Currently we are recruiting graduate students for the following projects:
1) Examining the genetic basis of mimetic color diversity in bumble bees. Bumble bees represent a hyper color diverse system with exceptional examples of convergence and divergence amenable for evolutionary genetic research. Our previous research (Tian et al, 2019, PNAS) has revealed that homeotic shifts in Hox genes are implicated in this color diversity in one bumble bee. We wish to expand this research to exploring the genetic basis of coloration in comimetic and other color diverse bumble bee species to get this new system off the ground and better understand how genotypes translate to phenotypes under selection.
2) Mechanisms of gall induction in gall wasps. Gall wasps have evolved to construct their own niche by inducting plants to build predictable structures that houses and feeds these wasps. The ability to tap into the development of another organism to induce external phenotypes is exciting but as of yet poorly understood. We are pursuing a comparative transcriptomic approach of several gall wasp species to build hypotheses and better understand mechanisms of gall induction in gall wasps.
3) Understanding gall evolution with phylogenomics. We seek to explore how gall wasps have evolved gall induction strategies and how gall morphologies and respective inducing glandular morphologies have evolved using a phylogenetic framework. This student will be involved in rearing and curating several hundred of gall wasp species, and sequencing and analyzing their relationships and history using phylogenomic approaches.
In addition to these projects, PI Hines is interested in pursuing several ongoing projects in the lab with interested students, including understanding bee epidemiology and the factors driving it, understanding genetic mechanisms for social loss and parasitic gain in socially parasitic bumble bees, insect pigmentation research, and exploring the role of floral secondary compounds on floral visitation bias by bees.