Research in the Nason Lab lab focuses on both pattern and process in the evolution of plants and their associated insect herbivores and pollinators. From a population genetic standpoint, “pattern” includes the organization or structuring of molecular genetic variation within and among individuals, populations, and species. Because genetic structure is an evolving character, when viewed from a multilocus or genomic perspective, observed patterns in the data can be seen to reflect different evolutionary forces and histories. While molecular tools provide a powerful approach for quantifying genetic variation, inferring the relative importance of these forces can be problematic when explanatory hypotheses are generated post hoc from the genetic evidence alone. As a result, in our work we combine genetic data analysis with a sound knowledge of a species’ natural history, and, when appropriate, hypotheses generated from historical biogeographical data. In my experience this integrative approach often provides a more insightful and statistically rigorous means of inferring evolutionary “process” than do purely ecological or genetic methods.
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