Welcome to the Funk Lab

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

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Maybellene Gamboa wins CSU Department of Biology Graduate Student Impact in Teaching and Mentoring Award!

Maybellene Gamboa holding a Channel Islands Song Sparrow.

Congratulations to Maybellene Gamboa–a PhD candidate in the Funk and Ghalambor labs–for being awarded a CSU Department of Biology Graduate Student Impact in Teaching and Mentoring Award! Maybellene earned this award due to her passion for and dedication to undergraduate teaching. She received this for many reasons, chief among them her dedication to making sure that ALL students she teaches have equal access to learning from a top-notch instructor. Another thing that has set Maybellene’s teaching apart is her drive to continually gain new teaching skills and perspectives. Maybellene is in the final push to finish her PhD. Any institutions looking for an up-and-coming teaching star should snap her up as soon as they can. Congrats Maybellene!

Amanda Cicchino scores big, winning multiple ecology grants & scholarships!

Amanda Cicchino in the Galápagos islands.

Funk lab PhD student Amanda Cicchino has been awarded two different scholarships/grants this spring to continue her awesome research on tailed frog (Ascaphus spp.) ecophysiology, conservation genomics, and vulnerability to climate change. First, Amanda won a Graduate Degree Program in Ecology (GDPE) Small Grant for Graduate Research. Then, the very next week, Amanda won a Dr. Heather M. Rueth Ecology Scholarship by the CSU Department of Biology. Way to go, Amanda!

Rebecca Cheek accepted to the Sustainability Leadership Fellows program!

Rebecca Cheek conducting field work on Island Scrub-jays on Santa Cruz Island, CA.

Congratulations to Funk and Ghalambor lab PhD candidate Rebecca Cheek for being accepted to the Sustainability Leadership Fellows (SLF) program! The SLF program is a competitive program through CSU’s School of Global Environmental Sustainability that accepts 20 advanced PhD students and postdoctoral scholars from across campus each year who are interested in communicating sustainability-related research to broad audiences. Fellows are provided training in network building, strategies for academic engagement in political and public discourse, and techniques to develop leadership and interdisciplinary collaboration skills.

Congratulations to Brenna Forester for being selected as a David H. Smith Conservation Research Fellow!

A huge congratulations to Brenna Forester–Funk lab postdoc extraordinaire–for being awarded a David H. Smith Conservation Research Fellowship, the most prestigious postdoctoral fellowship in conservation in the country. The goal of the Smith Fellows program is to provide innovative training to early career scientists to enable them to find solutions to pressing conservation problems. Each fellow’s research is conducted in partnership with academic and conservation practitioner mentors. Brenna will complete her project entitled “Integrating genomics into Endangered Species Act listing frameworks” under the academic mentorship of Chris Funk (Colorado State University) and Erin Landguth (University of Montana) and in partnership with Robin Waples (NOAA National Marine Fisheries Service) and Cat Darst (US Fish and Wildlife Service). We are delighted that Brenna will continue to be a member of the Funk lab as she tackles this important conservation problem at the interface of genomics and policy.

Sarah Fitzpatrick’s paper on the genomic and fitness consequences of genetic rescue published in Current Biology!

Trinidadian guppies (Poecilia reticulata) (Photo: Chris Funk)

Although gene flow may limit adaptation, it can also rescue small, inbred populations. Sarah Fitzpatrick–former Funk lab PhD student and current Assistant Professor at Michigan State University–led our paper just out in Current Biology documenting genetic rescue in wild populations of Trinidadian guppies. Combining wild pedigrees, mark-recapture data, and genomics, we find that gene flow from an adaptively divergent source population increases population growth rates without completely swamping locally adaptive alleles. Our results add to a growing body of literature showing that genetic rescue can be an effective strategy for increasing sizes and preventing extinction of small, isolated populations.

Funk lab and colleagues publish new paper on the exciting potential and remaining uncertainties of genetic rescue

Genetic rescue has been used as a management strategy to increase population sizes of mountain pygmy possums (Photo: Andrew Weeks)

Theory and data show that genetic rescue–a decrease in extinction probability due to gene flow–is an effective management tool for small, isolated populations. Despite this, genetic rescue is rarely used to boost population sizes, which has spurred a call for a paradigm shift for widespread use of genetic rescue. In this opinion piece led by Donovan Bell and Zak Robinson from the Whiteley lab at the University of Montana, we argue that although genetic rescue is promising and should be applied more widely, several questions remain regarding the duration and magnitude of genetic rescue effects and when negative effects might occur. In addition, we conclude by highlighting how new genomic methods can improve implementation of genetic rescue.

Daryl’s paper on puma landscape genomics accepted in Molecular Ecology!

Camera trap photo of mountain lion in the Colorado Front Range (Photo: Jesse Lewis)

Large apex predators are sensitive to urbanization because of their dependence on extensive contiguous habitats to support their large home rages and an abundant prey base. In a paper recently published in Molecular Ecology, postdoc Daryl Trumbo and colleagues performed a landscape genomics study on pumas (Puma concolor; also known colloquially as mountain lions, cougars, panthers, catamounts) using over 12,000 single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) from 130 pumas across an urban-rural divide in Colorado. This large SNP data set revealed differing patterns of dispersal and gene flow in rural versus urban settings, indicating ecological and behavioral differences in movement patterns between these contrasting landscapes. Although there was evidence that urbanization impacts gene flow and effective population sizes, no effect on genetic diversity was detected. This suggests that Colorado pumas are affected by increasing levels of urbanization in this rapidly growing state, but are not yet experiencing the extensive genomic impacts that pumas are in more fragmented landscapes like southern California and Florida.

Collaborative research on genetic rescue featured in Science magazine!

Trinidadian guppy pair. Photo credit: Paul Bentzen.

Our collaborative research on genetic rescue was featured in Science magazine. Former Funk Lab PhD student, Dr. Sarah Fitzpatrick (now an Assistant Professor at Michigan State University), was featured prominently in the article written by Elizabeth Pennisi. Sarah talked about our latest research using guppies as a model system for testing the effectiveness of genetic rescue. In addition, our new opinion piece on genetic rescue published last week in Trends in Ecology and Evolution was highlighted.

Congratulations to Brenna Forester for co-authoring a paper published in PNAS!!

Myotis escalerai in flight in Soria, Spain (photo credit: Daniel Fernandez Alonso)

Forecasts of species vulnerability and extinction risk under future climate change commonly ignore local adaptations despite their importance for determining the potential of populations to respond to future changes. In a paper recently published in PNAS, Dr. Orly Razgour, leading a team of international collaborators including Funk Lab postdoc Brenna Forester, present an approach to assess the impacts of global climate change on biodiversity that takes into account adaptive genetic variation and evolutionary potential. Focusing on two Mediterranean bat species, the team showed that considering local climatic adaptations reduced range loss projections but increased the potential for competition between species. These findings suggest that failure to account for within-species variability can result in overestimation of future biodiversity losses. Therefore, it is important to identify the climate-adaptive potential of populations and to increase landscape connectivity between populations to enable the spread of adaptive genetic variation. See HERE for popular article by Wired on this paper.

Congratulations to Amanda Cicchino for winning a Graduate Research Excellence Grant – RC Lewontin Early Award from the Society for the Study of Evolution!

Adult coastal tailed frog (Ascaphus truei)

Amanda Cicchino was awarded a Graduate Student Excellence Grant – RC Lewontin Early Award from the Society for the Study of Evolution to test whether thermal tolerance changes throughout development in tailed frogs (Ascaphus spp.). Most studies on thermal tolerance focus on a single life history stage, but if another life history stage has lower thermal thermal tolerance, then inferences about vulnerability to climate change may miss the mark. Stay tuned to see what Amanda finds out! This is part of our ongoing work on landscape phenomics in tailed frogs.

Coastal tailed frog (Ascaphus truei) tadpole