The Three Major Problems to Solve

Our lab’s approach begins with three observations and the evolutionary and coevolutionary questions that follow from those observations: 

1) Species are collections of genetically distinct populations.

Our studies of evolution and coevolution begin with this nearly universal property of species. We are trying to understand how adaptation begins with selection on local populations, and is then reshaped over large geographic scales through genetic connections among populations to produce (a) patterns of adaptation over larger scales and (b) speciation and adaptive radiation through a combination of ecological, genetic, and genomic processes. 

2) Local populations are often transient, but interactions between species sometimes persist for millions of years.

We are trying to understand the ecological and genetic conditions that allow long-term persistence of interactions and how human activities may be altering those conditions. 

3) Coevolving interactions often form webs of species rather than simply pairs of species.

We are trying to understand how coevolution shapes these webs and whether the webs evolve in predictable ways under different ecological conditions.

Most of the papers from our laboratory, my three books on coevolution (Thompson 1982, 1994, 2005) and my book on why evolution is relentless (Thompson 2013), address these central problems in the evolution and organization of biodiversity from multiple perspectives.