The lab’s name reflects Dr. Villablanca’s primary areas of research and the interests of the majority of his undergraduate and graduate students.
The lab studies genetic diversity and genetic structure at the population level and phylogenetics at the species level. Our primary focus is on endangered species. We use mitochondrial DNA sequences, nuclear DNA sequences, and microsatellite markers from contemporary samples and from museum specimens. Our goals are to define the units of biological diversity and to understand mechanisms that lead to their differentiation.
Research in the lab applies a diversity of analytical methods (phylogenetic reconstruction, statistical phylogeography, coalescence, recombination, estimation of models of molecular evolution, association between genotypes and phenotypic characters). Some students in the LMOE use simulations to explore the behavior and power of analytical software that addresses molecular evolution, or population genetic questions.
The lab also functions as a bridge between evolution and ecology. Ecological patterns and processes generally have a historical component and leave a genetic signature. The LMOE group works to study organisms within their natural environments, thus recognizing that ecological variables affect demography and population genetic structure.
The LMOE group has been actively pursuing research in endangered California Condors, Salt Marsh Harvest Mice, Morro Bay Kangaroo Rats, BlackFooted Ferrets, and La Graciosa Thistles. Research on non-endangered species includes the American Bison, and the Cabezon. Work on the California Condor, Morro Bay Kangaroo Rat and Cabezon also have field components.
| Dr. Villablanca's Curriculum Vitae