I am a Russian-American-Australian evolutionary biologist interested in understanding how organisms adapt to rapid ecological changes. My work focuses on two main areas:
Biological invasions and host-pathogen evolution
I work with honey bees (Apis) as a model of pathogen evolution. Western honey bees (Apis mellifera) are an agricultural mainstay, with 65% of Australian agricultural production relying on their pollination services. Originally native to Europe, West Asia and Africa, these bees have been spread worldwide by humans. Globalisation also facilitated the spread of many bee parasites and diseases caused by bacteria and viruses. As other insects, honey bees evolve rapidly and, given their agricultural relevance, we know a lot about their pathology. My lab focuses on (1) characterising how new pathogens enter a naive host population, (2) ecological and evolutionary dynamics of pathogen spread and (3) responses by the bees and coevolution.
Given the recent arrival and spread of Varroa mites in Australia we are particularly interested in collaborations focused on their impact on the Australian ecosystem and what can be done to mitigate it.
Evolution of venom systems
Snake venoms are some of the most rapidly evolving loci in the whole genome. For venomous snakes an effective venom is essential to catch prey and avoid injury. However, unlike other complex traits, venoms can be easily characterised, making a connection between ecology and specific genes in the genome. We use this system to study how adaptive novelty arises at different timescales, from hundreds of millions of years to generations.