House Finch

Role of Infections and Avian Evolution

Allison Shultz, Ph.D.

Tue, Feb 09, 2021 7:00 PM

Photo of Allison Shultz

Allison Shultz is an ornithologist and Assistant Curator of Ornithology at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County. Dr. Shultz integrates research across evolutionary timescales to gain an understanding of the processes that produce the patterns of biodiversity.

Pathogens are in a constant evolutionary arms race as hosts evolve to be better at resisting pathogens, and pathogens evolve to be better at infecting hosts. Allison’s research focuses on studying this process from the hosts’ perspective. Her research focuses on understanding if this interaction is resulting in signatures of selection at the same genes in divergent species. She recently found that in birds (and mammals!), genes under positive selection are likely to be immune genes, especially those that interact with viruses.

She is also investigating the process of pathogen-mediated selection by studying a time-series of House Finch genomes. House Finches were exposed to a new pathogen (Mycoplasma gallisepticum) in 1994, resulting in a 60% decline in many places. By studying how the genome has changed through time (before the new pathogen, 10 years after, and 20 years after) Dr. Shultz is learning that resistance likely evolved at many regions of the genome rather than at a single gene. In this webinar Dr. Shultz will educate us on infections and avian evolution. We know you can’t resist!

Here is a video of the talk: