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


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 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.

Funk lab undergrad–Dusty Gannon–awarded an NSF Graduate Research Fellowship!!!

Whealer Preaks B_packing_sm Congratulations to Dusty Gannon for being awarded an NSF Graduate Research Fellowship!!! Dusty has been an undergraduate researcher in the Funk lab for three years now helping PhD student Brian Gill with his research on latitudinal variation in range sizes in stream insects as part of our EvoTRAC project. Dusty’s hard work and dedication to a career in ecology and evolution has paid off. Contact Dusty if you need an awesome PhD student in your lab! He plans on starting graduate school in the Fall of 2016.

Brian Gill Awarded NSF Doctoral Dissertation Improvement Grant for the project “Temporal Sampling and DNA Metabarcoding to Test the Climate Variability Hypothesis”

Volcan Antisana, Napo Province, Ecuador (Photo credit: Brian Gill)

Volcan Antisana, Napo Province, Ecuador (Photo credit: Brian Gill)

Brian Gill and his PhD co-advisors Chris Funk and Boris Kondratieff will use this grant to build on their work estimating elevation range sizes of mountain stream insect taxa in Colorado and Ecuador to test the Climate Variability Hypothesis. In both the Rockies and Andes, they will sample aquatic insect communities at many different elevations over time to look at how the position of stream insect taxa changes over the course of these species’ life cycles. They will use a DNA metabarcoding approach to determine the composition of whole stream insect communities. This work will provide new insights useful for understanding latitudinal differences in species vulnerability to rapid climate change. This project builds off of our existing collaborative EvoTRAC project.

Chris awarded a Fulbright Scholar Award for the project “Massively parallel sequencing meets megadiversity: Harnessing genomics to uncover the mechanisms generating Colombia’s exceptional biodiversity”

Fig. 1. (A) Proposed sampling sites superimposed on elevation layer (elevation ranges from 0–5452 m in Colombia). Black circles = Palm Rocket Frog sampling sites; white circles = Gray-breasted Wood-wren sampling sites; half black and half white circles = both species sampled. Inset shows study area. (B) Variation in annual mean temperature (which ranges from -4.6–29.2 °C in Colombia). (C) Variation in annual mean precipitation (which ranges from 0.26–11.31 m in Colombia). All GIS layers are from WorldClim.

Fig. 1. (A) Elevation layer (elevation ranges from 0–5452 m in Colombia). Inset shows study area. (B) Variation in annual mean temperature (which ranges from -4.6–29.2 °C in Colombia). (C) Variation in annual mean precipitation (which ranges from 0.26–11.31 m in Colombia). All GIS layers are from WorldClim.

Chris was awarded a Fulbright-Colciencias Innovation and Technology Award for the project entitled “Massively parallel sequencing meets megadiversity:  Harnessing genomics to uncover the mechanisms generating Colombia’s exceptional biodiversity”. Colombia is the second most biodiverse country in the World, yet the mechanisms generating its incredible biodiversity are poorly understood. Colombia’s three Andean cordilleras provide multiple independent elevational gradients for testing the effects of landscape factors–including striking variation in temperature and precipitation–on population divergence and speciation (Fig. 1). Chris will develop a new collaboration with Colombian biologists to uncover the mechanisms that generate Colombia’s “megadiversity” (exceptionally high levels of biodiversity) using new genomic biotechnology. He will also host two workshops on genomic biotechnology at the Universidad de Los Andes and La Universidad Industrial de Santander.

Courtney Hofman’s paper on rapid evolution of dwarf island foxes accepted!

SCA foxCoverArt

Photo by Julie King

Courtney Hofman (Smithsonian Institution) and colleagues used whole mitochondrial genomes to investigate the evolutionary history of island foxes, which occupy 6 of the 8 California Channel Islands. Our results are consistent with initial fox colonization of the Channel Islands probably by rafting or human introduction ~9200-7100 years ago, followed quickly by human translocation to all of the remaining unoccupied islands. Our data document rapid morphological evolution of dwarf island foxes from larger mainland gray foxes in ~2000 years or less.

Citation: Hofman CA*, Rick TC, Hawkins MTR, Funk WC, Ralls K, Boser C, Collins PW, Coonan T, King J, Morrison SA, Newsome SD, Sillett TS, Fleischer R, Maldonado JE (In Press) Mitochondrial genomes reveal rapid evolution of dwarf California Channel Islands foxes (Urocyon littoralis). PLoS One.


Chris selected as a 2015 Leopold Leadership Fellow

Leopold_logo Chris was selected as a 2015 Leopold Leadership Fellow by the Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment. Twenty researchers were chosen from across the country to participate in the program, which has the goal of providing “outstanding academic researchers with the skills, approaches, and theoretical frameworks for translating their knowledge to action and for catalyzing change to address the world’s most pressing sustainability challenges.” Leopold Fellows attend a week-long intensive leadership and communications training, practice their skills over the next year, and then meet again at the end of the practice year.

Additional press about Chris’ Leopold Leadership Fellowship:

CSU Source

Genetic rescue review featured on cover of Trends in Ecology and Evolution

Whiteley et al_2015_TREE_genetic rescue review_cover Our new review on genetic rescue was featured on the cover of Trends in Ecology and Evolution. See earlier post for more info on the major conclusions of our review.

Citation: Whiteley AR, Fitzpatrick SW, Funk WC, Tallmon DA (2015) Genetic rescue to the rescue. Trends in Ecology and Evolution 30, 42-49.

New paper by Dr. Katie Langin and colleagues on adaptive divergence in a single population of Island Scrub-Jays


Island Scrub-Jay (Aphelocoma insularis) (Photo credit: Katie Langin)

Adaptive divergence within populations is thought to be rare due to the constraining effects of gene flow. Surprisingly, Dr. Katie Langin and colleagues found repeated adaptive divergence in bill size and shape in Island Scrub-Jays (Aphelocoma insularis) in three separate stands of pine surrounded by a sea of oak on Santa Cruz Island, California, USA. Importantly, this variation in bill morphology was heritable, suggesting it is not solely the result of phenotypic plasticity. Moreover, jays mated non-randomly with respect to bill morphology, resulting in a pattern of assortative mating (pairs of jays tended to have similar sized bills). Lastly, analysis of neutral molecular markers demonstrated isolation by distance across the east-west axis of the island, as well as a subtle genetic discontinuity across the boundary between the largest pine stand and adjacent oak habitat. These results challenge the prevailing view that adaptive divergence is unlikely in the face of high gene flow over small spatial scales. This paper has been accepted pending minor revision in Evolution.

Citation: Langin KM, Sillett TS, Funk WC, Morrison SA, Desrosiers MA, Ghalambor CK (Accepted pending minor revisions) Islands within an island: Repeated adaptive divergence in a single population. Evolution.