Young Wha Lee

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I am a 6th year graduate student in the University Program in Genetics and Genomics at Duke, advised by Dr. John Willis (Duke) and Dr. John Kelly (University of Kansas). I am interested in complex trait variation and evolution.

  • What is the the genetic basis of complex traits?
  • What processes maintain standing variation for complex traits?
  • Is the genetic architecture of the trait itself evolvable?
  • Does the genetic architecture of standing variation constrain adaptation and divergence?

I work mostly on a population of Mimulus guttatus on Iron Mountain in the Oregon Cascades.

  • The site:

It's an awesome field site; an alpine meadow of about 1200 sq ft, at elevation 4000 feet off a wildflower hiking trail. The population census is in the hundreds of thousands, the monkeyflowers are annuals producing usually one fruit, the growing season is short and extreme (plants germinate under snow or overwinter, and die from drought). Also, there is a lot of micro-habitat variation in soil moisture and temperature (and who knows what else). Here are some pictures:

  • The trait

The focal trait is flower size. Biometric tests (see Kelly and Willis 2001) have shown that much of the abundant standing variation for this trait is due to alleles at intermediate frequency. Flower size is genetically correlated with traits that have consequences for fitness in the field such as flowering time (drought escape), WUE (drought tolerance) as well as pollen number and seed set.

What maintains flower size variation at a given locus? For example, is it GEI for fitness in a heterogenous environment? Antagonistic pleiotropy with flowering time in a water limited growing season? I aim to test these hyotheses in field conditions.

  • The alleles?

This is what I have done in terms of genetic dissection. Ultimately, my goal is to define segregating alleles for multiple flower size alleles through recombinational and LD mapping and to test their effects on fitness components in situ.

  • I have


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)

Xu X, Hotta CT, Dodd AN, Love J, Sharrock R, Lee YW, Xie Q, Johnson CH, Webb AA. (2007). Distinct Light and Clock Modulation of Cytosolic Free Ca2+ Oscillations and Rhythmic CHLOROPHYLL A/B BINDING PROTEIN2 Promoter Activity in Arabidopsis. Plant Cell (in press)


B.A. Biology. Vanderbilt University. 2002.

Contact Info


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

here is a CV: