Postdoc in the group of Biodiversity Dynamics
My main interests are in speciation, adaptive radiation, hybridization and evolutionary genomics. I would like to understand what factors constrain or facilitate speciation and what factors maintain biodiversity. These factors may include different ecological or geographical conditions, patterns of gene flow, mate preferences, genetic incompatibilities or demographic events. I am also very interested in the role of hybridization in the generation and loss of species diversity.
Much of the biodiversity is thought to have evolved in adaptive radiations, i.e. bursts of speciation events, associated with adaptation to different niches. Therefore, understanding the evolution of adaptive radiation is key to understand how biodiversity evolves.
African cichlids are an ideal system as they have undergone rapid adaptive radiations in several lakes and show an incredibly high species diversity. There are many replicate cases of adaptation and speciation that can be used for comparisons to draw more general conclusions. We focus mainly on the cichlids in Lake Victoria and nearby lakes. In Lake Victoria, 500 species evolved in only ~15'000 years, implying an incredibly high speciation rate. The same cichlid lineage has also formed adaptive radiations in all other major lakes in the Lake Victoria Region. In each radiation, the species are adapted to different niches e.g. they may utilize different depth ranges or food sources such as algae, insect larvae, zooplankton, fish eggs, detritus, snails, or smaller fish. The young age of these species allows us to better disentangle processes involved in speciation from those acting after speciation is complete. The study of these processes is further aided by the availability of species pairs covering the entire continuum from weakly divergent populations to species with complete reproductive isolation.
Next generation sequencing (NGS) technologies have revolutionized the field of evolutionary genetics. I use a combination of RADsequencing and whole-genome sequencing to study the evolutionary history and signatures of selection and hybridization in cichlid fishes in Lake Victoria.
Population genomics of adaptive radiation: Studying the genomic architecture of adaptation and speciation in African cichlids