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Evolution & Systematics
Life is in a constant state of revision in response to evolutionary pressures such as environmental change. In the Clark lab we seek to understand these adaptive changes by studying evolutionary signatures in genes and regulatory sequences. Our computational methods leverage convergent evolution, in which independent phylogenetic lineages evolve the same phenotype, to discover the genetic changes underlying specific adaptations.
Montane ecosystems of the Cascades Range provide a simple, naturally replicated system to test a wide range of evolutionary and ecological processes, from the origin of cold-specialized species to the role of ecological diversification in community assembly. My research focuses on groups of insects that are dispersal limited microhabitat specialists of snowfield and riparian ecosystems. Based on extensive sampling and genetic data, I discuss biogeographic models that explain the origin, current distribution and pattern of endemism in these insects.
Avian eggs are remarkably varied in their color, pattern, shape, size and ultrastructure. What evolutionary forces have affected their appearance and form? Using a multidisciplinary approach, I will explore the phenotypic diversity of avian eggs from functional and mechanistic perspectives, focusing on cuckoo egg mimicry, speckled songbird eggs, shorebird egg camouflage and nano-scale shell structure.