Who I am and What I do

Who I am:

I am a theoretical biologist working on the evolution of reproductive strategies and, in turn, their consequences on species evolution. I am also working on introducing demography as a variable and not a parameter in population genetics models for a more complete picture of the forces acting on species evolution.

What I do:

I develop theoretical models that take reproductive systems, population demography and life-history strategies into account. I am interested in two main fields of Evolution and Ecology: 1) The consequences and evolution of self-fertilisation and 2) The feed-back between demographic (i.e. life-history strategies) and genetic processes.

The consequences and evolution of self-fertilisation

Though self-fertilisation offers the advantage of reproductive assurance (Baker's law: a single individual can found a new population), it has been suggested that, due to lower genetic variance and higher probabilities of fixation of deleterious mutations, it is an evolutionary dead-end. In order to understand the role of self-fertilization on population genetics, and in what conditions it evolves, I have worked with models considering only unconditionally deleterious mutations (Abu Awad et al. 2014, Abu Awad and Billiard 2017) and also with quantitative trait models that offer a more realistic genetic architecture concerning compensatory mutations and epistatic interactions (Abu Awad and Roze 2018).

A project on how the adaptative potential of populations is influenced by the associations between loci generated by selfing is underway.

The feed-back between demographic and genetic processes

Demographic processes are an essential, but often neglected, aspect of population evolution. This is especially true in light of recent genome-wide studies showing a correlation between the genetic diversity maintained within species and their life-history strategies. I therefore find it primordial to incorporate both the demographic and genetic properties of populations into theoretical models for a better understanding of the dynamics and observed patterns of species’ evolution. So far I have worked on incorporating demo-genetic feedback (e.g. see this article for a vulgarization of Abu Awad and Billiard 2017), pereniality (Abu Awad et al. 2016) and r- and K- life history strategies (Abu Awad and Coron, 2018) into population genetics models.

I am currently collaborating with Camille Coron to develop a model in which we aim to provide more comprehensive definitions of the selective coefficient, reflecting differences in life-history traits between individuals. During my stay in Aurélien Tellier's lab as a TUM Fellow, I will be developing models examining the effects of the reproductive system on the evolution of seed-banks.