At its most elementary, evolution is a shift in allele frequencies. Therefore, we can learn a lot about evolution by investigating the drivers that determine the distribution of genetic diversity. My main research interest is how we can use population genetic data to say something about evolutionary and demographic processes. Ultimately, I want to know which processes, including migration, selection, drift, but also anthropogenic disturbance, determine the distribution of genetic information in space. I do this both empirically and theoretically, but my main strength lies in the analysis of genetic data. Some of my main topics are:
Genetic data can provide very powerful tools for addressing evolutionary and ecological questions. However, the used statistical methods used often have biases and implicit assumptions that are not well understood. I use simulations to test the performance of widely-used statistical methods to see when they return the expected outcomes, and when they are biased. I use this to provide recommendations for their use, which hopefully leads to more robust inferences in the whole field.
Polyploids do strange things: they have many peculiarities in their genetic system that can make them quite different from diploids. This also means that the statistical and molecular tools that are used for diploids do not apply for diploids. I study how polyploidy affects the distribution of genetic diversity and how genetic data analysis can be adapted for polyploid systems.
I have developed a widely-used program for genetic data analysis: GenoDive. GenoDive includes some methods that I have developed myself that are not implemented in any other programs, such as AMOVA-based clustering and clone assignment. GenoDive can also handle polyploid data up to hexadecaploids. In addition, I have developed Marlin, a program for performing spatially-explicit simulations. Both GenoDive and Marlin are under constant development.
Besides being very informative about the process of evolution, the study of genetic diversity has practical applications in a wide variety of fields. I use population genetics to get insights about the conservation of endangered species, both plants and animals. I have also used population genetics to answer questions around the introduction of genetically modified crops. Ultimately, the genetic diversity of populations drives their adaptation to current and future threats such as climate change and habitat loss.
Plant mating systems, hybridization, evolution of sex, invasive species