Assistant Professor of Biology
Hatch Science Building - 9
Covers the principles of population and quantitative genetics from an ecological perspective. Focuses on key concepts in the evolution of natural and managed populations, including subjects such as the heritability of ecologically important traits, inbreeding effects, and random genetic drift. Discusses various field and lab methods using genetic information in the study of ecology.
Our research interests focus on plant reproductive ecology using a combination of field sampling and molecular ecology tools on clonal plants at the population and community scale. Representing a large proportion of the planet’s flora and naturally resulting in genetic replicates across heterogeneous environments, clonal plants are an excellent model species for the study of ecological dynamics particular to the plant kingdom.
Clonality in plants is widespread and includes species that span temporally and spatially heterogeneous environments. Yet, theory predicts that clonally reproducing plants evolve at slower rates, risk accumulating more mutations than sexuals, and potentially lack the benefits of DNA repair mechanisms afforded by meiosis. Does the apparent success of clonal plants contradict the severe costs of clonal reproduction suggested by theory? In our most recent line of research, we examine how epigenetics may confer ecological advantages to clonal plants that could outweigh these evolutionary costs. Relying to various degrees on vegetative reproduction, the capacity to conserve or reverse gene regulation changes over cell divisions has clear potential for optimization of plasticity and acclimation in response to environmental variation encountered. Clonal plants may be one of the best examples of organisms taking advantage of epigenetic acclimation as an alternative to the slower mechanisms of adaptation through natural selection. If epigenetic processes are important in matching organismal response to the environment, this may prove to be a mechanism that will buffer plants against the challenges of current and future rapid environmental changes.
* = student researcher
Spens A*. and Douhovnikoff V. (2016) Epigenetic variation within Phragmites australis among lineages, genotypes, and ramets. Biological Invasions DOI 10.1007/s10530-016-1223-1
Douhovnikoff V., and Leventhal M.* (2016) The use of Hardy Weinberg Equilibrium in clonal plant systems. Ecology and Evolution. doi: 10.1002/ece3.1946
Douhovnikoff V., Taylor S.H., Hazelton E.L.G., Smith C.*, O’Brien J. (2016) Maximal stomatal conductance to water and plasticity in stomatal traits differ between native and invasive introduced lineages of Phragmites australis in North America. AoB Plants. doi:10.1093/aobpla/plw006
Dodd R. and Douhovnikoff V. (2016) Adjusting to global change through clonal growth and epigenetic variation. Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution doi: 10.3389/fevo.2016.00086
Kan C., Lichter J., and Douhovnikoff V. (In Review) Regional Genetic Population Structures and Assessment of Morphological Identification in Alosa aestivalis and A. pseudoharengus. Fisheries Research.
Douhovnikoff V. and Dodd R.S. (2014) Epigenetics: A potential mechanism for clonal plant success. Plant Ecology.
Douhovnikoff V. and Hazelton E. (2014) Clonal growth: invasion or stability? A comparative study of clonal architecture and diversity in two conspecific native and introduced grasses. American Journal of Botany.
Douhovnikoff V. and Dodd R.S. (2011) Lineage divergence in coast redwood (Sequoia sempervirens), detected by a new set of nuclear microsatellite loci. American Midland Naturalist 165:22-37.
Douhovnikoff, V., Goldsmith, G.R., Tape, K.D., Huang*, C, Sur*, N. and M.S. Bret-Harte. (2010) Clonal diversity in an expanding community of arctic Salix spp. and a model for recruitment modes of arctic plants. Arctic, Antarctic and Alpine Research 42: 406-411
Douhovnikoff V., McBride J.R.. and Dodd, R.S. (2005) Salix exigua clonal growth and population dynamics in relation to disturbance regime variation. Ecology 86, 446-452. Full Text (PDF)
Douhovnikoff V., Dodd R.S., and Cheng A.M.* (2004) Incidence, size and spatial structure of clones in second-growth stands of coast redwood, Sequoia sempervirens (Cupressaceae). American Journal of Botany 91, 1140-1146. Full Text (PDF)
Douhovnikoff V. and Dodd R.S. (2003) Intra-clonal variation and a similarity threshold for identification of clones: application to Salix exigua using AFLP molecular markers. Theoretical and Applied Genetics 106, 1307-1315. Full Text (PDF)