Bridgett M. vonHoldt

Photo of Bridgette Vonholdt
Associated Faculty, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology and the Lewis-Sigler Institute for Integrative Genomics
Moffett Laboratory, 328

Research Area

Genetics & Genomics

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)