Sarah Schaack

Sarah Schaack
Assistant Professor
Reed College   
Department of Biology

3203 Southeast Woodstock Boulevard
Portland, OR 97202
office: 503-517-7948
lab: 503-517-7976
Email: schaackmobile(at), schaack(at)
Lab website:

During the 2013-2014 academic year, I will be on sabbatical in East Africa-- mail/phone msgs to the address/number above will not be received.  If you need to find me, I will be:

Sept 19-Oct 20 2013                                                       Oct 20 2013-May 1 2014
Professeur Invité                                                            Visiting Fulbright Scholar                     
Université Claude Bernard Lyon 1                                     University of Nairobi and
Biométrie et Biologie Évolutive                                          Biosciences East and Centra Africa (BecA-Hub)
UMR-CNRS 5558 - Bat. Mendel                                        International Livestock Research Institute
43 bd du 11 novembre 1918                                              Nairobi, Kenya
69622 Villeurbanne cedex                                                 +254 7 29 470 027
                                                                                       Mailing address in Kenya:    
March 2012-March 2014                                                    Sarah Schaack
Honorary Lecturer                                                              8900 Nairobi Pl
Makerere University                                                           Dulles, VA 20189-8900
Kampala, Uganda                                                              (only US first class postage required if mailed to this address)

My two main interests are 1) the rate, spectrum, and consequences of mutation in nuclear and organellar genomes and 2) the mobilome-- the most dynamic portion of the genome.

I work on the short- and long-term consequences of spontaneous mutation, in terms of how they shape the size, organization, and landscape of the genome.  I am interested in the rate of mutation, and thus its impact on fitness, adaptation, the evolution of sex, and speciation in various environments.  I focus on eukaryotic systems, where gene products from multiple genomes (nuclear and organellar) must be compatible, even though the local cellular environment and evolutionary constraints differ dramatically.
Among the many types of mutation that occur, transposable elements are responsible for some of the most dramatic observable genetic changes.  Mobile DNA (a term used to include selfish genes, jumping genes, transposable elements, mobile genetic elements, mobile introns, and many other types of DNA) can move within and between organisms, and can even cross species boundaries.  Further, pieces of mobile DNA can carry normally static DNA (hitchhiking) and can  be amplified to high copy number in the genome.  Often referred to as "junk DNA", little is known about the impact of mobile DNA other than that it appears to account for a huge proportion of most multicellular eukaryotic genomes.  

Despite the importance of spontaneous mutation and the near ubiquity of mobile DNA, we have few empirical estimates of mutation rate and and are only beginning to understand the genomic landscape of eukaryotes. The research in my lab is aimed at understanding the proximate and ultimate changes brought about by mutation, especially those caused by mobile DNA, at the genotypic and phenotypic level. 

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