CURRENT LAB MEMBERS
ARMIN P. MOCZEK, Principal Investigator
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I’m fascinated by how novel complex traits originate in development and evolution. I want to know what it takes genetically, developmentally, and ecologically for novel traits and trait variants to arise from ancestral variation, and how such events may set to stage for subsequent major evolutionary transitions and adaptive radiations. I appreciate all types of organismal diversity, but insects have always been especially fascinating to me. My research employs diverse insect models, but especially horned beetles in the genus Onthophagus, to explore the nature of innovation and diversification in the natural world.
ANNA MACAGNO, Senior Research Associate
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I am a broadly trained entomologist with a research background spanning the systematics and evolution of morphology of Onthophagus beetles, the community ecology and conservation of dung beetles, and the ecology, distribution, and conservation of saproxylic beetles and dragonflies. As a member of the Moczek lab, I am using Onthophagus beetles to study the parallel divergence of male and female copulatory structures, the role of appendage-patterning genes in their development, and the evolution of ovarian development in populations subject to different levels of competition.
The origin and modification of evolutionary novelties such as butterfly wing patterns or beetle horns are key topics in evolutionary developmental biology. My interests are focused on the mechanisms of the origination and diversification of novel traits. What are the genes, gene classes, and signaling pathways that enable and/or bias innovation in evolution and the phenotypic variation thath underpins it? How do they interact with environmental factors to regulate developmental trajectories and outcomes and account for phenotypic plasticity? I use beetle horns and horned beetles as model systems to explore these questions.
I am deeply fascinated by the morphological diversity that can be found on this planet; and how, bafflingly, so few genes, developmental pathways, and morphogenetic processes suffice to generate seemingly endless shapes and forms. Accordingly, my research interests are rooted in understanding how complex novel traits may arise by deploying old genes and gene networks within new developmental and evolutionary contexts. My current work focuses on the evolutionarily dynamic dorsal head of insects, and the way in which embryonic head patterning genes are co-opted, recruited, and rewired to pattern novel, post-embryonic structures, such as the horns of Onthophagus beetles.
As an evolutionary ecologist I am broadly interested in how the astonishing diversity of insect shapes, sizes and reproductive strategies originated, how it is maintained, and how it diversifies. I integrate multivariate quantitative genetic, comparative, and experimental approaches to understand the complex interplay between ecology, evolution and developmental plasticity. My current research centers on how insects deal with novel environmental regimes in both the short and long-term. I am particularly interested in the role of developmental plasticity in channeling evolutionary divergence within and across various species.
JOSHUA JONES, Graduate Student
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The communities of microbes that exist within a given space is known as the microbiome. I am broadly interested in the symbioses between organisms and their respective microbiomes. Research into these relationships can give us pivotal insight into the roles that microbes play in their host’s evolution and ecology and vise versa. From neutrient uptake and amino acid synthesis to development and reproduction, microbes have been shown to undertake many processes to their host’s benefits. I believe Onthophagus to be a particularly good model for investigating many of these interactions
EDUARDO ZATTARA, Postdoctoral Researcher
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I have a long standing interest in the role of developmental bias in channeling evolutionary change by vetoing certain evolutionary trajectories while facilitating others. Central to this concept is the notion that developmental programs interact with environmental conditions to create a rugged landscape of potential change, while evolution traces paths of least resistance through that landscape. In my research I investigate the nature and consequences of developmental channeling in the evolution of novel traits during post-embryonic development, from annelids and nemerteans to insects.
ERIK PARKER, Graduate Student
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My research background is in the study of phenotypic divergence between Three-spined Stickleback populations, primarily through the use of geometric morphometrics. Now I am eager to begin exploring the role of the environment during development. I am particularly interested in how niche construction alters the selective environment organisms experience, and what effect those alterations have on adaptation and subsequent trait evolution.
KAYLA COPPER, Research Assistant
JORDAN CRABTREE, Research Assistant
LEVI BURDINE, High School Intern