Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America

About the PNAS Member Editor
Name Schemske, Douglas W.
Location Michigan State University
Primary Field Evolutionary Biology
Secondary Field Environmental Sciences and Ecology
 Election Citation
Schemske's research integrates ecological and genetic approaches to understand evolutionary processes in plants. Through rigorous fieldwork, experiments, and theory, he has made several major contributions to understanding the process of speciation, the genetic basis of adaptation, the maintenance of genetic polymorphisms, plant-pollinator mutualisms, and plant breeding systems.
 Research Interests
Douglas Schemske's research investigates the ecological factors that contribute to adaptation and speciation, and the genetic architecture of adaptive traits. Through long-term field experiments, he seeks to identify how adaptations arise. Key questions include: Is adpatation due to few or many genes? Do adaptive genes have large or small effects? Do adaptations often display fitness tradeoffs, i.e. do traits and genes that improve performance in one environment often reduce performance elsewhere? He and his colleagues have employed a number of different plant systems to address these questions. Work on two closely-related species of monkeyflowers with different pollinators revealed that the transition from bee-to hummingbird polllination was due to a relatively small number of genetic changes, with some of very large effect. Reciprocal transplants of the model plant Arabidopsis thaliana between the northern and southern edges of its native range in Europe identified flowering time and freezing tolerance as major adaptive traits. Each was controlled in part by genes of large effect, and for freezing tolerance, there was strong evidence of fitness tradeoffs. The results from these and other studies lend support to the idea that strong ecological interactions coupled with major genes and genetic tradeoffs are integral elements of adaptation.

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