Matt McElroy, a grad student in the Leache lab, recently received the Raymond B. Huey Award for the best presentation in a symposium sponsored by the Division of Ecology and Evolution at the Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology. The competition is open to graduate students who are presenting independent research in ecology and evolution. This year's competition was held in Palm Springs at the SICB conference.
More on Matt's Research: Matt won the 3rd Annual Huey Award for presenting a portion of his dissertation on thermal adaptation in Puerto Rican Anolis lizards. Matt tested predictions from the Bogert Effect, a classic hypothesis described by Ray Huey, Paul Hertz, and Barry Sinervo (Huey et al., 2003). The Bogert Effect describes how thermoregulatory behaviors may buffer natural selection acting on thermal physiology. Thermoregulating species are able to maintain specific body temperatures despite inhabiting different thermal environments. The Bogert Effect predicts that gene flow should be high - and divergent natural selection weak - for populations of thermoregulating species that span a thermal gradient. Matt tested these predictions in Anolis cristatellus, a thermoregulating species that inhabitats a range of thermal environments on Puerto Rico, including a xeric and hot scrub forest in the Southwest. Matt collected genetic data both island-wide, and along elevational gradients, and found support for a genetically distinct population in the SW that correlates with the xeric scrub forest. Matt also found that genes flow out of the SW xeric forest, and from low to high elevations, but not the other way around. These results are surprising, because the Bogert Effect predicts that there should be bi-directional gene flow between xeric and mesic populations of lizard. These results indicate that there may be strong selection against cool-adapted individuals in warm habitats, but only weak selection against warm-adapted individuals in cool habitats. Therefore, selection on physiological traits may play an important role in generating and maintaining diversity in tropical ectotherms. Furthermore, these results have important implications for conservation, as locally adapted populations in the xeric SW may become a source for adaptive alleles during global climate change.