Research interests

In our research we seek to deepen our understanding of speciation and adaptation by gathering critical genetic data from a variety of plant, animal, and microbial taxa in field and laboratory settings, by developing and applying novel statistical analyses to genetic data, and through the development of theoretical models.

One goal of our research is to understand the genetic architecture of boundaries between species. Geographic contact between previously isolated lineages can lead to their coalescence through gene flow, or to the maintenance of derived characteristics in divergent lineages. Part of our work involves identifying the genetic conditions that favor either outcome. Decay of
  genetic differentiation between populations over time.

A second and related goal of our research is to contribute to our growing understanding of the genetics of adaptation. We develop statistical genetic methods for population genomics and for detecting the effects of selection on the genome.

Below is a description of some of the research projects that Alex Buerkle participates in or leads. Some additional projects are described on the webpages of individual members of the lab.

Genetic architecture of species boundaries

Barriers to gene flow allow discrete groups of organisms, such as species, to persist. In many cases reproductive barriers between taxa are incomplete and hybridization occurs in zones of geographic contact. A central focus of our research is to understand how different genetic architectures influence the fate of hybridizing taxa, and includes studies of the origin of diploid species through hybridization.

Schematic of introgression and clines at loci scattered
      across the genome.

Examples of research projects include:

  1. We have worked on statistical models for estimating ancestry and studying introgression (Gompert and Buerkle 2011,2012,2013; Gompert et al. 2012a and 2014 ). Our work includes analyses of Populus, (Lexer et al. 2007 and 2010, Lindtke et al. 2012 and 2014), sunflowers, (Buerkle and Rieseberg 2001, Scascitelli et al. 2010), sculpins (Nolte et al. 2009) and suckers (Mandeville et al. 2015), mice (Teeter et al. 2010), manakins (Parchman et al. 2013), butterflies (Gompert et al. 2012b and 2014), and on-going work on spruce, barn swallows and other species. We have developed software that implements our analyses of hybrids (bgc, Gompert and Buerkle 2012; and introgress, Gompert and Buerkle 2010, hindex, Buerkle 2005)


    Video of a July 2012 presentation that Alex gave at the Molecular Ecology Symposium in Ottawa. The title of the talk is "A 2012 Perspective On Research In Speciation & Hybridization".

  2. Chromosomal blocks of parental in a hybrid species of

    We have modelled the efficacy of different genetic architectures in the maintenance of species barriers and found that alternative architectures have large effects on isolation (Gompert et al. 2012, Lindtke and Buerkle 2015).

    I have modeled the ecological and genetic conditions that affect the origin of species through hybridization, and specifically hybrid species that have arisen without an increase in ploidy (Buerkle et al. 2000). We also modeled the risk of extinction through hybridization (Buerkle et al. 2003).

    In a related study, we used genetic maps from three hybrid species of sunflowers and junction theory to infer the rate of genome stabilization that followed diploid hybrid speciation (Buerkle and Rieseberg 2008). More recently we have been studying multiple instances of diploid hybrid speciation in butterflies (Nice et al. 2013) and have exciting comparative genomic results in the works.

Genetics of adaptation


DNA sequence variation makes it possible to study how specific genomic regions contribute to the expression of quantitative traits and allows an analysis of the genetic basis of adaptation and speciation.

Examples of research projects include:

  1. Shifts to feeding on novel host plants are a key component of the origin of biodiversity in many insects. We are working on the repeatability of evolution associated with the shift to feeding on an introduced plant (alfalfa) by a butterfly in the Western U.S. (Gompert et al. 2015). We also collaborate on the genomics of adaptation related to host shifts in Timema walking sticks (Nosil et al. 2013, Gompert et al. 2014, Soria-Carrasco et al. 2014).
  2. Monia Haselhorst (Ph.D. student) is studying hybridization and genetic differentiation among North American spruce with the initial goal of improving our knowledge of species distributions and the ecological affinities for spruce in western North America (Haselhorst and Buerkle 2013).
Google scholar profile (Follow link for full Google scholar profile)

Selected publications

Lindtke, D. and C. A. Buerkle. 2015. The genetic architecture of hybrid incompatibilities and their effect on barriers to introgression in secondary contact. Evolution 69: 1987–2004. (article)
Gompert, Z., J. P. Jahner, C. F. Scholl, J. S. Wilson, L. K. Lucas, V. Soria-Carrasco, J. A. Fordyce, C. C. Nice, C. A. Buerkle, and M. L. Forister. 2015. The evolution of novel host use is unlikely to be constrained by tradeoffs or a lack of genetic variation. Molecular Ecology 24: 2777–2793. (article)
Mandeville, E.G., T. L. Parchman, D. B. McDonald and C. A. Buerkle. 2015. Highly variable reproductive isolation among pairs of Catostomus species. Molecular Ecology 24: 1856–1872. (article)
Gompert, Z., L. K. Lucas, C. A. Buerkle, M. L. Forister, J. A. Fordyce, and C. C. Nice. 2014. Admixture and the organization of genetic diversity in a butterfly species complex revealed through common and rare genetic variants. Molecular Ecology 23: 4555–4573. (article)
Lindtke, D., Z. Gompert, C. Lexer, and C. A. Buerkle. 2014. Unexpected ancestry of Populus seedlings from a hybrid zone implies a large role for postzygotic selection in the maintenance of species. Molecular Ecology 23: 4316–4330. (article)
Soria-Carrasco, V., Z. Gompert, A. A. Comeault, T. E. Farkas, T. L. Parchman, J. S. Johnston, C. A. Buerkle, J. L. Feder, J. Bast, T. Schwander, S. P. Egan, B. J. Crespi, and P. Nosil. 2014. Stick insect genomes reveal natural selection’s role in parallel speciation. Science 344: 738–42. (article)
Gompert, Z., A. A. Comeault, T. E. Farkas, J. L. Feder, T. L. Parchman, C. A. Buerkle, and P. Nosil. 2014. Experimental evidence for ecological selection on genome variation in the wild. Ecology Letters 17: 369–379. (article)
Gompert, Z. and C. A. Buerkle. 2013. Analyses of genetic ancestry enable key insights for molecular ecology. Molecular Ecology 22: 5278–5294. article)
C. A. Buerkle and Z. Gompert. 2013. Population genomics based on low coverage sequencing: how low should we go? Molecular Ecology 22: 3028–3035. (article)
Parchman, T. L., Z. Gompert, M. J. Braun, R. T. Brumfield, D. B. McDonald, J. A. C. Uy, E. D. Jarvis, B. A. Schlinger, and C. A. Buerkle. 2013. The genomic consequences of adaptive divergence and reproductive isolation between species of manakins. Molecular Ecology 22: 3304–3317. (article)
Haselhorst, M.S.H., and C. A. Buerkle. 2013. Population genetic structure of Picea engelmannii, P. glauca and their previously unrecognized hybrids in the central Rocky Mountains. Tree Genetics and Genomes 9: 669--681. (article)
Nice, C. C., Z. Gompert, J. A. Fordyce, M. L. Forister, L. K. Lucas, and C. A. Buerkle. 2013. Hybrid speciation and independent evolution in lineages of alpine butterflies. Evolution 67: 1055–1068. (article)
Nosil, P., Z. Gompert, T. E. Farkas, A. Comeault, J. L. Feder, C. A. Buerkle, and T. L. Parchman. 2013. Genomic consequences of multiple speciation processes in a stick insect. Proceedings of the Royal Society, B. 279: 5058 5065. (article)
Gompert, Z. and C. A. Buerkle. 2012. bgc: Software for Bayesian estimation of genomic clines. Molecular Ecology Resources 12: 1168–1176. (article)
Lindtke, D., C. A. Buerkle, T. Barbará, B. Heinze, S. Castiglione, D. Bartha, C. Lexer. 2012. Recombinant hybrids retain heterozygosity at many loci: new insights into the genomics of reproductive isolation in Populus. Molecular Ecology 21: 5042–5058. (article).
Parchman, T. L., Z. Gompert, J. Mudge, F. D. Schilkey, C. W. Benkman, and C. A. Buerkle. 2012. Genome-wide association genetics of an adaptive trait in lodgepole pine. Molecular Ecology 21: 2991–3005. (article).
Gompert, Z., L. K. Lucas, C. C. Nice, J. A. Fordyce, M. L. Forister, and C. A. Buerkle. 2012b. Genomic regions with a history of divergent selection affect fitness of hybrids between two butterfly species. Evolution 66: 2167–2181. (article)
Gompert, Z., T. L. Parchman, and C. A. Buerkle. 2012a. Genomics of isolation in hybrids. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society, B: 367: 439–450. (article)
Gompert, Z. and C. A. Buerkle. 2011b. Bayesian estimation of genomic clines. Molecular Ecology 20: 2111–2127. (article)
Buerkle, C. A., Z. Gompert, and T. L. Parchman. 2011. The n=1 constraint in population genomics. Molecular Ecology 20: 1575–1581. (article)
Gompert, Z. and C. A. Buerkle. 2011a. A hierarchical Bayesian model for next-generation population genomics. Genetics 187: 903–917. (article)
Lexer, C., J. Joseph, M. van Loo, T. Barbará, B. Heinze, D. Bartha, S. Castiglione, M. F. Fay and C. A. Buerkle. 2010. Genomic admixture analysis in European Populus spp. reveals unexpected patterns of reproductive isolation and mating. Genetics 186: 699–712. (article)
Gompert, Z., M. L. Forister, J. A. Fordyce, C. C. Nice, R. J. Williamson and C. A. Buerkle. 2010. Bayesian analysis of molecular variance in pyrosequences quantifies population genetic structure across the genome of Lycaeides butterflies. Molecular Ecology 19: 2455–2473. (article)
Parchman, T.L., K. S. Geist, J. A. Grahnen, C. W. Benkman and C. A. Buerkle. 2010. Transcriptome sequencing in an ecologically important tree species: assembly, annotation, and marker discovery. BMC Genomics 11:180. (article)
Scascitelli, M., K. D. Whitney, R. A. Randell, M. King, C. A. Buerkle and L. H. Rieseberg. 2010. Genome scan of hybridizing sunflowers from Texas (Helianthus annuus and H. debilis) reveals asymmetric patterns of introgression and small islands. Molecular Ecology 19: 521–541. (article)
Teeter, K. C., L. M. Thibodeau, Z. Gompert, C. A. Buerkle, M. W. Nachman, and P. K. Tucker. 2010. The variable genomic architecture of isolation between hybridizing species of house mice. Evolution 64: 472–485. (article)
Gompert, Z. and C. A. Buerkle. 2010. introgress: a software package for mapping components of isolation in hybrids. Molecular Ecology Resources 10: 378–384. (article)
Nolte, A. W., Z. Gompert, and C. A. Buerkle. 2009. Variable patterns of introgression in two sculpin hybrid zones suggest that genomic isolation differs among populations. Molecular Ecology 18: 2615–2627. (article)
Buerkle, C. A.. 2009. Ecological context shapes hybridization dynamics. Molecular Ecology 18: 2077–2079. (article)
Gompert, Z. and C. A. Buerkle. 2009. A powerful regression-based method for admixture mapping of isolation across the genome of hybrids. Molecular Ecology 18: 1207–1224. (article) Habitat of
	  Penstemon haydenii in Wyoming.
Buerkle, C. A. and C. Lexer. 2008. Admixture as the basis for genetic mapping. TREE 23: 686–694. (article)
Buerkle, C. A. and L. H. Rieseberg. 2008. The rate of genome stabilization in homoploid hybrid species. Evolution 62: 266–275. (article)
Lexer, C., C. A. Buerkle, J. A. Joseph, B. Heinze, and M. F. Fay. 2007. Admixture in European Populus hybrid zones makes feasible the mapping of loci that contribute to reproductive isolation and trait differences. Heredity 98: 74–84. (article)
Buerkle, C. A. 2005. Maximum-likelihood estimation of a hybrid index based on molecular markers. Molecular Ecology Notes 5: 684–687. (article)
Buerkle, C. A., D. E. Wolf, and L. H. Rieseberg. 2003. The origin and extinction of species through hybridization. in Population Viability in Plants: Conservation, Management, and Modeling of Rare Plants, pp. 117–141. Springer Verlag.
Rieseberg, L. H., and C. A. Buerkle. 2002. Genetic mapping in hybrid zones. American Naturalist 159: S36–S50. (article)
Peichel, C. L., K. Nereng, K. A. Ohgi, B. L. E. Cole, P. F. Colosimo, C. A. Buerkle, D. Schluter, and D. M. Kingsley. 2001. The genetic architecture of divergence between threespine stickleback species. Nature 414: 901–905. (article)
Buerkle, C. A., and L. H. Rieseberg. 2001. Low intraspecific variation for genomic isolation between hybridizing sunflower species. Evolution 55: 684–691. (article)
Buerkle, C. A., R. J. Morris, M. A. Asmussen, and L. H. Rieseberg. 2000. The likelihood of homoploid hybrid speciation. Heredity 84: 441–451. (article)