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Genetics and Genomics
Charles Darwin was a brilliant naturalist who recognized many biological connections through his observations of the natural world. Darwin would no doubt revel in our ability to draw biological inferences from DNA sequences. Of course, we also know that biological inference and biological content are easily conflated and that genomics can only take us so far without proper authentication via empirical biology.
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.