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Matthew Herron

University of British Columbia
Department of Zoology
2370-6270 University Blvd
Vancouver, BC V6T 1Z4


PI: NO, postdoc
Taxa Studied: Other, Volvox
Techniques Employed: Sanger Sequencing
Research Description: My research focuses on the transition from single-celled organisms to multicellular organisms with cellular differentiation. Before the transition, the individual, or organism, is the cell, and concepts such as individuality, life history and fitness are defined in that frame of reference. Afterward, the context for these concepts is the multicellular organism. Multicellularity has evolved independently in at least 25 separate lineages, including the Eubacteria, Archaea, and several lineages spanning the deepest divergences within the eukaryotes. Only a handful of lineages, though, have evolved cellular differentiation, a prerequisite for large, complex body plans. Although the origins of differentiated multicellularity have been few in number, the consequences for biodiversity have been immense. Each of the major macroscopic groups had its origin in such a transition, and each has subsequently diversified into thousands to millions of species. Aside from their own diversification, the multicellular red, green and brown algae, land plants, animals and fungi have profoundly impacted the evolution of other lineages as well, altering, and in some cases becoming, the environment against which their fitness is measured. My research uses phylogenetic comparative methods, experimental evolution, and mathematical modeling to investigate the historical and selective factors underlying the evolution of multicellular development. My long-term goal is to understand the origins of multicellularity and cellular differentiation in the framework of evolving reaction norms. Using mathematical and quantitative genetics models, I plan to analyze the restructuring of trait heritability from the lower (cell) to the higher (multicellular organism) level. Through experimental evolution, I hope to see this reorganization, and the constituent changes in reaction norms at both levels, in action.
Lab Web Page: http://www.eebweb.arizona.edu/Grads/mherron/index.html
Willing to Host Undergraduates: NO
Actively Seeking Undergraduates: NO
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