REU Supplement: CAREER: Ecological Speciation and Heterogeneous Genomic Differentiation in Hybridizing Haplodiploids: Cole Railey

Grants and Contracts Details


This is a request for an REU Supplement to support one undergraduate researcher (Cole Railey) in Summer 2021. The primary goal of my NSF-funded research is to understand how divergent natural selection gives rise to reproductive barriers, and how these barriers interact with other features of the genome and other evolutionary processes to shape genomic differentiation during divergence. To do so, my lab is focusing on a pair of hybridizing haplodiploid sawflies (Neodiprion lecontei and Neodiprion pinetum) that are adapted to different pine hosts. Using a combination of field and lab experiments and population genomics, we are making mechanistic links between genes, traits, fitness, reproductive isolation (RI), and genomic differentiation. To build on this work, we propose to collect additional data that will enable us to evaluate the contribution of gene expression changes to the evolution of host-use traits and reproductive isolation. Specifically, we hypothesize that genes that exhibit the most changes in expression over development will contribute disproportionately to host adaptation and species divergence. The goal of the proposed REU is to test this hypothesis, while providing exceptional training to a promising undergraduate who belongs to an underrepresented minority group in STEM fields. The student, who has been working remotely in my lab since Fall 2020, will have an opportunity to formulate his own hypotheses about the role of gene expression in driving species divergence and design and perform an experiment to test his hypotheses. His training will be accomplished through a combination of individualized goal-setting, rigorous instruction on all facets of scientific research, regular one-on-one meetings, and hands-on research in the lab and in the field (as permitted depending on current COVID conditions, with remote backup options). Overall, the proposed REU project will enhance our understanding of ecological speciation, while broadening participation of groups underrepresented in STEM.
Effective start/end date3/18/213/31/23


  • National Science Foundation


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