Kevin Wright

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Research Interests

I am a graduate student at Duke University co-advised by Dr. Mark Rausher and Dr. John Willis. I am broadly interested in genetic architecture of adaptive traits. I study the evolution of copper tolerance in Mimulus guttatus populations inhabiting mines in Copperopolis, CA. Previous research by Mark Macnair has demonstrated that tolerance is confered by a single locus. David Lowry and I are collaborating with Mark Macnair to map this tolerance locus. I am also initiating a full QTL analysis to map loci which modify the strength of copper tolerance. I am interested in determining how these loci interact and affect fitness on the copper mine. In the spring of 2007 I conducted a reciprocal transplant experiment at the Napoleon Mine, just outside Copperopolis. I measured the fitness of 900 on and off-mine parental plants, as well as 900 F2 hybrids. I collected tissue from survivial F2 plants in the on and off mine environment and I plan to test for an association between fitness in the field and the copper tolerance locus identified in the lab.

My work in the Rausher Lab is focused on modeling the evolution of metabolic networks. I am interested in how natural selection on the products of these networks affects the genes comprising these networks. Metabolic pathways are highly interactive systems in which changes in upstream enzymes generate cascading effects throughout a system. Upstream enzymes have the greatest effect on the rate of flux through the pathway. Conversely, developmental networks are more buffered to perturbation because of the relationship between transcription factors and their target genes and the ubiquity of negative feedback loops. The genetic interactions in these networks affect how they respond to natural selection. In metabolic systems, adaptive genetic changes occur in upstream enzymes because downstream enzymes have little effect on metabolic flux. Genetic changes have more local effects in developmental networks, thus selection on a product of this network will result in changes in the genes directly generating that target.

Field Site

Central smelter at Copperopolis, Ca
Central smelter at Copperopolis, Ca
Mimulus cupriphilis in Copperopolis, Ca
Mimulus cupriphilis in Copperopolis, Ca
Napoleon Mine
Napoleon Mine,_California


Wu, C. A., D. B. Lowry, A. M. Cooley, K. M. Wright, Y. W. Lee, and J. H. Willis. (2007). Mimulus is an emerging model system for the integration of ecological and genomic studies. Heredity In Press .

Kandul, N. P., K. M. Wright, E. V. Kandul, and M. A. F. Noor. 2006. No evidence for learned mating discrimination in male Drosophila pseudoobscura. BMC Evolutionary Biology, 6: 54.

Silander, O. K., D. M. Weinreich, K.M. Wright, K. J. O'Keefe, C. U. Rang, P. E. Turner, and L. Chao (2005). Widespread genetic exchange among terrestrial bacteriophages. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 102(52) 19009 - 14.


BS. Ecology, Behavior and Evolution. University of Califonnia, San Diego. 2003.

Contact Information

(919) 660-7223

Department of Biology, Duke University. Box 90338 Durham, NC 27708

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