Obligatory introductory postPosted: October 8, 2010
I am in that purgatory zone somewhere between attaining candidacy and putting together my dissertation. The research is really rolling although I have been working my tuchus off. Perhaps I can write a little about what my research is about “in general” and then we’ll take it from there going forward.
I study lizards. I go out and I catch them, live among them, whatever. But I also study genomic parasites called transposable elements, which are these DNA sequences that live in our genome and copy and paste themselves. They can be considered “selfish genes”. I am looking at how these elements behave in natural populations. That is, if their prevalence in populations is based on whether they are harmful or harmless to their hosts. Since these transposable elements are parasites that live within a host, the history of the host has a profound effect on their fate.
Therefore, the other part of my research addresses questions about the demographic history of the host species, Anolis carolinensis. Which populations are more closely related to each other? Do they differ in size? Is there a lot of migration between populations? All these factors affect genetic variation and their signatures allow me to paint a picture about the evolutionary history of these lizards.
This may be a bit much for the first post, but since transposable elements are important in the evolution of the genome, I hope that my research can shed light on how forces at the population level can have long-term effects on genome evolution.