Check out our paper analyzing the genomic basis of parallel speciation in stick insects (Timema cristinae) that was just published in Science. We even made the cover! Science also published a related news piece discussing how our study sheds new light on the predictability of evolution. In this study we show that the repeated evolution of reproductive isolation between stick insects on different host plants involved parallel genetic differentiation at only a modest proportion of the genome, and thus genome divergence was mostly idiosyncratic. But, genetic regions that exhibit parallel divergence contain an excess of genes with specific functions, and are likely of central importance for speciation.
Peter Nelson, Robert Olson, and Zach Valois were awarded summer research fellowships (SURCO’s) to work in the lab. This will provide a great opportunity for them to gain lab and field experience. Zach Valois was also awarded research grants from USU (URCO) and from the American Museum of Natural History (Theodore Roosevelt Memorial Fund). Zach presented preliminary findings form his funded project investigating parallel evolution in the Northern Scorpion at the USU Department of Biology Spring 2014 Undergraduate Research Symposium (pictured below).
We were invited to participate in Utah State University’s Science Unwrapped series this April. After listening to a presentation from Paleontologist Mary Schweitzer, kids of all ages visited our booth to view an assortment of arachnids (provided by Zach Valois) and extract DNA from their cheek cells. They created necklaces from their DNA, which they took home with them. We all had a great time.