Ph.D. Candidate in the Department of Ecology and Evolution
Evolution of pigmentation traits in natural populations of the fruit fly species Drosophila melanogaster
Synopsis: Many evolutionary biologists are concerned with the mechanisms that produce and maintain diversity in natural organisms. Insect pigmentation is a useful model for studying these mechanisms and how traits evolve and contribute to adaptation. My theses work aims to determine how specific genes may be contributing to variation in pigmentation traits in populations of the fruit fly species Drosophila melanogaster in the Eastern United States. So far I have quantified significant variation in these traits, demonstrated geographic patterns, and uncovered nucleotide sites in pigmentation genes that may be contributing to this variation. This suggests that pigmentation may contribute to adaptation to the environment and be subject to natural selection.
Biography: Rocio went to the Bronx High School of Science where she first took a stab at research in a project at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine. She then completed a B.A. in Biology at New York University, where she completed an honors thesis on the evolution of development in nematode male tails with David Fitch. Soon after graduation in 2006, she began the Ph.D. program in the department of Ecology and Evolution working with John True in the Lab for Evolutionary Genetics.