Long-term Sabbatical

How genetic pathways influence organismal responses to climate change

PI(s): Kathleen Donohue (Duke University)
Start Date: 15-Aug-2014
Keywords: climate change, adaptation, evolutionary genetics, population ecology, natural populations

The project will develop methods to predict life cycles, population performance, and geographic ranges of organisms under different climate scenarios. It will build on an existing mathematical model of life-cycle expression by incorporating fitness and demographic consequences of those life cycles. It will further develop those models by incorporating models of genetic pathways that regulate specific life-cycle transitions. Analysis of this integrated model will identify pathways, environmental sensitivities, and environments that have the largest predicted effect on population performance, geographic range, and response to climate change. It will also investigate how specific genes and genetic pathway structure can influence these outcomes. This theoretical work complements and extends my empirical research on the genetic basis of adaptation to latitude and climate, and it would provide a novel synthesis of molecular biology, population demography, and evolutionary ecology. The project would also contribute to educational outreach concerning global environmental change by developing computer modules for K-12 and undergraduate curricula.