One of the oldest and most fundamental objectives of evolutionary biology is to understand how genetic variation affects fitness. This is not only the key to understanding Darwinian fitness and the evolution of mating systems, but also has a bearing on important problems facing society, such as climate change. To tackle this question, we apply classical approaches together with the latest developments in genomics, including high-throughput sequencing, transcriptomics and high-density single nucleotide polymorphism arrays, to wild animal populations. Our recent research has shown that these approaches can provide unprecedentedly powerful insights into the genetic basis of fitness.
Much of our work is based on long-term studies of wild vertebrate populations such as seals and mongooses. These systems provide a wealth of individual-based data that can be linked to genotype. For instance, we recently used detailed genotypic, life-history and environmental data to show that climate change is selecting for increased heterozygosity in a declining Antarctic fur seal population. Building upon the theme of climate change, we have also begun to combine genomic with geographical, time series and experimental approaches to explore the genetic basis of adaptation to environmental change, using marine invertebrates as model systems.
We gratefully acknowledge funding from: