Research at the Nunez Lab
We tackle fundamental questions in the fields of population genetics and evolutionary genomics using a combination of computational, experimental, and multi-omics approaches. Current areas of research include:
The dynamics of rapid evolution in fluctuating ecosystems: A major focus of our lab is to understand how organisms adapt to highly variable ecosystems. We focus on cases where phenotypes and/or alleles evolve to track rapid, and often cyclical, changes in the environment (i.e., adaptive tracking). In this context, we ask questions about the degrees of parallelism and predictability of rapid evolution across natural populations. Some case studies of this work include:
Genetic adaptations to seasonality
Selection across intertidal micro-habitats
Host-pathogen arm-races and seasonal infection dynamics
Our work uses fruit flies (Drosophila), marine systems (barnacles and sea urchins), and simulations.
The genomic consequences of boom-and-bust demography in seasonal populations: Our lab is keen on understanding the interplay between demography and selection in systems that experience cyclical bottlenecks concomitant with fluctuating selection. We do this primarily using overwintering fruit flies living in temperate environments. We are interested in understanding whether some types of genomic architectures are more or less likely to evolve in these scenarios and their consequences for the maintenance of genetic variation.
Historical phylogeography of natural populations: We seek to infer fundamental demographic parameters from natural populations. Our main foci include 1) the post-glacial expansion and colonization of marine systems in the North Atlantic, and 2) the historical phylogeography of cosmopolitan drosophilids.
Balancing selection on metabolic enzymes: We use -"omics" data to characterize signatures of balancing selection on metabolic enzymes. We seek to build a comprehensive understanding of selection in these kinds of loci: from molecular phenotypes to individual mutations. Much of our work has centered on the case study of the mannose-6-phosphate isomerase (Mpi) in barnacles.
Maintaining and expanding worldwide Drosophila datasets: Our lab is a major contributor to the largest genomic dataset and toolkit for natural populations of Drosophila, DEST (https://dest.bio).