The Welch Lab


We want to understand how natural populations respond to changes in their environment. Natural, experimental and domesticated populations often reveal high levels of heritable variation even after numerous generations of intense directional selection. This suggests that heritable variation is continuously being generated. A major focus of our lab is to identify molecular mechanisms that increase phenotypic variation by altering gene expression. To do this we are performing functional genomic analyses on variable, natural populations of sunflowers. This work is currently funded by the National Science Foundation.

Through our work, we also hope to learn how population dynamics and population size interact to influence the evolutionary potential of natural populations. The majority of this work is being conducted on Caribbean iguanas. Because these species are endangered, much of this work has direct conservation implications. Other iguana research in our lab is entirely motivated by conservation concerns.

Evolutionary and Conservation Genetics