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Catherine Linnen

University of Kentucky
200A Thomas Hunt Morgan Bldg.
Lexington, KY 40506


Taxa Studied: Invertebrate Animals
Techniques Employed: Quantitative PCR (qPCR), Sanger Sequencing, Solexa (Illumina) Sequencing, Bioinformatics/Sequence Analysis, QTL Mapping, SNP Mapping
Research Description: The main goal of research in my lab is to understand the origin of biodiversity. Specifically, we would like to know: (1) how individual mutations alter gene function to change the physical appearance, behavior, or physiology (i.e., the phenotype) of an organism, (2) how these changes impact the ability of organisms to survive and reproduce in nature, (3) how, over time, natural selection and demographic processes (e.g., changes in population size, movement of individuals) shape variation in natural populations, and (4) the circumstances under which these processes lead to the formation of new species. Importantly, we would like to know whether the answers to these questions are predictable/repeatable when examined across different organisms and traits. To address these questions, we combine fieldwork, detailed observations of morphology and behavior, molecular work, genetic mapping, population genomics, phylogenomics, and comparative genomics. Our primary study organisms are pine sawflies in the genus Neodiprion (Order: Hymenoptera; Family: Diprionidae). We have chosen these insects for two main reasons. First, they are experimentally tractable: we can find them in nature, rear them in the lab, and make crosses between different species. Second, they harbor tremendous phenotypic variation within and between species and at all stages of their life cycle. Because many species in the genus are economically important pests, this variation is remarkably well described. Some variable traits we are interested in include: host use, overwintering mode, larval color, and larval gregariousness.
Lab Web Page: http://www.linnenlab.com
Willing to Host Undergraduates: YES
Actively Seeking Undergraduates: YES
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