Levi T. Morran

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Contact Info

this is me
  • Levi T. Morran
  • lmorran@indiana.edu
Indiana University
Jordan Hall room 117
1001 E. 3rd St.
Bloomington, IN, USA 

I am currently an NIH NRSA postdoc in the Lively lab at Indiana University.

Please email me if you would like a full version of my CV.


  • 2009, PhD, University of Oregon
  • 2004, BS, Indiana University

Research interests

I am broadly interested in factors that either facilitate or constrain adaptive evolution. Currently I am exploring the roles that mating systems and coevolutionary dynamics play in adaptive evolution.

I utilize experimental evolution to directly test hypotheses and determine the manner in which evolution proceeds by characterizing both the phenotypic and genotypic changes that occur in evolving populations.


Mating systems dictate the manner in which genes are transmitted from parent to offspring, and therefore determine the level of genetic variation within and between lineages of a population. Mating systems are a key component of reproduction, and reproduction is a basic requirement in biology. Despite this ubiquitous importance, many different mating systems exist in nature. I am interested in the selective pressures that favor specific mating systems, the genetic consequences of different mating systems, and their overall role in shaping the evolutionary trajectory of a population and/or lineage over time.

I primarily work with the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans to study mating systems because this species utilizes two different mating strategies, outcrossing and self-fertilization.


Coevolution accounts for a significant proportion of the evolutionary change that occurs in nature. This is quite reasonable because most, if not all, species live as members of communities composed of many species. As a result of interactions between members in a community, many species utilize not only their own genome, but also the genome of other species to facilitate survival and reproduction in context of mutualistic interactions. Conversely, antagonistic interactions between species are capable of driving rapid evolutionary change between interacting species. Thus intergenomic interactions, resulting from both mutualistic and antagonistic coevolution, play a major role in shaping the evolutionary trajectory of many species. I am interested in learning how coevolutionary interactions affect each interacting species, and also understanding the role that mating systems play in determining the outcome of coevolutionary interactions.

I am working with C. elegans and the bacterial pathogen, Serratia marcescens, to study antagonistic coevolution. I am also working with the nematode Steinernema carpocapsae and its bacterial symbiont, Xenorhabdus nematophila, to study mutualistic coevolution.



  1. Morran, L.T., O.G. Schmidt, I.A. Gelarden, R.C. Parrish II, C.M. Lively. 2011. Running with the Red Queen: Host-parasite coevolution selects for bi-parental sex. Science. Jul 8; 333 (6039): 216-8.
  2. Morran, L.T., A. Ohdera, and P.C. Phillips. 2010. Purging deleterious mutations under self-fertilization: Paradoxical recovery in fitness with increasing mutation rate in Caenorhabditis elegans. PLoS ONE. 5(12): e14473. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0014473
  3. Anderson J.L., Morran L.T., Phillips P.C. 2010. Outcrossing and the maintenance of males within C. elegans populations. J Hered. Mar-Apr; 101 Suppl 1: S62-74.
  4. Morran L.T., Parmenter M.D., Phillips P.C. 2009. Mutation load and rapid adaptation favour outcrossing over self-fertilization. Nature. Nov 19; 462 (7271): 350-2.
  5. Morran L.T., Cappy B.J., Anderson J.L., Phillips P.C. 2009. Sexual partners for the stressed: facultative outcrossing in the self-fertilizing nematode Caenorhabditis elegans. Evolution. Jun; 63 (6): 1473-82.
  6. Bashey, F., L.T. Morran, and C.M. Lively. 2007. Coinfection, kin selection, and the rate of host exploitation by a parasitic nematode. Evolutionary Ecology Research 9: 947-958.

Research in News and Media Coverage

Running with the Red Queen:

Science Perspectives, Brockhurst, MA. 2011 Evolution: Sex, death, and the Red Queen.

BBC News


The Washington Post




National Geographic News Watch

Purging deleterious mutations under self-fertilization:


Mutation load and rapid adaptation favour outcrossing over self-fertilization:

Faculty of 1000 review

News and Views, Agrawal, AF. 2009 Evolutionary biology: Why reproduction often takes two.

The Oregonian

Not Exactly Rocket Science




The following two links include sexual content that may not be suitable for all individuals:



Science and Faith

I am an evolutionary biologist and a follower of Jesus. I chose evolutionary biology (and specifically experimental evolution) as a field of study to get a firsthand look at the process of evolution as part of a personal search for truth. After almost 10 years of research, I am continually fascinated by, and an ardent proponent of, evolution and its comprehensive ability to explain the diversity of life on Earth. My quest for truth through the study of evolution has only served to strengthen my faith and allowed me to experience intellectual and spiritual freedom by embracing both faith and science as integral components in my life.

Given my faith and my love of science, it should be no surprise that I have a keen interest in the creation/evolution debate currently ongoing in the United States. I believe that Intelligent Design and certain forms of Creationism threaten to undermine the scientific integrity of science classrooms across the country, while also marginalizing and sabotaging religious faith. I am particularly interested in making science and the scientific method accessible, comprehensible, and nonthreatening to faith-based groups in an effort to preserve scientific integrity and reconcile the fact of evolution with the choice to have faith in the supernatural.

I am profoundly interested in the relationship between science and faith. It is one of my favorite discussion points, so please feel free to email me with your thoughts or comments. I truly enjoy civil discussion and hearing different points of view.

Ken Miller and Francis Collins are excellent scientists and scholars that present compelling cases regarding the compatibility of science and faith. I highly recommend their work to anyone exploring this topic.

Organizations I Support

  • Team Zachary raises funds for Lymphoma research through the University of Nebraska Medical Center in memory of my best friend Zach May.
  • Smoky Mountain Great Dane Rescue, run by my brother and his wife, fosters, adopts, and advocates for Great Danes in the Southeastern US.
  • National Center for Science Education is an organization that advocates for the inclusion of evolution and exclusion of nonscientific "origins" theories in public school science curricula.

Lifetime Collaborators

Research Partner

Research Assistant #1........ Cute Kid
Research Assistant #2........ Fierce Beast

Fun Stuff



  • WTTS Fm 92.3 From Dylan to Marley to Dave, they play great music.
  • Carbon Leaf Great band everyone should check out!
  • Mat Kearney Excellent musician and great performer!
  • I've been known to listen to some George Strait every now and then too.



I like cheeseburgers, burritos, and subs more than anyone really should. Here are a few of my favorites:

  • Cornucopia- Best burgers in Eugene, OR!
  • Opie Taylor's- Great burgers in Bloomington, IN! I attempted the Double Tank Burger Challenge and failed miserably. If you are up for a challenge, go for it! I hope you have better luck than me!
  • Laughing Planet Cafe - Great burritos in Eugene and Bloomington!
  • Dagwood's- Awesome subs in B-Town! I highly recommend the Dagwood Supreme.