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W.T. Edmondson Endowed Lecture: Through the widow’s web; Using extreme mating behaviour to untangle plasticity

If the traits that confer increased reproductive success vary with environmental context, and information about context is available to juveniles during development, then adaptive developmental plasticity (ADP) may evolve. Here I show how male widow spiders (genus Latrodectus) are useful for testing hypotheses about ADP because their relatively short lifespans and well-documented, extreme mating behaviours allow strong predictions about how phenotypes are expected to shift under variable social contexts.

Evolution in the Age of Us: Mechanisms of adaptation to a human-modified world

Understanding the proximate (physiological/developmental) and ultimate (evolutionary) mechanisms that drive adaptive responses to human-altered environments is among the most pressing concerns of contemporary organismal biology and conservation. Human modifications to the natural world present extreme and novel environments for many species around the globe, and offer unique opportunities to study the process of evolution in real-time.

Mechanics of anteroposterior axis formation in vertebrates

Measuring cell-generated forces and tissue mechanical properties in vivo and in situ has proven very difficult. For this reason, our understanding of how feedback loops between biochemical signaling and mechanics contribute to robust multicellular morphogenesis is still poor. To address this limitation, I helped develop a technique based on ferrofluid droplets which allows to measure multiple mechanical parameters at time- and length-scales relevant for embryonic development.

There are always flowers for those who want to see them

The integration of developmental genetics and evolution is providing a powerful synthesis towards understanding the mechanisms underlying the generation of biodiversity. Functional studies across the phylogenetic landscape are facilitating a comparative, integrative view highlighting that genes are mostly repurposed into new roles. I will present micro- and macro-evolutionary approaches on the evolutionary consequences of the emergence of novel traits in three distinct plant systems: an angiosperm, a gymnosperm and a fern.


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