Faculty & Research

Associated Faculty

Bridgett vonHoldt


Bridgett VonHoldt


Phone (609) 258-1025
locationM151 Guyot Hall

Research Focus

Genomics of hybrid zones and ecological epigenetics

Ecological Epigenomics. Wild species can exhibit numerous phenotypes, some of which have been locally adapted, often classified as ecotypes or perhaps subspecies supported by genetic evidence. Any species with a large geographic distribution, often spanning a variety of ecologies (e.g. arid, boreal forest, arctic) can be the focus of exploring how habitat gradients and genetics are correlated, often under the hypothesis focused on genes that are locally adapted. Across said gradients, populations can be highly differentiated with fine-scale genetic structuring and phenotype variation. Analysis of the methylome can provide a unique opportunity to address ecological/evolutionary questions regarding adaptation and response to selection: What degree of natural epigenetic variation exists? Do patterns of methylation segregate with locally adapted populations or overlap with known locally adapted loci? Do transposition-methylation dynamics correlate with fine-scale population structure? How do phenotypes and methylation patterns segregate? Further, I can survey variation in the regulatory genome in relation to specific phenotypes (e.g. body size, skeletal proportions, coat color), social rank (e.g. stress, aggression), demography (e.g. inbreeding), or evolutionary history (e.g. domesticated species, highly inbred or genetically isoalted). (Collaborators: Drs. Daniel Stahler and Douglas Smith of the Yellowstone Wolf Recovery Project; Drs. Robert Wayne, Matteo Pellegrini, and Thomas Smith at UCLA; Dr. Marco Musiani at University of Calgary)

Introgression analysis and admixture mapping. Closely-related species that readily hybridize are often the center of controversy over taxonomic status and priority for conservation management. Ancestry of potentially mixing populations is difficult to resolve when the parental species are closely related. Using a genome-wide approach across a geographic sampling of putatively admixed populations, resolving the ancestry assignment of genomic segments will assist in mapping out not only geographic hybrid zones (e.g. Great Lakes region for wolves and coyotes) but also estimate the timings of the initial admixture event.(Collaborators: Dr. Robert Wayne at UCLA, Dr. Roland Kays at the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences)

Selected Publications

Verhoeven KJ, vonHoldt BM, Sork VL. (2016) Epigenetics in ecology and evolution: what we know and what we need to know. Mol Ecol. 2016 Mar 19. [Epub ahead of print]

Schweizer RM, vonHoldt BM, Harrigan R, Knowles JC, Musiani M, Coltman D,Novembre J, Wayne RK. (2016) Genetic subdivision and candidate genes under selection in North American grey wolves. Mol Ecol. 2016 Jan;25(1):380-402. PubMed PMID: 26333947

Fredrickson RJ, Hedrick PW, Wayne RK, vonHoldt BM, Phillips MK. (2015) Mexican wolves are a valid subspecies and an appropriate conservation target. J Hered. 106: 415-6. Pubmed

B vonHoldt, S Takuno, B Gaut (2012) Recent LTR retrotransposon insertions are methylated and phylogenetically clustered in japonica rice (Oryza sativa japonica). Mol Biol Evol29(10), 3193-3203 [abstract]

H Huson, B vonHoldt, M Rimbault, et al. (2012) Selection for breed- specific ancestry targets a mutation in the MYO9 gene associated to heat tolerance within performing Alaskan sled dogs. Mamm Genome 23, 178-194 [abstract]

B vonHoldt, J Pollinger, D Earl, et al. (2011) A genome-wide perspective on the evolutionary history of enigmatic wolf-like canids. Genome Res 21, 1294-1305 [abstract]

B vonHoldt, E Han, J Pollinger, et al. (2010) Genome-wide SNP and haplotype analyses reveal a rich history underlying dog domestication. Nature 464, 898-903 [abstract]


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