Associate Professor of Evolutionary Biology
He did postdoctoral work at the University of Arizona and New Mexico State University.
Charles studies the ecological and evolutionary genetics of hybrid zones and speciation, specifically in crickets. His research and teaching interests include all aspects of evolutionary biology, as well as population genetics, molecular ecology, entomology, and genomics. Other interests include Ultimate, backpacking, and good wine.
2009 was the 150th anniversary of the publication of Charles Darwin's "The Origin of Species." The concept of biological evolution pre-dates Darwin. However, when Darwin presented a provocative mechanism by which evolution works (i.e., natural selection), he catapulted an idea to the forefront of biology that has precipitated 150 years of research into the nature and origin of organic diversity. This course will serve as an introduction to the science of evolutionary biology. Additionally, we will take a historical look at the development of evolution as a concept and how it has led to the Modern Synthesis in biology and modern research in Evolutionary Biology. We will also investigate how Darwin's "dangerous idea" has infiltrated different areas of biology and beyond.
Molecular ecology utilizes the spatial and temporal distribution of molecular genetic markers to ask questions about the ecology, evolution, behavior, and conservation of organisms. This science may utilize genetic variation to understand individuals, populations, and species as a whole ("How does habitat fragmentation affect connectedness among populations?" "From where do particular groups originate?"). Similarly, genetic patterns may reveal information about interactions of organisms ("How much interbreeding occurs among populations?" "How monogamous or promiscuous are individuals?"). Molecular ecologists also utilize specific genes to investigate how organisms respond and adapt to their environments ("How do genetically modified organisms escape into natural environments?"). We will read background and primary literature in this field to understand how molecular ecology can answer basic and applied questions about organisms. Students will research specific applications of this discipline and present their findings in written and oral format. Some knowledge of biology will be assumed.
The science of Ecology investigates the distribution and abundance of organisms and their interactions with biotic and abiotic environments. This course will serve as an introduction to major areas of ecological study: population, community, and ecosystem ecology. Topics will include how populations are distributed in and limited by their environments, how organisms interact, how niches are determined, how ecosystems are structured, and how energy and nutrients flow through the biotic environment. A basic text in ecology as well as primary literature will guide lectures and discussions. We will include direct investigations of ecological phenomena in natural environments, and participants should be prepared for working in field conditions. Students will present their work in written and oral form.
Natural organisms provide an unparalleled palette for almost every color and pattern imaginable. Why do organisms have stripes and spots? Why blue or red? This course will explore how and why various colors and patterns are produced in the biological world. We will investigate biochemical, genetic (and epigenetic), developmental, and environmental mechanisms as well as simple mathematical models to explain their production. Additionally, we will link patterns/colors to their functions, such as defense, warning, camouflage, communication, mate attraction, etc. We will use both applied and primary scientific research literature to explore topics in these areas. Students will research specific aspects or questions and present their findings in written and oral format.
Ecological genetics lies at the interface of ecology, evolution, and genetics. This discipline concerns the genetics of ecologically important traits (those traits that relate to fitness and adaptation) and primarily focuses on phenotypic variation and evolution. This course will provide a foundation for how and why traits such as cryptic coloration in butterflies persist and what variations in mice populations allow some individuals to survive the winter. We will read background and primary literature in this field to understand how ecological genetics is important in answering basic and applied questions about organisms. Students will research specific applications of this discipline and present their findings in written and oral format.