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How does behavior evolve and contribute to species divergence?

IMG_7550Sensory perception and interpretation lie at the core of the vast diversity of behavior observed in nature. Guided by innate preferences and aversions, animals filter complex environments for cues and signals to navigate sexual arousal, mate finding and mate choice. I am using the sense of smell as an inroad to study how species-specific behaviors evolve and contribute to the origin and diversification of species. In recent work, I investigated the evolution of perfume communication in orchid bees on the genetic, chemical, and functional level, and simultaneously showed how gene families underlying the sense of smell originated and diversify in insects. Currently, I am taking advantage of the power of Drosophila neurogenetics to investigate how the nervous system evolved changes in olfactory processing underlying the diversification of species-specific mating behaviors. In building a multidisciplinary research program integrating molecular evolution, ethology, and sensory and circuit neuroscience, the ultimate goal of my work is to illuminate basic principles underlying the generation of behavioral diversity in nature.

Read a recent article covering my work here or learn more about my research here.

I am currently a Junior Fellow of the Simons Society of Fellows working with Vanessa Ruta at Rockefeller University. Before that, I did my PhD with Santiago Ramirez at the Center for Population Biology at UC Davis in the PopBio Graduate Group.

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