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.



Microgeographic adaptation in island scrub-jays

Island scrub-jay (Aphelocoma insularis). Photo credit: Katie Langin

One goal of evolutionary ecology is to understand the processes that lead to species becoming better adapted to their local environment. Studies of local adaptation have historically focused on geographically separated populations, where adaptive differences are maintained by limited dispersal of individuals between populations. Growing evidence, however, suggests that adaptive evolution can occur over small spatial distances. How this fine-scale adaptation arises and is maintained remains unresolved, despite applications for human health, agriculture, and biodiversity. On Santa Cruz Island, the island scrub-jay (Aphelocoma insularis) has two morphologies. Birds in pine habitat have long and thin beaks, whereas those in oak habitats have short and deep beaks. These differences are known to facilitate feeding on pine cones versus acorns, but how such adaptive genetic differences are maintained over very small geographic distances is unknown. The goal of this project is to uncover the mechanisms allowing this fine-scale pattern of local adaptation by combining genomics, telemetry, and behavioral experiments. The data obtained from this work will then be used to develop general models that can inform the conditions under with adaptive differences in can occur. PhD student Rebecca Cheek (co-advised by Cameron Ghalambor and Chris) will lead the dispersal and gene flow components of this project. Collaborators include Cameron Ghalambor (CSU), T. Scott Sillett (Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center), Brandt Ryder (Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center), Paul Hohenlohe (University of Idaho), and Scott Morrison (TNC California). Click here to see NSF award abstract.