The Anthropocene is marked by several threats to global biodiversity, including climate change, large-scale habitat modification, and long-distance translocation of species across major dispersal barriers (e.g. oceans, mountain ranges, deserts). As a result, species are experiencing environments that are novel with respect to the range of conditions experienced throughout their recent evolutionary history. Rapid evolution in novel environments could prevent extinction, alter species interactions, and ultimately shape the structure and function of ecosystems, yet contemporary evolution and its effects on ecological dynamics are rarely studied in natural populations with a history of human perturbation. Researchers in our group are working hard to understand how and why contemporary evolution occurs in novel environments, and how this influences ecological dynamics.
To help address these questions, we apply cutting-edge advances in next-generation sequencing with tried-and-true methods in basic ecology and quantitative genetics. We combine meticulous field studies at Queen's University Biological Station (QUBS) with global-scale collaborative projects to produce scientific discoveries that are both locally accurate and globally relevant. Understanding the genetic and environmental basis of ecological success in novel environments will be important, not only for reducing the impacts of invasive species, but to improve management of local crop varieties and other vulnerable species that are struggling to persist in the face of rapid global change.