I am currently involved in the project "Origins of Organismal Complexity" led by Charlie Cornwallis, which is part of the larger collaborative project "The Extended Evolutionary Synthesis" supported by the Templeton foundation. We want to understand the mechanisms underlying the transition from uni- to multicellularity and use the volvocine green algae Chlamydomonas as our study organism. Chlamydomonas, a unicellular photosynthesizing protist, is the simpler sister to the remaining volvocine algae, among which we find genera with varying complexity. Gonium, for example, forms colonies of undifferentiated cells whereas Volvox exhibits cell differentiation. Interestingly, Chlamydomonas, despite being unicellular, has demonstrated the capacity to form colonies. Taking an experimental approach, whereby we try to induce colony-formation in Chlamydomonas, we hope to be able to identify genomic regions involved in the transition. Much of my time in this research group is spent in the laboratory, both attending to the live algae cultures and processing genetic data.
I started this job in March of 2017. Before this, my research centered around avian malaria. I received my diploma from UC Berkely in 2005 and conducted doctoral studies at the University of Missouri in St. Louis. Thereafter, I did two post-docs in São Paulo, Brazil, first at the University of São Paulo and then at the Federal University of São Paulo in Diadema. I have, for example, examined how community dynamics of the avian malaria system varies geographically, how host phylogeographic structure relates to that of their malaria parasites, and what host and ecological factors influence host specificity of parasites. In a project that is yet underway we use NGS techniques to delineate the phylogeography of a widespread Plasmodium sp. in the Brazilian, Paraguayan, and Argentinean Atlantic Forest.