November 14 2018

UCLA Center for Tropical Research Seminar

Allison Shultz, Ph.D.
Assistant Curator of Ornithology
Natural History Museum of Los Angeles

“Evolution Across Timescales: Comparative and Population Genomics Studies of Host-Pathogen Co-Evolution in Birds”

Infectious disease produces some of the strongest selective forces on natural populations across the tree of life. The signatures of pathogen-mediated evolution on host genomes have been described for several traditional model organisms, but few studies of more diverse organisms have detected such signatures beyond candidate immune loci. Here, I combine population and comparative genomics to study the dynamics of pathogen-mediated selection at two evolutionary timescales in wild bird populations. First, I use alignments from over 39 bird genomes to estimate parameters related to positive selection for 11,000 genes conserved across birds. I use functional pathway analyses, transcriptome data, and comparisons with mammals to show that pathogens, particular viruses, consistently target the same genes across divergent clades, and that these genes are hotspots of host-pathogen conflict over deep evolutionary time. Second, I use genomes of House Finches collected across time and space to understand the demographic impacts of two anthropogenic disturbances, an introduction and a novel pathogen. I find that the demographic history of the House Finch had the largest genomic impact, and that selection likely occurred at many different genes. Finally, I introduce some of the projects I am thinking about starting as Assistant Curator of Ornithology at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles.

Dr. Shultz is an ornithologist who integrates research across evolutionary timescales to gain a comprehensive understanding of the processes that produce the patterns of biodiversity. She got her BA at the University of California, Berkeley in 2007, where she worked at the Museum of Vertebrate Zoology. She got her MS in 2011 at San Diego State University under Dr. Kevin Burns, where she studied the evolution of plumage color in the tanagers. In 2017, she obtained her PhD under Dr. Scott Edwards at Harvard University, where she studied the genomic impacts of host-pathogen co-evolution in birds. After graduating, she spent a year as a Bioinformatics Scientist at the Informatics Group at Harvard University. In September, 2018, she started as Assistant Curator of Ornithology at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles.

Wednesday, November 14, 2018
4:00 PM
La Kretz Hall, 3rd Floor
Large Conference Room
Host: Smith Lab