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General Research Interests in Transmission Biology of Inheritance and Infectious Disease:  One focus of my research is the ecological and evolutionary forces that shape systems of inheritance. In particular, I am working on how different genomic regions interact with an organism's reproductive strategy. Regions such as sex chromosomes, autosomes, and cytoplasmic components differ in their modes of inheritance and are therefore exposed to conflicting patterns of natural selection. At the same time, all of these regions are connected through their effects on individual fitness. My work addresses the resulting instability of genetic systems (at both individual and population levels), its proximal causes, and how some organisms cope or even adapt to genomic plasticity. I also have a long-standing interest in the transmission biology of diseases in natural populations. In many ways, host-pathogen interactions have analogous conflicts of interest and instabilities as involved in the evolution of genetic systems. This is most clearly seen in the dynamics of "genomic parasites" (such as repetitive DNA elements or invasive mitochondrial types), but also in the general principles of horizontal transmission and co-evolution that allow antagonistic relationships to persist. Most of my current studies use the parasitic fungus Microbotryum, which causes anther smut disease on plants of the Caryophyllaceae. The natural history and scientific history of Microbotryum are very interesting and are briefly described here. More details on my research topics can be found by clicking on the subject headings to the left.

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