Carrie Wu’s Lab

Specialization to local environmental conditions can generate remarkable variation in natural populations, and may ultimately lead to speciation.  Identifying the underlying selection pressures and understanding how they shape these patterns of variation among populations is a major goal of evolutionary biology.  The Wu lab is investigating mechanisms of adaptive differentiation and speciation, with a current focus on wildflower species in the genera Mimulus and Ipomopsis.  We are especially interested in how plants respond to their local environments, and the role those adaptations play in diversification at the genomic, population, and species levels. To address these issues, we examine how environmental variation influences patterns of phenotypic and genetic diversity among natural plant populations, and the ecological and evolutionary consequences of this differentiation. Our work combines observations and manipulations of natural populations in the field with insight from quantitative genetics, physiological ecology, and molecular biology.  Particularly in light of continuing climate change, understanding the ecological genomics of adaptation to local environmental stressors is fundamental to our understanding of the evolution, distribution, and diversity of both native and invasive species.

Current Projects

  • Morphological and genetic evidence for parallel evolution in response to alpine stresses
  • Ecological niche modeling of the alpine endemic, Mimulus tilingii
  • Variation in freeze tolerance in the yellow monkeyflower species complex
  • Biochemical and molecular characterization of anthocyanin pigment loss in a natural albino variant of Mimulus lewisii (in collaboration with Dr. Matt Streisfeld, U Oregon, to determine whether there are predictable molecular evolutionary patterns that control adaptive evolution)
  • Genetic architecture of habitat adaptation in Ipomopsis hybrid zones (in collaboration with Dr. Diane Campbell, UC Irvine)

Current Lab Members

Kaitlyn Cross '14
Margaret Moore '14
C.J. Smith '14
Kevin Kurack '14
Lexi Caldwell '16
Ha An Nguyen '16
Diana Reighart '16