Welcome to the Funk Lab

We strive to understand the evolutionary and ecological mechanisms that generate and maintain biological diversity using population genomics, experimental manipulations, and field studies. Our goal is to not only test basic evolutionary and ecological theory, but also directly inform policy and management decisions that will ultimately determine the fate of biodiversity.



Visitors to Funk Lab


Manuscript on comparative biogeography of mayflies (Ephemeroptera) accepted for publication in Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences and photo of the Oyacachi River selected as journal cover

A view of the Oyacachi River. Napo Province, Ecuador. Photo by Andrea Encalada.

Proceedings of the Royal Society London B: Biological Sciences recently accepted a paper by Brian Gill and other EVOTRAC coauthors and will feature part of their Ecuadorian study area as their journal cover. In support of the ‘Mountain Passes are Higher in the Tropics’ hypothesis, the research team found higher species richness, higher cryptic diversity, and smaller elevational ranges of mayflies in the Ecuadorian Andes than in the Colorado Rocky Mountains. These differences were not detected using morphology alone, but rather only after integrating morphology and DNA barcoding, underscoring the importance of addressing cryptic diversity in large-scale biogeographic studies. These results support climate variability as an important driver of global trends in species diversity and distributions and add to the growing literature supporting higher tropical than temperate species vulnerability to global warming.

Citation: Gill BA, Kondratieff BC, Casner KL, Encalada AC, Flecker AS, Gannon DG, Ghalambor CK, Guayasamin JM, Poff NL, Simmons MP, Thomas SA, Zamudio KR, Funk WC (2016) Cryptic species diversity reveals biogeographic support for the ‘Mountain Passes are Higher in the Tropics’ hypothesis. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, in press.

John Kronenberger’s manuscript on the effects of divergent immigrants on small populations accepted in Animal Conservation!

John Kronenberger, guppy biologist extraordinaire, taking shelter from the rain while sampling guppies in Trinidad.

A paper by John Kronenberger, Chris Funk, Jedidiah Smith, Sarah Fitzpatrick, Lisa Angeloni, Dale Broder, and Emily Ruell has been accepted for publication in Animal Conservation! Augmenting threatened populations with immigrants from elsewhere can be a valuable conservation strategy, but when immigrants have been long isolated from the target population or are adapted to different environments, they may cause more harm than good. In this paper, John and colleagues present results from a laboratory experiment in which small populations of Trinidadian guppies were augmented with immigrants from either an adaptively divergent or a genetically divergent source. Populations receiving immigrants fared better demographically than controls with no immigrants, suggesting that augmentation can be a valid tool even if only divergent immigrant sources are available. This project is part of our NSF-funded guppy grant.

Citation: Kronenberger JA, Funk WC, Smith JW, Fitzpatrick SW, Angeloni LM, Broder ED, Ruell EW (2016) Testing the demographic effects of divergent immigrants on small populations of Trinidadian guppies. Animal Conservation, in press.

Funk lab undergrad–Jill Gerberich–awarded an NSF Graduate Research Fellowship!

Jill Gerberich with leatherback sea turtle in Trinidad.

Congratulations to Jill Gerberich for being awarded an NSF Graduate Research Fellowship!!! This is a very prestigious fellowship awarded to promising students to pursue a PhD. Jill has been an undergraduate researcher in the Funk lab for four years helping former PhD student Sarah Fitzpatrick (now a postdoc at Michigan State University) and current MS student John Kronenberger with research on the effects of gene flow on adaptation, fitness, and population dynamics in Trinidadian guppies and current postdoc Patricia Salerno with research on the effects of an historic flood on genetic variation in stream insects. Jill has also conducted independent research on dispersal patterns and fitness consequences in Trinidadian guppies. Jill’s hard work and dedication to a career in ecology and evolution has paid off. Contact Jill if you need an awesome PhD student in your lab! She plans on starting graduate school in the Fall of 2017.

Mónica Páez-Vacas awarded an NSF Doctoral Dissertation Improvement Grant!!!

Mónica in her native habitat, the Ecuadorian Andes.

Congratulations to Mónica Páez-Vacas for being awarded an NSF Doctoral Dissertation Improvement Grant (DDIG) to add genomics to her dissertation research. Mónica’s research has uncovered phenotypic divergence in size, calls, color, and thermal tolerance in the poison frog Epipedobates anthonyi across replicate elevational gradients in the Ecuadorian Andes. With the addition of genomic data, Mónica will now be able to determine the relative roles of phenotypic plasticity and adaptive evolution in generating this fascinating pattern of phenotypic divergence.
Epipedobates anthonyi

Epipedobates anthonyi

Front Range frogs make the cover of the Journal of Evolutionary Biology!

A paper by Chris, Melanie Murphy, Kim Hoke, Erin Muths, Staci Amburgey, Emily Moriarty Lemmon, and Alan Lemmon is featured on the cover of this month’s issue of the Journal of Evolutionary Biology! Mountains are global centers of biodiversity, but the evolutionary processes generating this incredible diversity are still poorly understood. Pioneering research by David Pettus–a former CSU Zoology Professor–and his students in the 1960s and 1970s demonstrated adaptive divergence in multiple traits across the elevational gradient of the Colorado Front Range. Here, Chris and colleagues show that this adaptive divergence is associated with restricted gene flow between high vs. low elevation populations, suggesting they may be diverging into distinct, reproductively isolated species. This is one of only a handful of studies to demonstrate that divergent selection across elevational gradients can initiate the process of speciation.

Citation: Funk WC, Murphy MA, Hoke KL, Muths E, Amburgey SA*, Lemmon EM, Lemmon AR (2016) Elevational speciation in action? Restricted gene flow associated with adaptive divergence across an altitudinal gradient. Journal of Evolutionary Biology 29, 241-252.

Alisha Shah presents her results on stream insect physiology at the Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology meeting

Alisha demonstrating her extremely low CTmin.

Alisha and the physiology research crew have found that critical thermal maximum experiments (a method traditionally used to measure the highest temperature an organism can withstand, and widely employed in studies investigating organismal response to climate change) can grossly underestimate vulnerability. Using a variety of measures of thermal tolerance, however, results in more accurate estimates of vulnerability and a more complete understanding of an organism’s thermal tolerance. Alisha presented this work at the annual SICB meeting held in Portland in January 2016.

Alisha Shah won the College of Natural Sciences Top Scholars Award for ‘Best Poster in Ecology’ at the Graduate Student Showcase on November 11th 2015!

Alisha explaining her results to an onlooker

Alisha presented her finding that tropical mayflies in the Andes have narrow thermal optima, which closely match the range of temperatures they experience in their native streams. But their temperate counterparts in the Rocky Mountains have much broader thermal optima, which appear to match the wider temperature range of temperate streams. This exciting study, which is part of our collaborative EvoTRAC project, is the first of its kind in freshwater insects, and her results support the Mountain Passes Hypothesis proposed by Daniel Janzen in 1967. Importantly, it also suggests that tropical mayflies may be more vulnerable to warming than temperate mayflies.

Maybellene Gamboa wins prize for best poster at the 2016 Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology Annual Meeting!!

Maybellene Gamboa holding her study species, the Channel Islands Song Sparrow (Melospiza melodia graminea)

Congratulations to Maybellene Gamboa (co-advised by Cameron Ghalambor, T. Scott Sillett, and W. Chris Funk) for winning the Ray B. Huey Award for Best Student Poster Presentation in the Division of Ecology and Evolution at the 2016 Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology (SICB) Annual Meeting! Maybellene’s poster presented results from her dissertation on adaptive divergence in morphology and thermoregulation and gene flow in Channel Islands Song Sparrows (Melospiza melodia graminea). She found that bird bills were significantly smaller on the coldest island (San Miguel Island) and larger on the hottest island (Santa Cruz Island), presumably for dumping excess heat to the environment. Genomic analyses also revealed significant genetic differences among islands, suggesting restricted gene flow. This season, Maybellene will measure physiological performance of Channel Islands Song Sparrows under various temperatures to try to understand how they will respond to climate change. Stay tuned for more exciting results from Maybellene’s dissertation research!

Click here to see Maybellene’s award-winning poster

Mónica Páez awarded Lewis and Clark grant to support research on poison dart frog speciation!

Epipedobates anthonyi (Photo credit: Mónica Páez)

Epipedobates anthonyi (Photo credit: Mónica Páez)

Congratulations to Mónica Páez for being awarded a Lewis & Clark Fund for Exploration and Research grant! The grant will support her experiments in southern Ecuador to test for reproductive isolation across elevational gradients in Anthony’s poison arrow frog (Epipedobates anthonyi). Mónica’s highly integrative dissertation project combines landscape genetics, an ambitious reciprocal transplant experiment, physiology, and behavior to test for adaptive divergence and reproductive isolation between high vs. low elevation populations. Stay tuned to learn about the results of her exciting research program!

Introducing DR. Sarah Fitzpatrick!!!

DSC_0089 Congratulations to Sarah Fitzpatrick for successfully defending her PhD! We’ll miss her, but we’re also happy to see her take the next step in her career as a postdoc at the Kellogg Biological Station at Michigan State University.