My current research includes theoretical and empirical approaches to interrogate the influence of hybridization on range dynamics. My theoretical work focuses on three aspects of evolutionary biology: genetic architecture, hybridization, and adaptation. Genetic architecture refers to the number of genetic loci controlling a trait, the interactions between those loci, and their position within the genome. Hybridization is the interbreeding of distinct species or evolutionary lineages. Adaptation is the mechanism by which species become better suited to their environment over many generations. I am interested in the interplay between these three subjects within the greater context of biological invasions. Currently, I am developing models to explore how the genetic architecture of adaptive traits influences the contribution of hybridization to colonization. The goal of this research is to increase our understanding of the factors which determine when and how hybridization facilitates biological invasions. For a more detailed explanation of this work check out my most recent publication in Evolution:
Reatini, B., Vision, T. J. 2020. Genetic architecture influences when and how hybridization contributes to colonization. Evolution 74, 1590–1602. doi: 10.1111/evo.13972
My empirical work focuses on investigating the potential consequences of hybridization between native and invasive plant species in the Galápagos archipelago. Why the Galápagos? The Galápagos consists of many isolated islands which are themselves isolated from continental South America. Galápagos therefore offers an ideal natural laboratory to study evolutionary processes within varying ecological contexts and with naturally occurring experimental replicates. In addition, roughly a third of all native plant genera in the Galápagos also contain at least one introduced species. The potential for hybridization between such species is therefore considerable. I am investigating hybridization in five such genera: Psidium (guava), Lantana (wild sage), Passiflora (passionfruit), Gossypium (cotton), and Cenchrus (sandspur).
My most recent work has focused on investigating the negative consequences of hybridization between endemic guayabillo (Psidium galapageium) and invasive guava (P. guajava) and its potential contribution to the ongoing range decay of guayabillo on the co-inhabited islands. The goal of this research is to improve our understanding of how maladaptive hybridization can lead to demographic decline, and use that knowledge to aid in the conservation of this protected Galápagos tree species. For a more detailed explanation of this work check out my recorded talk for Botany 2020 Virtual below.
Leaf comparison. From left to right: 1. guayabillo (Psidium galapageium) native to Galápagos, 2. potential hybrid individual (Psidium sp.), 3. common guava (Psidium guajava) invasive in Galápagos.
Fruit & Seed comparison. From left to right: 1. guayabillo (Psidium galapageium) native to Galápagos, 2. potential hybrid individual (Psidium sp.), 3. common guava (Psidium guajava) invasive in Galápagos.