A major theme in my research is to understand how species adapt to diverse environmental and biological factors and diverge into new species. The evolutionary changes that permit species to survive and reproduce across a wide range of environments has resulted in a remarkable range of biological complexity.
My research group studies the interplay of behavior, ecology, genetics, and physiology to determine how species adapt to environmental changes and how diversification of populations leads eventually to the formation of new species. One focus of my group is the amazing Hawaiian Drosophila, which boasts up to 1,000 species in several taxonomic groups. Using genome sequencing and gene expression analyses coupled with detailed behavioral and physiological measurements we have identified genes that are involved in temperature adaptation between two species and between two populations within one species along an environmental gradient. We have also identified genes and epicuticular hydrocarbons that are involved in behavioral reproductive isolation and hybrid sterility between species. Initial studies have begun on the interaction with microbes, (bacteria and yeasts) that are important for food, internal parasites/symbionts, and possibly host-plant associations. In collaboration with others, we are also investigating the genetics of Hawaiian bats and birds, Drosophila melanogaster, the invasive Drosophila suzukii, and Hawaiian Metrosideros trees.