Principal Investigator

Scott with some freshly prepared bird specimens.Scott A. Taylor, Assistant Professor
Department of Ecology & Evolutionary Biology, CU Boulder
email: scott.a.taylor [at] colorado.edu
phone: (303)735-5227
office: RAMY C287

I am an evolutionary biologist interested in the utility of natural hybrid zones and recent radiations for understanding the genetic bases of traits involved in reproductive isolation, population divergence, and speciation. I am also interested in using hybrid zones to investigate the impacts of anthropogenic change, including climate change, on species distributions, interactions, and evolution. I am innately curious about the natural world and spent my childhood days exploring the forests, streams, lakes and rivers of Ontario, Canada. My lifetime interest in the generation and maintenance of biodiversity, and passion for natural history, led me to pursue training in wildlife biology at the University of Guelph and in evolutionary genetics at Queen's University. Most recently, I spent four years as a postdoctoral fellow at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology using genomics to understand hybrid zone dynamics in a number of avian systems. To stay up to date on Taylor Lab happenings follow me on Twitter: @Dr_Scott_Taylor


Postdoctoral Researchers

Amanda HundAmanda Hund, Postdoctoral Research Associate
Department of Ecology & Evolutionary Biology, CU Boulder
email: amanda.hund [at] colorado.edu
office: RAMY C287
website: http://amandahund.weebly.com  

Sexual signals are used by females when choosing mates. To understand how these signals evolve, we must first determine what benefits or information females gain by using them. In many cases, male signals are tied to the environment and are believed to be condition-dependent or real-time indicators of male quality. However, it is particularly challenging to determine how traits that are inflexible over time, such as melanin coloration, can advertise accurate information about male condition. My research is examining the condition-dependence of melanin sexual signals during early development in barn swallows. By combining gene expression with cross-fostering and parasite manipulation experiments, I am teasing apart how genes and environment interact to shape sexual trait expression and provide information to females about a male's developmental history and parasite exposure. 

Dominique Neitzel Wagner

Dominique Neitzel Wagner, Postdoctoral Research Associate
Department of Ecology & Evolutionary Biology, CU Boulder
office: RAMY C287
email: dominique.wagner [at] colorado.edu

I am an evolutionary geneticist interested in how populations of organisms are able to respond to changing environmental conditions. Genomic adaptation is critical for populations’ ability to persist through these changing conditions. Indeed, the amount of standing genetic variation among populations can be large and is likely a major source of adaptive alleles, yet how this large amount of standing genetic variation is maintained among populations is poorly understood. As a consequence, the genetic mechanisms underlying ecologically important phenomena, such as fine-scale adaptation and polygenic selection, remain elusive. In order to investigate these questions, I combine bioinformatics with classic ecological approaches.

My previous work has investigated avian physiology in the Panama Canal, avian migration in the Canadian Rockies, and polygenic selection among estuarine fish populations. My current work investigates the genomic dynamics of shifting avian hybrid zones and how climate change may effect these shifts.


Graduate Students

Kathryn enjoying Rocky Mountain National ParkKathryn Grabenstein, PhD Student
Department of Ecology & Evolutionary Biology, CU Boulder
email: kathryn.grabenstein [at] colorado.edu
office: RAMY C287

Pre-mating behaviors, such as male competition and female choice, regulate reproductive transactions, the currency of gene flow.  My research focuses on how individuals' mating decisions contribute to the semi-permeable nature of species barriers. Combining genomics and field studies, I investigate the role pre-mating behaviors play in the hybridization between black-capped and mountain chickadees to assess how sexual selection acts to maintain species barriers. Additionally, I investigate how large, landscape-scale human modifications, such as urban development, can have unforeseen evolutionary consequences, such as breaking well-established species barriers.

Angela in Goblin ValleyAngela Hansen, PhD Student
Department of Ecology & Evolutionary Biology, CU Boulder
email: angela.hansen [at] colorado.edu
office: RAMY C287

Hybridization is ubiquitous and occurs across a multitude of taxa in a variety of environments. However, reproductive isolation often remains consistent through time. I intend to understand the role of parasitism in the maintenance of reproductive isolation. I’m fascinated by the varying degrees to which hybrid hosts respond to parasitism, and the relationship this has with genetic architecture. Advances in sequencing technology  have made documenting hybridization in nature possible for any non-model species, which will allow me to study parasitism of hosts within their natural hybrid zones and allopatric populations. By combining field experiments with advanced molecular techniques I aim to better understand the role that parasitism plays in shaping and maintaining species boundaries.

Erik in the mountainsErik Funk, PhD Student
Department of Ecology & Evolutionary Biology, CU Boulder
email: erik.funk [at] colorado.edu
office: RAMY C287

Understanding species boundaries is a fundamental, but challenging, component of describing and understanding the generation and maintenance of biodiversity. This comes, in part, from fact that species complexes can exhibit varying levels of genetic and phenotypic divergence. I am interested in the delineation and characterization of species boundaries, and in the source of morphological variation in systems with low, or recent, genetic divergence. By using genomic techniques, I hope to better understand the degree of divergence between species and populations, as well as the geographic and evolutionary forces responsible for generating biodiversity.


Undergraduate Researchers

Katherine with a chickadee  Katherine Feldmann, Undergraduate Researcher
Department of Ecology & Evolutionary Biology, CU Boulder

 

I am an undergraduate majoring in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology and am interested in combining field experiments with molecular techniques in the lab. Alongside an interest in ornithology, these career goals have led me to work on a project that quantifies chickadee morphology. Beyond the field and lab work, this project expands my knowledge of the technological tools available by enabling the use of programs such as ImageJ.


Research Technicians

Danny on a mountain Danny Jackson, Research Technician
Department of Ecology & Evolutionary Biology, CU Boulder
email: daniel.jackson [at] colorado.edu
website: jacksondanny.com 

I am curious about how ecologies shape organisms at both the population and the species level. I have been exploring the genetic and biochemical bases of color signaling and perception in the Sulidae family as well as the influence of the ecosystem in the formation of these traits. I am also assisting Kathryn in her investigations into evolutionary responses to anthropogenic disturbances in chickadees.

I recently graduated from the University of Colorado’s undergraduate program, where I studied both Ecology & Evolutionary Biology and Creative Writing, and I intend to couple my future in research with creative and intentional outreach initiatives.