I am currently a second-year graduate student at Kansas State University working towards my Ph.D. in entomology under the guidance of Gregory Ragland and Theodore Morgan. I am broadly interested in the evolution of complex life cycles. More specifically, my research aims to better understand constraints, both genetic and performance related, across the metamorphic boundary. I am interested whether the performance under a given set of environmental conditions is constrained across metamorphosis or if there exists the potentiality for adaptive decoupling in distinct life stages. In other words, can each life stage have its own evolutionary trajectory and adaptive landscape?
“Bee Lifecycle” by Leonie Dohmen
Insects provide an excellent crucible to answer these types of questions. Within the class of Insecta, there exists a diversity in life cycle complexity and perhaps a possible continuum of adaptive strategies. Do insects that undergo complete metamorphosis (like honeybees, as illustrated above) have more adaptive “freedom” and, therefore, less pressure imposed by genetic constraints? After all, there is only one genome that an organism possesses. I hypothesize that there is a limit to how differential the genetic architecture of some trait can be across ontogeny. Moreover, how would this decoupling negatively affect the organism? I hope to answer these and a host of other questions in my tenure here at Kansas State University.