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.
CRIS LEDÓN-RETTIG, Postdoctoral Researcher
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Developmental plasticity has always been at the heart of my research interests; specifically, I am driven to understand how environmental and endogenous signals interact to create phenotypic variation, and the ecological and evolutionary consequences of such variation. In the past, these interests have led me to address environmental influences (for example, dietary variation) on morphology, hormones and behavior in marine invertebrates, fish, birds and frogs. I am excited to be joining the Moczek lab where I will be investigating the developmental genetic underpinnings of condition-dependent horn expression in Onthophagus beetles.
BARBARA VREEDE, Postdoctoral Researcher
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I seek to understand how the seemingly gradual process of evolution can generate complex novel traits. To do so I explore if and how changes in the architecture of developmental-genetic networks enable evolutionary innovation, and what conditions facilitate or bias their occurrence. Having worked previously on Drosophila egg appendages, my current work focuses on the regulatory networks underlying horned beetle development, in particular the regulation and integration of nutrition-responsive growth, sex-biased development, and tissue-specific differentiation.
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.
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.
SOFIA CASASA, Graduate Student
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I am intrigued by the diversity observed in natural populations and the environment´s role in shaping phenotypic variation. Specifically, I want to address the developmental and genetic mechanisms underlying plasticity and how these contribute to evolutionary change. As a first approach, I am trying to understand the role of the insulin signaling pathway, which directly links nutrition to growth, in the development and evolution of horn polyphenisms in Onthophagus beetles.
GUILLAUME DURY, Graduate Student
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Why do insects act, and interact, the way they do? This broad question is at the heart of my interest in insect behavior, its evolution, and ecology. Particularly, I want to improve our understanding of social behaviors in insects, from gregariousness to parental care, and explore the conditions under which different types of social behaviors originate, transition into each other, or may become lost, and the consequences of these processes. Presently, I focus my work on social behaviors in dung beetles, whose social interactions including parental care exhibit an enormous – and experimentally accessible – diversity.
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.
DANIEL SCHWAB, Graduate Student
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How does the environment influence development and developmental evolution? I am addressing this broad question through two research foci. In the first, I study the role of DNA methylation in mediating the nutritionally responsive, polyphenic development of Onthophagus taurus. Secondly, I study the role of developmental symbiosis between Onthophagus beetles and their gut microbiome in both promoting normative development and in shaping developmental variation.
JUSTINE CHRISTIAN, Research Assistant
KAYLA COPPER, Research Assistant
PEYTON JOACHIM, Research Assistant
KEELEY NEWSOM, Research Assistant
HANNAH BUSEY, STARTS/IFLE Fellow