Carol scuba diving

Evolutionary Genetics of Invasive Species

Dr. Carol Eunmi LEE
Center of Rapid Evolution (CORE)

430 Lincoln Drive, Birge Hall
University of Wisconsin
Madison, WI 53706

Office:  (608) 262-2675
Lab:  (608) 262-9225

Research in the Lee Lab

Research in the Lee Laboratory focuses on the evolutionary responses to catastrophic environmental change, including biological invasions, climate change, and pollution (e.g. oil spills). Research in the Lee Lab integrates evolutionary genetics 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, a disproportionate number of invaders into freshwater habitats originate from more saline environments. What mechanisms allow particular populations to cross biogeographic boundaries into such radically different environments, when most cannot?

Current research projects include: (1) genomic mechanisms underlying adaption 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 as a model system. Other projects have examined other species crossing habitat boundaries, including other arthropods, molluscs, and fish. The small crustacean E. affinis presents a valuable model system because it is among the most common and abundant species in coastal habitats, supporting major fisheries, and has invaded freshwater habitats multiple times independently throughout the world. Examining the repeatability of mechanisms underlying freshwater adaptation during parallel invasions could reveal whether these evolutionary pathways are 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 is currently seeking graduate students with a strong background or interest in evolutionary biology or physiological ecology, preferably with experience in laboratory molecular genetics or strong quantitative skills. Graduate students in the Lee Lab are admitted through the UW Graduate Program in Genetics or the Department of Integrative Biology. Please contact Carol Lee (carollee(at) if you are interested in joining our team.



General Overview


Genetic and Physiological Targets of Selection during Habitat Invasions


Evolutionary Origins of Invasive Populations

(Site under Construction)



Metagenomics of the Copepod Microbiome



Cryptic Speciation among Invasive Populations

(Site under Construction)


Zebra and Quagga Mussel Invasions