Dr. Melissa Pespeni
Our research aims to better understand the processes that generate and impact the incredible biodiversity that exists on this planet, particularly in the contexts of complex natural ecosystems and rapidly changing climate conditions. To make connections between genes, phenotypes and the environment, we integrate genomics, population genetics, developmental biology, physiology, and ecology using natural populations in both field- and lab-based investigations. Conceptually, our research addresses integrative questions in evolutionary biology, ecological genomics, and global change biology. We focus on marine invertebrates because of their diversity, the threats they face, and their ease of culture in the lab. Our models systems are sea urchins, copepods, and sea stars. Sea urchins allow the investigation of fundamental physiological phenotypes that are particularly important in the context of climate change; copepods are fundamental to the function of ocean ecosystems and are easy to maintain in the lab across many generations; sea stars, the keystone species from which the concept was defined, have recently experienced the largest marine epidemic in history and the cause is as of yet unknown. Projects in my lab currently address the three major themes described below; in each, we drill down to uncover the variation that underlies adaptive physiological phenotypes and scale up to reveal the ecological and evolutionary processes that shape this variation.
Lab MembershipsPespeni Lab (Principal Investigator/Director)