The goal of understanding the adaptive significance of individual genes and their products, in the context of natural populations and within complex communities of organisms is currently driving the development of the new field of genomic ecology, which integrates research within a wide range of disciplines - from community ecology and evolutionary biology to genetics, genomics and bioinformatics.
In my PhD project, we will combine the different approaches and complementary strengths of three different research groups. We will investigate between-allele sequence differentiation within a gene that codes for a protein of known function and presumed adaptive significance in both plants and animals. We will then assess the distribution of the alleles in natural populations - in relation to variation in the composition of complex grassland communities.
Our study species is the grass, Festuca ovina, which forms the matrix of the majority of species-rich grassland communities in Sweden - and is thus an important component of the realized niche of the other associated grassland species. The fine-scale variation in plant community composition in these grassland habitats has been extensively studied. We will focus on molecular variation at a highly polymorphic locus-pair, coding for the enzyme cytosolic phosphoglucose isomerase (PGIC), which plays a key metabolic role within glycolysis and gluconeogenesis. The complex genetic architecture of these loci has been elucidated and we will now further develop this unique study system to explore associations between allelic variation in F. ovina and fine-scale variation in grassland community composition and environmental variables - with the following specific aims:
Last modified 5 Dec 2012