Lasky Lab
Evolutionary ecology Genotype, Phenotype, Environment

Department of Biology, Pennsylvania State University

Evolutionary ecology 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

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.

28 October 2016

I am recruiting PhD students to the lab to start fall 2017 - contact me

14 September 2016

We welcome new lab members today! Lúa López (Postdoc) and Claire Lorts (Research technologist).

1 August 2016

I am hiring a lab technician, posting here.

4 July 2016

PhD student Victoria DeLeo is celebrating the 4th on a collecting trip in Dominican tropical dry forests with collaborator Tomás Carlo.

27 May 2016

We are excited that Lúa López, currently at Heidelberg University, will be joining the lab as a postdoc in the fall.

24 April 2016

The lab is growing: Victoria DeLeo has joined. She is seeking a PhD in Plant Biology. I am also recruiting a postdoc and PhD students for next year.

4 February 2016

Cassie Stoddard, Marjorie Webber, and I are organizing a Spotlight Session for ASN at the Evolution meeting in Austin in June. The topic is "The Evolution of Species Interactions." We are taking direct submissions for the session, email me

3 February 2016

Our project to study Arabidopsis response to climate is now up on DigiVol. You can participate as a citizen scientist to help the vital work of transcribing and georeferencing herbarium specimens.

17 December 2015

'Tis the season for special issues. Look for my contributions to new special issues on Detecting Selection in Natural Populations in Molecular Ecology, Epigenetic Studies in Ecology and Evolution in Molecular Ecology, and Demography Beyond the Population in Functional Ecology.

29 September 2015

I have arrived at PSU and am setting up my lab. I am recruiting lab members at all levels (postdoc ad here). Contact me if interested.

3 July 2015

I spoke at Evolution in Brazil about our new paper (out today!) on using genome-environment associations to predict genotype by environment interactions in response to abiotic stress.

1 June 2015

I will be starting at Penn State in August.
I am recruiting postdocs (advertised here), graduate students, undergraduate students, and technicians. Email if you are interested.