David Zeh

David Zeh

Vice Provost for Graduate Education, Dean of the Graduate School he, him


As Vice Provost for Graduate Education and Dean of the Graduate School, Dr. Zeh identifies strategic issues affecting graduate education at the University, and has oversight of graduate student progress and the rules and regulations governing graduate education at Nevada. Prior to his current position, Zeh was chair of the University's Department of Biology, one of the University's largest departments with more than 1,300 undergraduate students pursuing degrees in biology and neuroscience. An accomplished researcher, professor and graduate-student advisor, Zeh is also past chair of the University's Faculty Senate. Zeh is a graduate of Long Island University, and received his doctoral degree in ecology and evolutionary biology from the University of Arizona in 1986. He was a postdoctoral fellow from 1987 to 1991 at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in Balboa in Panama and was a NATO postdoctoral fellow in 1992 in the Department of Genetics at the University of Nottingham in the United Kingdom. He was a biology faculty member at the University of Houston prior to joining the University of Nevada, Reno in 1998. Zeh's research centers on evolutionary biology and molecular genetics.

Research Interests

The neo-Darwinian model in which evolution acts on Mendelian genes embedded within static genomes is a paradigm increasingly at odds with discoveries in comparative genomics and molecular genetics. For example, lateral gene transfer is now known to be a common feature of prokaryotic evolution. Potentially disruptive, mobile genetic elements are a predominant component of many eukaryotic genomes, sometimes constituting an order of magnitude more DNA sequence than protein-coding genes. Cellular endosymbionts, such as Wolbachia, act as "parasitic sex puppeteers," killing or feminizing males in a staggering diversity of arthropod hosts, while genomically-imprinted genes in mammalian embryos violate Mendelian principles by varying their expression, depending on whether they are inherited through sperm or eggs. I believe that non-Mendelian inheritance, genomic conflict, and the non-additive gene effects they generate have major implications for behavioral ecology, population biology and evolution. Accordingly, our research group has focused on investigating the implications of non-Mendelian genetic mechanisms for multiple levels in the evolutionary hierarchy. Recent projects include studies of the impact of strict maternal inheritance of mitochondria for male adaptation (or lack thereof), the implications of viviparity-driven conflict for the relative rates at which pre- and post-zygotic reproductive isolation evolve, and stress-induced breakdown in the epigenetic regulation of transposable elements as a driving force in punctuated equilibria and biological diversification.

Courses Taught

  • BIOL 191 Introduction to Organismal Biology
  • BIOL 415/615 Evolution
  • EECB 752 Ecological and Evolutionary Epigenetics
  • EECB 752 Molecular Genetic Approaches to Conservation Biology

Selected Publications

  • Zeh, J.A., M.M. Bonilla, A.J. Adrian, S. Mesfin & D.W. Zeh. 2012. From father to son: transgenerational effect of tetracycline on sperm viability. Scientific Reports 2: 375 (1-5).
  • Zeh J.A., M.M. Bonilla, E.J. Su, M.V. Padua, R.V. Anderson, D. Kaur, D.-S. Yang & D.W. Zeh. 2012. Degrees of disruption: projected temperature increase has catastrophic consequences for reproduction in a tropical ectotherm. Global Change Biology, 18, 1833-1842.
  • Koop, J.L., D.W. Zeh, M.M. Bonilla & J.A. Zeh. 2009. Reproductive compensation favors male-killing Wolbachia in a live-bearing host. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London B 276, 4021-4028.
  • Zeh, D.W. & J.A. Zeh. 2009. Transposable elements and an epigenetic basis for punctuated equilibria. BioEssays, 31: 715-726
  • Zeh, J.A. & D.W. Zeh. 2006. Outbred embryos rescue inbred half siblings in mixed paternity broods of live-bearing females. Nature 439, 201-203.
  • Zeh, D.W., J.A. Zeh & M.M. Bonilla. 2005. Wolbachia, sex ratio bias and apparent male killing in the harlequin beetle riding pseudoscorpion. Heredity 95, 41-49.
  • Zeh, J.A. & D.W. Zeh. 2005. Maternal inheritance, sexual conflict and the maladapted male. Trends in Genetics 21, 281-286.
  • Zeh, J.A., D.W. Zeh & M.M. Bonilla. 2003. Phylogeography of the harlequin beetle-riding pseudoscorpion and the rise of the Isthmus of Panamá. Molecular Ecology 12, 2759-2769.
  • Zeh, J.A. & D.W. Zeh. 2003. Toward a new sexual selection paradigm: polyandry, conflict and incompatibility. Ethology 109, 929-950.
  • Zeh, D.W. & J.A. Zeh. 2000. Reproductive mode and speciation: the viviparity-driven conflict hypothesis. BioEssays 22, 938-946.


  • NSF/NATO Postdoctoral Fellow, Department of Genetics, University of Nottingham, United Kingdom, 1992
  • Postdoctoral Fellow, Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, Balboa, Republic of Panamá, 1987-1991.
  • Ph.D., Ecology & Evolutionary Biology University of Arizona, 1986
  • B.S., Southampton College, 1978