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


Alisha Shah awarded an NSF Postdoctoral Research Fellowship in Biology!!!

Alisha will likely be doing some of this during her postdoc in Missoula.

Alisha Shah has been awarded an NSF Postdoctoral Research Fellowship in Biology to work with Dr. Art Woods at the University of Montana, Missoula, on a project that investigates how microclimates on aspen trees affect the growth, survival, and thermal performance of aspen leaf miner moths, a pest species. These moths are also naturally parasitized by a wasp, and Alisha’s work will elucidate how temperature affects rates of parasite-host interactions as well. Leaf miners are decimating aspen stands throughout the Rocky Mountains, and studying their ecological physiology will help us better understand how to predict and manage their spread. In addition to continuing her research training, Alisha will also be working on the Flathead Indian Reservation to teach middle school children about using aquatic insects as bioindicators. This outreach project is part of an effort to broaden participation in STEM to underrepresented groups.

Congratulations to Rebecca Cheek on two new first authored pubs!!

Rebecca Cheek holding a pair of torrent ducks caught in the Huaral River in Peru. Female duck on left, male on right.

Congratulations to PhD student Rebecca Cheek (“tri-advised” by Cameron Ghalambor, T. Scott Sillett, and W. Chris Funk) for the successful publication of two papers stemming from her undergraduate work at the University of Alaska on bird evolutionary ecology. In the first paper published in Ornitología Neotropical, Rebecca and colleagues found evidence for adaptive differences across the Andes in feather structure in one of the coolest ducks in the world, the torrent duck. Ducks from the high altitude population had longer, denser down compared with the low altitude population. In the second paper published in Western Birds, Rebecca and colleagues sequenced mitochondrial genes in two subspecies of birds endemic to Haida Gwaii (Queen Charlotte Islands) in British Columbia–the sharp-shinned hawk and the great blue heron–as a first pass assessment of genetic differences from the mainland. In contrast with other regional endemics, these two subspecies showed little genetic differences from mainland populations, suggesting the darker coloration seen in these subspecies may have evolved recently.


Cheek RG, Alza L, McCracken KG (2018) Down feather structure varies between low- and high-altitude torrent ducks (Meganetta armata) in the Andes. Ornitología Neotropical 29:27-35.

Cheek RG, Campbell KK, Winker K (2018) Mitochondrial DNA suggests recent origins of subspecies of the sharp-shinned hawk and great blue heron endemic to coastal British Columbia and southeast Alaska. Western Birds 49:47-61.

Congratulations to Maybellene Gamboa for receiving the Vice President for Research Fellowship!

The VPR fellowship is awarded to graduate students that conduct novel, interdisciplinary research at CSU and that exhibit an ability to communicate their work to a broad audience. Hundreds of CSU graduate students present their research at the annual CSU Graduate Student Showcase, and 40 presenters are selected to compete for a VPR Fellowship in The 3-Minute Thesis Challenge. The 3-Minute Thesis challenge forces graduate students to summarize their work in 3-minutes using only one slide as a backdrop. Maybellene was one of 16 students selected for this prestigious fellowship, which grants students $2,500 for research and $1,500 for research-associated travel. She also received the People’s Choice Award and will be traveling to Las Vegas later this month as the CSU graduate student representative competing in the Western Regional 3-Minute Thesis challenge. The regional winner will be sent to Washington D.C. to compete for a national title. Good luck, Maybellene!

See video of Maybellene’s 3-Minute Thesis challenge presentation HERE

John Kronenberger’s paper on an experimental test of genetic rescue using Trinidadian guppies accepted in Conservation Biology!!!

Congratulations to John Kronenberger–a former Funk Lab MS student–and colleagues for successfully publishing the last chapter of his MS thesis in Conservation Biology. John used replicate lab populations of Trinidadian guppies to test the effects of augmenting small, isolated populations with different types of immigrants. He found no evidence for demographic rescue, but did find genetic rescue in one population that received divergent immigrants. In the second population, the benefits of augmentation were less apparent. Nonetheless, these results add to a growing consensus that gene flow can increase population fitness even when immigrants are divergent from the recipient population.

Citation: Kronenberger JA, Gerberich JC, Fitzpatrick SW, Broder ED, Angeloni LM, Funk WC (2018) An experimental test of alternative population augmentation scenarios. Conservation Biology, in press.

Paper accepted in Ecology Letters on the effects of extreme flood on stream insect persistence and evolution

N. LeRoy Poff and collaborators (including Patricia Salerno and W. Chris Funk from the Funk Lab) recently had a paper accepted in Ecology Letters on the effects of an extreme flood event on stream insect persistence and evolution. They found that persistence decreased with increasing disturbance and that species traits predicted resilience. For taxa with mobile larvae and terrestrial adult stages present at the time of the flood, average persistence was 84% compared to 25% for immobile taxa that lacked terrestrial adults. For 2 of 6 species analyzed, genomic diversity (allelic richness) declined after the event. For one species it greatly expanded, suggesting resilience via re-colonization from upstream populations. Thus, while species traits predicted persistence to this extreme disturbance, population genomic change varied among species.

Citation: Poff NL, Larson EI, Salerno PE, Morton SG, Kondratieff BC, Flecker AS, Zamudio KR, Funk WC (2018) Extreme streams: Species persistence mechanisms and evolutionary change in montane stream insect populations across a flood disturbance gradient. Ecology Letters, in press.

Alisha wins the Ray Huey Award for Best Student Presentation at the Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology meeting!!!

Alisha presented her DDIG work that addresses why mayfly species ranges are more restricted than we would predict based on thermal breadth alone. Alisha and her colleagues hypothesized that temperature acts synergistically with species interactions, such as predation, to restrict mayfly range expansion. They predicted that as mayflies move to warmer or cooler streams, they may experience a decline in swimming performance. This would make them easier targets for predators in other streams. They also predicted that this effect would be amplified in Ecuador, where their previous work shows that mayflies are much more sensitive to temperature. Alisha found that, indeed, Ecuadorian mayflies are more susceptible to predation when moved to different streams. Alisha and colleagues concluded that temperature and predation act together to restrict mayfly distributions in Colorado and Ecuador, but the effect is stronger in Ecuador.

Alisha Shah’s paper on thermal tolerance in stream insects makes the cover of Functional Ecology!

Citation: Shah A, Gill B, Encalada A, Flecker A, Funk WC, Guayasamin JM, Kondratieff B, Poff N, Thomas S, Zamudio KR, Ghalambor CK (2017) Climate variability predicts thermal limits of aquatic insects across elevation and latitude. Functional Ecology 31, 2118-2127.

The Funk lab welcomes new PhD student, Amanda Cicchino!

The Funk lab is also happy to welcome Amanda Cicchino, who will be working as a PhD student on our tailed frog (Ascaphus spp.) genomics and evolutionary ecology project. Amanda received her MSc at Queens University, where she conducted research on call variation in spring peepers (Pseudacris crucifer). Welcome to Colorado, Amanda!

The Funk lab welcomes new postdoc, Brenna Forester!

The Funk lab is pleased to welcome Brenna Forester, who will be working as a postdoc on our tailed frog (Ascaphus spp.) genomics and evolutionary ecology project. Brenna received her PhD at Duke University, where her dissertation focused on testing and applying landscape genomic methods for identifying loci under selection. Welcome to the Fort, Brenna!

Congratulations to Brian Gill for accepting postdoc at Brown University!

Photo credit: Tyler Kartzinel

Recent lab alumnus, Brian Gill, has accepted a position as a Postdoctoral Research Associate in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology and Institute for Environment and Society at Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island. Together with Principal Investigator Tyler Kartzinel, Brian will utilize cutting-edge molecular tools to investigate the ecology and evolutionary biology of animals living on African Savannas. Research will focus on food webs, community assembly and disassembly, the implications of these basic research areas for conservation, and will take place at Brown University and the Mpala Research Centre in Kenya.