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May 20, 2021

5:00pm Zoom

EcoEvoPub Seminar Series
Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, UCLA

" Graduate Student Presentations "

Nicolas Rochette

Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, UCLA, Campbell-Staton Lab

“Cis-regulatory divergence in high altitude deer mice populations highlights the essential role of pleiotropic genes”


Variation in the transcriptional regulation of gene expression contributes extensively to phenotypic diversity within and between species and plays a major role in quantitative trait evolution. However, the characterization of its genetic basis is confounded by the cascading effects of causal cis-regulatory variants on the expressions of many genes. In diploid organisms, a promising approach to circumvent this issue is to study the relative expression of the two alleles, as this intrinsically emphasizes cis-regulatory effects. Here, we leverage an allelic expression (AE) approach to investigate the cis-regulatory landscape of local adaptation to high altitude in the deer mouse (Peromyscus maniculatus). We address the methodological challenges associated with assessing AE imbalance in outcrossing populations using a controlled mating design. We demonstrate that AE measures are associated with markedly reduced biological variation in comparison with total gene expression, consistent with the expectation that AE should be less sensitive to genome-wide genetic and regulatory variation. Further, we find that most genes have distinguishable regulatory alleles, thus adding to a growing body of evidence that segregating cis-regulatory variation is ubiquitous in wild populations. Finally, we identify a small set of genes exhibiting strong cis-regulatory differentiation between highland and lowland populations. This set comprises some previously identified targets of selection, as well as new candidates that collectively highlight that integrative and pleiotropic pathways play a major role in generating the broad range of organismal changes observed in high altitude deer mouse populations.


Hayden Speck

Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, UCLA, Jacobs Lab

“Pseudoscience in the Age of Misinformation: the Origins, Challenges, and Potential Solutions”


Pseudoscientific movements are resurgent in modern society. While the COVID-19 crisis has recently brought attention to their widespread belief, the current crisis of trust in science has grown for quite some time. Our mission as scientists for an educated science literate society demands we do our part to stop the spread of pseudoscience. While many people believe that pseudoscience arises from a lack of scientific literacy, previous work has shown that pseudoscientific belief is rooted in a wide variety of cultural factors unrelated to science education. To effectively confront pseudoscience we must understand the mindset and motivated reasoning that occurs in the mind of its proponents. By re-contextualizing pseudoscience as a cultural problem we can begin to formulate cultural strategies and solutions to limit the damage it can inflict on individuals and society as a whole.