Why all these critters, why all these weeds, and how?
I am (my CV) fundamentally interested in how the astonishing natural diversity we see on earth came into being, the forces that formed it and how it is changing today. Hence, I try to understand the process of evolution, with mathematical models and through the analysis of genome sequencing data. My current main focus is population genetics, that is, the evolution within species, and the formation of new species through diversifying selective forces. I am also interested in more comparative analysis of groups of species.
The evolution of diversity
Since childhood I have been interested in all aspects of nature, and I studied physics to start with the basics of inanimate nature. During my PhD with Joachim Hermisson and Claus Rueffler, I studied conditions for the maintenance of genetic and phenotypic diversity within species using the mathematical framework of evolutionary invasion analysis and computer simulations. In particular I was interested in the effects of temporal and spatial fluctuations in environmental conditions, organismal complexity and the role of phenotypic plasticity, developmental noise (article and poster) and evolutionary bet-hedging.
Current project: Evolutionary genomics of vervet monkeys
The work for my PhD was fascinating, but I was missing two aspects. First, I wanted to get my hands dirty analysing real genome data as shaped by natural evolution. Second, I wanted to be able to show cute pictures of furry animals during my presentations. Both aspects are perfectly met by my postdoc project in Magnus Nordborg's lab. I have a great data-set of whole-genome sequencing of more than 160 (mostly) wild vervet monkeys from 9 African countries. I learned all the technicalities of genome data analysis, from alignment over SNP calling to ancestral state inference, and currently I am analysing the resulting polymorphism data. Our questions include the phylogeography, signatures of selection and co-evolution with pathogens (SIV in particular) in these monkeys.
Besides my work on vervet monkeys, I am also involved in some projects with Arabidopsis thaliana, including the 1001 genomes project and the evolution of selfing.
Beside the road
Besides work, one of my big passions is acting. I am involved in some theatre groups, doing both improvisational theatre and classical productions. Other hobbies are photography and ornamental fish breeding, in particular of cichlids. I actually have a real weakness for scaly beings and journey this way and that snorkeling in muddy creeks in search of them.