We seek to understand the ecological and evolutionary consequences of host-parasite interactions from the individual to the ecosystem level. Host-parasite systems are ideal models for studying evolution in action, because hosts and parasites evolve very fast. So, host-parasite interactions provide us with great opportunities to study coevolution and eco-evolutionary feedbacks.
In our group, we use natural and experimental populations of the red flour beetle (Tribolium castaneum), three-spined stickleback (Gasterosteus aculeatus), and Mexican cavefish (Astyanax mexicanus) to address three general questions relevant to ecological immunology, parasitology and even evolutionary medicine:
- How does the immune system evolve?
- How does the evolution of immunological and physiological traits shape co-evolution?
- What are the eco-evolutionary consequences of host-parasite interactions?
We combine theoretical models, natural history, field, and laboratory experiments. The evolution of immunity to parasites has been a major but not exclusive focus of our group. Currently, we are investigating:
- The evolutionary ecology consequences of immune specificity and immune memory in the red flour beetle.
- The role of niche construction and evolutionary capacitance for evolvability in the red flour beetle.
- Genetic and phenotypic characterization of immunological niche conformance in cavefish
- Niche construction consequences of parasite virulence in evo-evolutionary dynamics.