What we study

The Evolution of Reproductive Barriers

Reproductive barriers are traits that keep species separate, so the evolution of reproductive barriers is what causes new species to arise (i.e., speciation). In the Ostevik lab, we study the evolution of these barriers. In particular, we are interested in which barriers cause speciation, which evolutionary processes (e.g., selection or drift) explain barrier evolution, and what happens to barriers when species hybridize. Read more about previous projects here and here.

Reciprocal transplant site used to measure reproductive barriers at Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve in Colorado.

Sexual Selection in Flowering Plants

Mate choice and sexual selection are well-established diversifying forces in animals, but the extent to which they drive speciation in plants has been largely unexplored. This type of selection may be common in plants where the pollen grains that arrive on stigmas often greatly outnumber the available ovules, which generates competition among those pollen grains. We look for molecular signatures of sexual selection in plants, e.g., in genes expressed in pollen and pistils.

Pollen grains of several plant species (color is added for impact)

Chromosomal Rearrangements

The arrangement of genes in a genome affects whether those genes are likely to be inherited together and, consequently, their evolution. Furthermore, changes to gene order can strongly affect the compatibility of genomes. Several of our research projects focus on the effects of chromosomal rearrangements on adaptation and speciation. Read more about previous projects here and here.

Dune sunflowers have several chromosomal rearrangements that carry alleles for dune adaptation.

Banner photo: Sunflower collecting trip in the Algodones Dunes, CA. Photo by Brook Moyers.