• Name: Christine Parent, PhD
  • Institution: University of Idaho
  • Department: University of Idaho
  • Phone: 208-885-4016
  • Email: ceparent@uidaho.edu

Summary: Research in the Parent lab focuses on the evolutionary process of diversification in lineages exposed to novel environments. Adaptation to novel (abiotic and biotic) environments is a fundamental process leading to the generation and maintenance of biodiversity. This process and its resulting patterns can be studied at multiple organizational levels, from genes to communities of interacting organisms. The research done in the Parent lab navigates across these scales to generate and test hypotheses related to the evolutionary process of diversification in organisms exposed to novel environments. One type of novel environment that organisms are continuously facing is a constantly changing pool of viruses. The host response to multiple viral infections is little studied, especially across organizational scale. This is a promising research avenue currently being developed in the Parent lab, and the INBRE fellows would be active participants in this new research endeavor. To study questions related to change and more specifically adaptation to novel environments, we use a combination of laboratory experiments, field observations, comparative analyses, molecular phylogenetics, and integrate them with theoretical modeling. Thus, students working in the Parent lab will be exposed to multiple research approaches commonly used in evolutionary biology.

Minimum Classes: None

Projects: Infectious diseases represent a major public-health problem. With the increasing global mobility of human populations, individuals are being exposed to an increasing diversity of viruses. Many approaches are used to study viral infections at different organizational levels, ranging from very detailed molecular studies of specific viruses to epidemiological studies at the population level. However, the majority of these studies focus on single viruses, ignoring the potential effects of co-infection. The rate at which individuals are exposed to a changing pool of viruses is likely to be higher than the viral clearance rate for individuals, leading to viral co-infection. Although it is clear that the outcome of co-infection can be different from single infection, very little research has been performed to understand the direction, magnitude, as well as the implications of and the circumstances leading to this difference. The INBRE fellow will work in close collaboration with a team of researchers at the University of Idaho who are currently developing the host-virus system of Drosophila and associated viruses. This work will fill in the existing gap for a model system that can be used to address questions at all levels of organization, from molecules to communities. This system will allow us to leverage the advantages of studying large host and viral populations, powerful genetic tools, and ready access to sequencing technology. The INBRE fellow will be involved in the maintenance and monitoring of D. melanogaster experimental populations, develop and implement fitness assays, and quantify the host response to different types of viral infection in terms of changes in demographic variables and gene expression.

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