Scheme: Newton International Fellowships
Organisation: University of Sheffield
Dates: Jan 2014-Jan 2016
Summary: I am interested in the evolutionary history of closely related species, not merely how such species originated and obtained their current distribution, but particularly how they interact during the course of their evolution, as ecological divergence drives them apart and gene flow pulls them together. My research combines a mixture of phylogeographical and spatial ecological methods to retrace the distribution of species and spatial contact between them. As a model system, I mainly focus on salamanders. Given these animals generally combine low dispersal capabilities with a strong physiological link to environmental conditions, their ranges are strongly affected by geological and climatic change. I recently started to exploit genomics to obtain a massive increase in the phylogenetic resolution for different evolutionary questions. In the context of my current Newton International Fellowship in the Molecular Ecology Laboratory at the University of Sheffield (where I am hosted by Prof. Terry Burke) I have developed an Ion Torrent next-generation sequencing protocol and I am conducting a dense phylogeography for the crested newt (the Triturus cristatus superspecies). The data I obtain provide a crucial backbone by allowing me to delineate the species involved and locate the hybrid zones between them in detail. The exiting setting of a rapid radiation of species with dynamic distributions serves as a perfect model to explore the effect of repeated spatial contact on gene flow during the speciation process.