I am a bioinformatician and evolutionary biologist interested in the evolution of transposable elements (TEs) and their impacts in host genomes. TEs are DNA sequences with the ability to change their position within a host genome through a process called transposition. Through this, large blocks of DNA can be repositioned, or copied and relocated, within a host genome. This can profoundly alter host genomes, and it is likely that TEs have had significant impacts on their hosts, with several examples of adaptive TEs being discovered across diverse species. The dynamic nature of TEs can also lead to differences in TE content between individuals from the same species, providing opportunities to explore the potential adaptive roles of TEs by comparing populations of the same species found, for example, in different environments.
I am interested in exploring and characterising TE-host evolutionary dynamics across diverse species to understand the extent to which TEs are fundamental drivers of genome evolution. In essence, how important are TEs as a source of variation for their hosts? This can then be divided into smaller questions that form the basis of my research:
i) How do demographic and ecological conditions drive population-level differences in TE abundance and diversity?
ii) What features of particular TEs lead to their involvement in adaptation, and through which mechanisms?
iii) How common is TE-mediated adaptation, and in which host processes are adaptive TEs most likely to arise?
I am currently exploring TEs among populations of the fungal pathogen Zymoseptoria tritici to identify TEs that might be involved in the rapid adaptation of Z. tritici during its spread across the globe, including the emergence of resistant phenotypes and changes enabling the pathogen to cope with climate challenges.
In addition, I am also continuing to develop novel bioinformatics methodologies for improved TE curation and annotation, including the development of the Earl Grey TE annotation pipeline, as well as approaches to facilitate the study of adaptive TEs.
I am currently an SNSF postdoctoral fellow working with Prof. Daniel Croll in the Laboratory of Evolutionary Genetics at Université de Neuchâtel, Switzerland. I received my PhD in Evolutionary Genetics with Dr. Alex Hayward at the University of Exeter in 2022, where I was supported by the BBSRC SWBio Doctoral Training Partnership.