• NSMIT (MyNSM)

Ecology and Evolution

Faculty in the Ecology and Evolution Division have a diverse set of research interests ranging from bioinformatics and molecular evolution to behavioral and community ecology. We participate in cross-division and cross-departmental initiatives focusing on behavior and networks, and interact regularly with Ecology and Evolution faculty at Rice University across town.

Core E & E Faculty

  • Ricardo Azevedo
    • Evolutionary Genetics
    • I employ approaches from developmental biology, genetics, comparative analysis, computational biology and mathematical modeling. As an experimental system I use the nematode worm Caenorhabditis elegans and related species.
  • Blaine Cole
    • Evolution of Social Behavior and Origin of Complex Traits
    • I study several topics involving the evolution of social behavior including the behavioral and genetic prerequisites for group living and the functional consequences of living in groups. The organisms that I use for studies of social behavior are the social insects, particularly the ants.
  • Tim Cooper
    • Experimental Evolution, Microbial Genetics
    • My research interests center on understanding the processes underlying adaptive evolution. Using bacterial and computational experimental systems I aim to identify and integrate these mechanisms and examine how they depend on genetic and environmental factors.
  • Tony Frankino
    • Evolution & Development
    • Ecology & Evolution of Multivariate Morphological Phenotypes
    • I use naturally occurring and experimentally produced extreme phenotypic variants to elucidate the relationships among variation in genotype, physiology, ecological performance, and fitness. My goal is to understand how both internal proximate mechanisms and external selection influence the evolution of complex phenotypes that are composed of functionally and developmentally integrated traits.
  • Dan Graur
    • Theoretical Molecular Evolution and Bioinformatics
    • I study a variety of theoretical, statistical, and analytical topics within the broad area of molecular evolution.
  • Richard Meisel
    • Evolutionary genomics of sex chromosomes, sex determination, and sexual dimorphism
    • I study the evolution of sex chromosomes, sex determination, and sexual dimorphism. Most of my work involves collecting and analyzing genomic data in model insect systems to identify putative cases of sex-specific adaptation. This approach leads to many hypotheses about the evolution of genes and developmental systems, which my lab is testing with direct experimentation using the powerful Drosophila genetic toolkit.
  • Elizabeth Ostrowski
    • Evolutionary genetics and multicellularity
    • I am broadly interested in how selective conflict within and between species drives rapid evolution. My research is primarily focused on the social amoeba Dictyostelium discoideum, a model system for the study of multicellular development, altruism and social conflict, and host-pathogen interactions.
  • Steven Pennings
    • Plant Community Ecology and Plant-Herbivore Interactions
    • I work mostly in salt marsh habitats, and have a particular interest in geographic variation in ecological interactions.
  • Diane Wiernasz
    • Mechanisms of evolution in natural populations
    • I combine field and lab experiments with the analysis of genetic markers to address questions about the origin and maintenance of multiple mating in ants.
  • Rebecca Zufall
    • Genome and molecular evolution
    • I work with ciliates to elucidate the mechanisms and evolutionary implications of developmentally-regulated genome rearrangements.

Associated Faculty

  • Anna Armitage
    • Community-level interactions that structure coastal wetland ecosystems, with an emphasis on changes in trophic interactions in response to habitat restoration, nutrient enrichment, and climate change.
  • Yuriy Fofanov
    • Bioinformatics, Applied Statistics, Mathematical Modeling, Information Theory
    • I have a number of projects focusing on gene expression and genomic sequence analysis.
  • George Fox
    • RNA Structure, Function, and Evolution
    • I am interested in the early evolution of life, and in applying RNA technology to practical problems in space flight and environmental monitoring.
  • Erin Kelleher
    • Evolutionary genomics, molecular evolution, and functional divergence
    • I am broadly interested in how different interacting molecules, including proteins, RNA and DNA, coevolve with each other. I work with multiple species of Drosophila.
  • Amy Sater
    • Vertebrate Development
    • Neural Induction
    • Cell Signaling
    • I am interested in the establishment of cell fate and spatial pattern in vertebrate embryos.
  • Dan Wells
    • Vertebrate Genetics and Genomics
    • Evolution of Development
    • My interests in the area of Ecology & Evolution focus on the characterization of the direct developing Texas Chirping frog. The unusual developmental pattern of this frog is being studied at both the cellular and evolutionary levels.