Research Overview

Our research focuses on the development of statistical methods for inferring phylogenies, the use of these methods to answer questions of fundamental importance in evolution, and the development of software to perform such inference.

Darwin's Phylogeny

Why phylogenies?

Evolutionary biologists are driven by a desire to understand the staggering diversity of life on Earth, its history of change through time and the processes that have driven such change. DNA sequences are the fundamental material upon which evolutionary change is wrought and each organism’s genome carries the legacies of its evolutionary history. By sequencing the genomes of different organisms, we can use the information they contain to reconstruct their historical relationships and test hypotheses about their evolutionary past. Organismal histories can be depicted as branching diagrams known as phylogenetic trees. Phylogenies are of fundamental importance to all of comparative biology, including fields as diverse as conservation, forensics, agriculture, and medicine.


Viral Evolution and Forensics

Viruses are particularly interesting to evolutionary biologists because they evolve so much more quickly than most other organisms. In addition, they are major forces affecting human health, global ecology, and the long-term evolutionary dynamics of their hosts. Our lab applies phylogenetic tools both to understand fundamental aspects of viral biology and to reconstruct their transmission patterns. Recently, we have collaborated with other labs to study...

  • different parts of a particular protein (glycoprotein K) in alphaherpesviruses (like chicken pox) have evolved and how evolution can be used to understand protein function.