The tools that we have for predicting how populations evolve their mean phenotypes (e.g., size, sex pheromones, colour patterns, wing shape) assume that the genetic variation available for adaptation to a new environment is constant across all environments. However, there is ample evidence that alleles can have different effects on phenotypes, depending on the environment the individual is in. How this variability influences evolution, and our ability to predict evolution, is not well understood. Much attention has focused on novel, or extreme environmental challenges, but populations are often adapting to much more subtle environmental shifts. We are using the native Australian vinegar fly, Drosophila serrata, to investigate how the environment shapes genetic variation and phenotypes, and what the consequences of this might be for adaptation to climate change.

Supervisor: Dr Katrina McGuigan