BISC 111 Introductory Organismal Biology (Spring)
BISC 319 Population Genetics and Systematics with laboratory: Evolution on Islands (Spring)
Examples of beetles under study: Galapaganus conwayensis, Galapaganus williamsi
The overall goal of my research is to understand the processes underlying population differentiation and speciation; its geographic and demographic correlates of isolation, population growth and decline. Little is known about the ecological and historical forces responsible for speciation despite it being key for the generation of biological diversity and a fundamental question in evolutionary biology.
Molecular data can yield rates of evolution and divergence times, which in turn can be contrasted with geological time-frames and propose hypothesis about possible migration routes and colonization of new areas and hosts. The ultimate goal of my research is to combine molecular evidence on relationships with ecological and biogeographical information to study evolutionary patterns in the history of ecological communities of insects and plants.
Future and current projects:
1) Population differentiation and species formation in Galápagos:
An example of the significance of population demography and speciation studies is the research I am undertaking in Galápagos, one of the largest, most complex and most diverse archipelagos remaining in the world. On the one hand, the results will provide tremendous insight into the possible ecological and geographical particulars that promote population differentiation and species formation. On the other hand, it will provide information on the main threat to the highly endemic biota of the archipelago: future possible extinctions, due mainly to introductions of exotic species. The results of the demographic history of populations provided by this study will also help detect potential extinctions at the population level of native species, the number of which is notably greater than those at the species level, identifying its possible ecological or historical/geographical correlates. One more potential benefit is the early detection of habitat fragmentation due to human activity, information that will prove useful when formulating management and conservation policies.This long term project is a collaboration with Ecuadorian researchers in The Charles Darwin Research Station like entomologist Lázaro Roque Albelo and with Analia Lanteri (UNLP, Argentina)
2) Other projects and collaborations already underway:
The re-colonization of ancient conifers by bark weevils (Cossoninae) in collaboration with Brian Farrell (Harvard University).
The study of effects of founder events and bottlenecks on North American populations of the introduced weevil Brachyderes incanus which causes severe injuries to conifers (in collaboration with Brent Emerson, University of East Anglia, UK)
The evolution of host switches in small ancient families of weevils with Southern Hemisphere disjunct distributions (in collaboration with Adriana Marvaldi and Silvia Ferrer, Crycit, Argentina).
The potential effect of host plant choice on diversification in weevils (in collaboration with D. McKenna and B. Farrell, Harvard University and Adriana Marvaldi, Crycit, Argentina).
Honors thesis, independent study projects and volunteers: Undergraduate students at Wellesley College are encouraged be an integral part of field and lab components of these projects and many have already taken advantage of the experience.
Purnima Mandal (04) (HT), Sayantani Bhattacharya (06) (HT), Manisha Sijipati (06)(IS), Joanna Su (06)(IS), Erica Yen (‘07)(IS), Cecilia Yu (‘07)(IS), Yang Qui (‘07) (IS) and Holly Yuan ('07) (V).
Collecting in Galápagos, Ecuador with colleagues and students
July 2003 - present. Assistant Professor. Department of Biological Sciences, Wellesley College.
2002-2003: Reseach Associate Farrell laboratory, Museum of Comparative Zoology, Harvard University.
2001: Teaching Fellow, Harvard University, Macroevolution of Interactions (Bio214).
1998-2000: Post doctoral fellowship awarded by Fundacion Antorchas to work at the Museum of Comparative Zoology, Harvard University.
1998-2000: Post doctoral fellowship awarded by CONICET (Comision Nacional de Investigaciones Cientificas y Tecnicas) also to work at the Museum of Comparative Zoology, Harvard University.
1997: National Genetics Prize awarded by the Sociedad Argentina de Genetica for "the best original paper including work undertaken entirely in Argentina during 1995-1997 with significant results" received for the paper Mitochondrial DNA and phylogeography of the grasshopper Trimerotropis pallidipennis in relation with clinal distribution of chromosome polymorphisms later submitted to Heredity.
1996-1998: Research associate at the National institute of Parasitology, Buenos Aires, Argentina. Molecular characterization of parasite strains (Trichinella spiralis).
1993-1998: Teaching Assistant, Area of Evolutionary Genetics and Paleobiology in the Department of Biological Sciences, Faculty of Exact and Natural Sciences at the Buenos Aires University. Section of Genetics 1, Evolution and Population Genetics, Universidad de Buenos Aires.
1992-1996: Doctoral fellowship awarded by CONICET (Consejo nacional de Investigaciones Científicas y Técnicas). PhD degree obtained at the University of Buenos Aires, Argentina (Dra de la Universidad de Buenos Aires). Dissertation title: Population genetics and systematics within the genus Dichroplus (Orthoptera: Acrididae). Analysis of enzyme polymorphisms and mitochondrial DNA.
1991- 1992: Research Assistant, Genetics Institute, Biological Research Center, Hungarian Academy of Sciences, Szeged, Hungary. (Gene specific repair in mouse teratocarcinoma cells, Dr. Istvan Rasko).
1991: International Training Course fellowship awarded by the Hungarian Academy of Sciences and UNESCO.
1990: Exchange fellowship awarded by IAESTE (International Association for the Exchange of Students for Technical Experience).
1990: MSc. Biology in Evolutionary Genetics, (Licenciada en Ciencias Biológicas), University of Buenos Aires, Argentina.
1990: Research Assistant at the Division of Genetic Engineering. The Queen`s University of Belfast Medical Biology Center, Northern Ireland. (Cloning and characterization of the PDV virus, Dr. Bert Rima and Dr.Martin Curran).
1983-1998: High School teacher, Biology and Food Science, Michael Ham Memorial College, Buenos Aires.