Biology

The Blackman Lab extensively researches sunflowers

Ben Blackman

Evolutionary biology is a subdiscipline of the biological sciences concerned with the origin of life and the diversification and adaptation of life forms over time. These processes include natural selection, common descent, and speciation. 

The Blackman Lab focuses on the diversification in the phenotypic plasticity of developmental timing. Because environments fluctuate daily and seasonally, the onsets of major life history events--e.g. germination and flowering—or the daily peaks in activities affecting plant growth and reproduction are responses partly or wholly cued by environmental signals.

These responses are often the products of adaptive evolution because as species expand their ranges, colonize new environments, or adjust to historical and recent anthropogenic changes, the combination of environmental cues predictive for the optimal timing of developmental transitions may change dramatically.  The Blackman Lab applies tools from molecular, quantitative and population genomics in the lab and field to understand how and why diversity in these responses evolves across space and time.

Disease etiology, ecological niche, form and function vary between fungal speciesDisease etiology, ecological niche, form and function vary between fungal species

 

The Brem lab studies natural genetic variation and evolution in fungi. Small fungal genomes are a great model for evolutionary genetics, especially in eukaryotes—that is, what we learn about fungi will often teach us general principles about how plants and animals evolve, too. Fungal geneticists focus on how pathogenic fungi have specialized to their hosts, and how fungi in forests, deserts, and jungles have adapted to their niches. The Brem lab seeks to answer these questions genetically, finding the natural DNA sequence variants that make each of these organisms unique.