Rapid Evolutionary Responses to Global Change  

Dr. Carol Eunmi LEE
Department of Integrative Biology
University of Wisconsin, Madison

430 Lincoln Drive, Birge Hall
Madison, WI 53706
Office:  (608) 262-2675
Lab:  (608) 262-9225
Email: carollee(at)wisc.edu


     Research in the Lee Lab

Research in the Lee Laboratory focuses on evolutionary responses to catastrophic environmental change, including biological invasions, climate change, and pollution (e.g. oil spills). Our research integrates evolutionary genetics/genomics and physiology in an ecological context in order to gain core insights into mechanisms that enable expansions into novel niches. Our approaches integrate all hierarchical levels of biological organization, exploring molecular genetic mechanisms underlying niche evolution, in order to understand biogeographical patterns at oceanographic scales in nature.

Much of the research centers on physiological and evolutionary mechanisms of adaptation during habitat change. For instance, many invaders into freshwater habitats originate from more saline environments, much more than expected based on transport opportunity of propagule pressure. Such invaders originally from saline environments include zebra and quagga mussels. In addition, habitat salinity is changing throughout the globe due to climate change. For instance, in high latitude environments, coastal waters are becoming fresher due to enormous volumes of ice melt and increases in precipitation. What mechanisms allow only some populations to cross biogeographic boundaries into such radically different environments, when most cannot?

Current research projects include: (1) genomic mechanisms underlying adaptation associated with radical habitat change, (2) mechanisms of physiological evolution during habitat shifts, and (3) metagenomics of the microbial assemblage associated with the invading host. Most projects use the copepod Eurytemora affinis species complex as a model system. Other projects have examined other taxa crossing habitat boundaries, including other arthropods, molluscs, and fish.

Zooplankton, the small floating animals in the water column, are critical in aquatic ecosystems as grazers of algae and food sources for major fisheries. The largest component of zooplankton, and likely the most abundant animals on earth, are copepods (small crustaceans). Given their numerical dominance, understanding how copepod populations can evolve in response to environmental change is of critical ecological importance. The copepod Eurytemora affinis complex presents a valuable model system because of our genomic resources (full genome sequences from multiple clades), short generation times, and ease of culturing that enables laboratory evolution experiments. This copepod is among the most common and abundant metazoan species in coastal habitats, supporting major fisheries, such as salmon, herring, and anchovy. This copepod has invaded freshwater habitats from saline estuaries multiple times independently throughout the world. Native populations of this copepod are also encountering salinity change as a result of climate change. Examining the repeatability of mechanisms underlying freshwater adaptation during habitat transitions could reveal the mechanisms that enable evolutionary pathways to be labile or constrained.

Long-term research interests in the Lee Lab focus on evolutionary dynamics at the interface between habitat boundaries, and factors that allow shifts in habitat type. Results from such research not only have broad implications for biological invasions, but also for understanding global anthropogenic change and macroevolutionary processes, such as the colonization of land. 

The Lee Lab welcomes members with a strong interest and background in evolutionary genetics/genomics or evolutionary physiology, preferably with experience in laboratory molecular genetics or strong quantitative skills. Graduate students in the Lee Lab are admitted through the Graduate Program in Integrative Biology or the Graduate Program in Genetics. Please contact Carol Lee (carollee(at)wisc.edu) if you are interested in joining our research group.

The Lee Lab is also currently seeking Postdoctoral Researchers to join our dynamic and multi-disciplinary team. One postdoc will be hired to work in the satellite Lee Lab at the Université de Montpellier in France, where Dr. Lee is an Adjunct Professor.

Lee Lab News:

July 2022: David Stern et al.'s paper is out in Nature Communications
See press release here. Link to the research publication is here.

April, 2022: Former lab member Dr. Brian Metzger was offered a faculty position at Purdue University!

March, 2022: Dr. Antoine Fraimont has joined the Lee satellite lab at Université de Montpellier as a postdoctoral researcher  

September, 2021: Dr. Zhenyong Du from China Agricultural University (Beijing) has joined the Lee Lab as a postdoctoral researcher  

January, 2021: Carol Lee was awarded a "Bridging Ecology and Evolution" grant from the National Science Foundation to integrate information on genotypes under selection during climate change with demographic responses and potential for evolutionary rescue, range expansions, or extinctions

November, 2020: Former graduate Marijan Posavi's paper on Rapid evolution of genome-wide gene expression during freshwater invasions is published in Molecular Ecology 

September, 2020: Postdoc David Stern has obtained a computational genomics position at NIH-NIAID!

September, 2020: Nathan Anderson and Jacob Fredette-Roman have joined the lab as graduate students   

June, 2020: Postdoc David Stern is interviewed and his research is featured in Nature Ecology & Evolution

May, 2020: Postdoc David Stern's paper on the Evolutionary origins of genomic adaptations in a copepod is published in Nature Ecology & Evolution

April, 2020: Undergraduate researcher Ben Wilson received the UW Hilldale Award

March, 2020: Former graduate student Davorka Gulisija has started her faculty position at the University of New Mexico and has set up her "Computational Genetics and Evolution Lab"

October, 2019: Carol Lee has been awarded the "Make Our Planet Great Again" grant from Macron's initiative in France. She is collaborating with colleagues at the Université de Montpellier to conduct research on evolutionary responses to climate change

March, 2019: Carol Lee received a travel grant from Taiwan's government to collaborate with Taiwanese colleagues (Sean Chen) on the analysis of arthropod genome evolution  


Sample Publications:

Stern DB, NW Anderson, JA Diaz, CE Lee. 2022. Genome-wide signatures of synergistic epistasis during parallel adaptation in a Baltic Sea copepod. Nature Communications. 13:4024.

Stern, DB, CE Lee. 2020. Evolutionary origins of genomic adaptations in an invasive copepod. Nature Ecology & Evolution. 4:1084-1094. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41559-020-1201-y Supplementary Tables

Posavi M, D Gulisija, JC Silva, CE Lee. 2020. Rapid evolution of genome-wide expression and plasticity during saline to freshwater invasions by a copepod. Molecular Ecology. 29:4835-4856. DOI: 10.1111/mec.15681

Eyun, S et al. 2017. Evolutionary history of chemosensory-related gene families across the Arthropoda. Molecular Biology and Evolution. 34:1838-1862. 

Lee, CE. 2016. Evolutionary mechanisms of habitat invasions, using the copepod Eurytemora affinis as a model system. Evolutionary Applications. 9:248-270.  

Posavi M, GW Gelembiuk, B Larget, CE Lee. 2014. Testing for beneficial reversal of dominance during salinity shifts in the invasive copepod Eurytemora affinis, and implications for the maintenance of genetic variation. Evolution. 68:3166-3183.  

Lee, CE, GW Gelembiuk. 2008. Evolutionary origins of invasive populations. Evolutionary Applications. 1:427-448. 

Lee, CE. 2002. Evolutionary genetics of invasive species. Trends in Ecology and Evolution. 17: 386-391.