Dr. Nic Kooyers

My research is focused on understanding how organisms are able to adapt to local environments. Local habitats often differ in a number of factors including climate, soil, and competitors which promotes divergent natural selection between populations. Understanding the fundamental process of how populations become locally adapted to spatial variation in the environment can enable us to identify patterns of natural variation with a species, the factors that limit species ranges or the ability to adapt to changing climates. My research involves identifying and characterizing variation in traits that lead to higher fitness in particular environments. I am particularly interested in understanding the genetic basis of this variation and the environmental factors that cause this variation to be maintained in natural populations. Understanding these factors allows me to identify predictable patterns and model population responses to changing conditions. Although this research falls under the broad umbrella of evolutionary biology, I tackle these questions using a variety of methods from population ecology, quantitative genetics, population genomics and molecular biology. Please check out my research tab for more information on specific questions, model systems and current research.

Photo Credit: Loren Cassin Sackett

You may notice that only one tab within this website is devoted to research; this is because scientists have a number of other equally important responsibilities including teaching and mentoring students, communicating science to the public, assisting in development of public policy and promoting the transition between basic and applied research. I place a high value on each of these topics and strive to make a contribution to each of these priorities.    

Recent News:
April 18, 2017 - The semester is coming to a close here at USF and my lab group will be sad to have Ashley Ramirez graduate. Ashley has been working to master duckweed propagation and on understanding the evolution of drought resistance during the last two semesters in lab. We wish her the best as she decides between internships and chooses her next direction!

April 17,2017 - I have had some good news in the past couple weeks. I received the American Genetics Association Ecological, Evolutionary, and Conservation Genomics research grant! It provides funding for a project examining the genetic basis of variation in plant defense between two divergent monkeyflower populations. This projects stems from my postdoc work examining plant defense variation along latitudinal and elevation gradients with Ben Blackman and Liza Holeski. Thank you AGA!

Following this news, I also was awarded a New Researcher Grant here at USF! This provides funds to determine the genetic basis of plant defense in a second set of divergent populations of monkeyflowers. By comparing how different populations evolved increased defense in response to similar increases in herbivore pressure, we will gain a better idea of the predictability of the evolutionary process.

February 13, 2017 - Back in 2016, Ben and I partnered with the USA-National Phenology Network to create a citizen science initiative to survey phenology for key species along the Pacific Crest Trail. The website for this project is now up and running! Check it out here. We have already chosen sites to survey phenology in Inyo National Forest, Yosemite National Park, Crater Lake National Park and North Cascades National Park, and are currently working on getting permission to tag plants in each of these areas.

January 13, 2017 - More good news on the publication front: My paper with UVA undergrad Brooke James and Ben Blackman examining how interspecific competition between M. guttatus and M. alsinoides shapes trait variation along an elevation gradient has been accepted into Evolution! Check out a pdf of this paper on my research gate profile. Note - The journal does not want me posting a pdf on a personal website for one year after the paper is published.

January 4, 2017 - I traveled to Berkeley for a first annual project meeting for our NSF grant examining critical photoperiod variation in monkeyflowers. Lots of good ideas flowing.

December 2016 - Lots of news from the Kooyers lab group at USF during the first semester! Four undergraduates,
Qiara Perez, Allison Blakely, Abbey Donofrio,  and Ashley Ramirez, joined me for lab meetings and began undergrad research in the lab! Together, we got some monkeyflowers growing at USF! Looking forward to a great new semester with this talented group of undergrads!

December 19, 2016 - New paper with Liza Holeski and Ben Blackman accepted at Ecology - check it out on my research gate profile . We examine the spatial distribution of the main phytochemical herbivore defense in Mimulus along a latitudinal gradient and find a latitudinal gradient in the opposite direction predicted by Latitudinal Herbivore Defense Hypothesis. However, the distribution of this plant defense is highly associated with herbivore damage and the predicted cost of defense.

October 2016 - Our small group of evolutionary geneticists at USF took the Southeastern Population Ecology and Evolutionary Genetics meeting in Madison, FL by storm. Loren, Marta and I gave talks, and I managed to pick up the best postdoc talk award. Love..This...Meeting!

August 8, 2016 - I moved to University of South Florida in Tampa to start a new position as a independent research scientist. I am continuing to collaborate with Ben and will visit Berkeley often!

June 1, 2016 - I went west! I am spending the summer finishing up my postdoc in Ben Blackman's Lab, and am starting a new citizen science project that monitors plant phenology along the PCT. This work is part of our NSF grant and is collaborative with USA National Phenology Network. I'll post a link here as soon as we get a website up and running.

March 2016 - It is official - NSF has funded our grant proposal: "Mechanisms of malleability and resilience of flowering responses to current and future variability in seasonal cues in a geographically-widespread species." Ben, Jay Sexton, Dan Runcie, and I get to continue our work on seasonal adaptation via critical photoperiod in Mimulus!

This website is continuously getting an updates as time allows! Check out the new content within the research tab and publications tabs. More pictures and better design is coming soon.