Lasky Lab
Evolutionary ecology and genetics

Department of Biology, Pennsylvania State University

Evolutionary biology genotype, phenotype, environment

We study the processes that generate and maintain biodiversity, with a focus on spatiotemporal variation in high-dimensional systems. In particular, we study the drivers of genomic variation among populations and compositional variation in diverse communities.

Similar questions, such as when environmental versus dispersal constraints are more important, challenge both evolutionary biologists and ecologists. Answering these questions is essential for predicting biodiversity responses to global change.

Currently we focus on understanding the genetic, physiological, and ecological mechanisms of local adaptation to environment.

Study organisms include a variety of temperate and tropical tree species, Arabidopsis thaliana, Sorghum bicolor, and Striga hermonthica.

Photo: The lab, May 2018.

Lab news

4 January 2019

Welcome new Bioinformatics and Genomics PhD student Jeremy Sutherland. Jeremy will be coadvised by Terrence Bell in PPEM in close collaboration with John Carlson in ESM (PSU). Jeremy is funded by a USDA Plant Feedstock Genomics for Bioenergy grant on switchgrass. We will be studying genotype-environment interactions, rhizopshere microbiomes, disease resistance, and local adaptation. Jeremy previously received a BS at U of Illinois-Chicago and worked at USDA APHIS.

12 September 2018

Suzana Alcantara of the Federal University of Santa Catarina, Brazil, is visiting the lab this week.

1 September 2018

We said a sad goodbye to departing postdoc Lúa López and visiting PhD student Asnake Haile. Lúa moved on to a position as a Research Assistant Professor developing a Freshman Research Immersion at Binghamton University. Asnake returns to Ethiopia to finish his PhD.

22 July 2018

PhD student Victoria DeLeo and I taught lessons at the PSU Arboretum this weekend as a part of Eberly College's Science-U program and the PA BBVS summer academy.

19 July 2018

Grey Monroe, a student working on drought adaptation at Colorado State in John McKay's lab, is visiting us.

5 May 2018

Congratulations to Sarah Lucas in our lab who just graduated with a Bachelor's in Biology, summa cum laude! Sarah studied genetic variation in traits and demography in tree provenance trials. She moves on to get a Master's in Science Education at PSU.

28 March 2018

Welcome! to visiting PhD student Asnake Haile. Asnake is a student at Addis Ababa University with Tigist Wondimu. While here he will be studying climate adaptation in Arabidopsis.

1 January 2018

Welcome! to new NSF Plant Genome Fellow Emily Bellis. While here, Emily will be studying host-parasite coevolution in the parasitic plant Striga hermonthica, using sequences from a time series of herbarium specimens. Emily comes to us from Reed College where she was a postdoc.

10 December 2017

Welcome! to new Eberly Fellow Kathryn Turner. While here, Kathryn will be studying adaptation in invasive populations of Chorispora tenella, using sequences from a time series of herbarium specimens. Kathryn comes to us from Colorado State University where she was an NSF Postdoctoral Fellow.

18 October 2017

Two recent publications demonstrate some of our modeling advances in genotype-by-environment interactions. The plot above is taken from a new TREE paper (Gienapp et al. 2017) where we model how winter temperature-of-origin is associated with a genomic relatedness matrix in Arabidopsis. We then show how out-of-sample predictions of this model closely correspond to changes in the optimal Arabidopsis genotype in four common gardens of different winter temperatures.
Separately, we demonstrated the ability of a new approach to identify genetic loci associated with home allele advantage, loci putatively causing local adaptation. The plot below is taken from our new Molecular Ecology Resources paper (Lasky et al. 2017), showing an example of an identified locus where home SNP alleles had higher fitness across four common gardens.

13 September 2017

We recently got up into the canopy on a lift to get leaf samples from the black walnut provenance trial.

18 July 2017

Undergraduate Biology student and Millenium Scholar Jon Kizer is working in the lab this summer studying drought response in Arabidopsis.

29 June 2017

Undergraduate Biology student Sarah Lucas is conducting independent summer research on diversity in the on-campus black walnut (Juglans nigra) provenance trial.

5 May 2017

Congratulations to graduating Biology senior Grace Spellacy, shown here presenting our work on diversity in a common garden of black walnut (Juglans nigra).

23 February 2017

Fieldwork started early this year (photo at left). Unseasonably warm weather has made for pleasant work measuring trees in common gardens on campus here at PSU (Juglans nigra, black walnut, shown here).

10 February 2017

I updated our Data Dryad package to include global growing season climate rasters for Arabidopsis thaliana, originally a part of our 2012 Molecular Ecology paper.

6 February 2017

There has been a flurry of interest in our 2011 paper on potential threats of US-Mexico border barriers to animals. Recent coverage: Washington Post, Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, Texas Tribune, KJZZ Phoenix Public Radio, Fusion, Seeker,, Inverse, Live Science, E&E News, Ecoaméricas.