Jeanne Zeh, Ph.D.

Associate Professor
Jeanne Zeh

Contact Information


  • Biological Technician, Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, Balboa, Republic of Panamá, 1991 - 1993
  • Ph.D., Ecology & Evolutionary Biology, Rice University, Houston, 1996
  • B.A., Ecology & Evolutionary Biology, University of Arizona, Tucson, 1986

Research Interests:

Ecological and evolutionary epigenetics; sexual selection and speciation.

I conduct research at the interface of behavior, genetics and evolution, and utilize a variety of methods ranging from next-generation DNA sequencing to field studies of sexual selection. I am particularly interested in ecological and evolutionary epigenetics, an emerging field that can address long-standing issues involving the origin and maintenance of biological diversity. At the macroevolutionary scale, epigenetic regulation arose to defend against transposable elements, and our analysis of comparative data suggests that coevolution between eukaryotes and their nucleic acid parasites has been a driving force in biological diversification. Epigenetics plays a key role in speciation, particularly in flowering plants and mammals, with disruption of parent-of-origin gene expression contributing disproportionately to post-zygotic reproduction isolation. At the ecological and microevolutionary scales, epigenetic variation is widespread in natural populations, and is an important source of heritable variation that is independent of DNA sequence variation. Unlike the genome, the epigenome is acutely sensitive to physiological stress and developmental perturbations, and we are currently developing molecular tools to investigate the epigenetic basis for reproductive dysfunction resulting from climate change and exposure to environmental toxins.

Courses Taught

  • BIOL 191 Introduction to Organismal Biology
  • BIOL 454/654 Genomic Conflict, Epigenetics and Human Disease
  • EECB 752 Ecological and evolutionary epigenetics
  • EECB 752  Divided Selves: Genomic Conflicts and Behavioral Ecology


  • 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.
  • Bonilla M.M., D.W. Zeh, A.M. White & J.A. Zeh. 2011. Discriminating males and unpredictable females: males bias sperm allocation in favor of virgin females. Ethology 117, 740-748.
  • 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. 2008. Maternal inheritance, epigenetics and the evolution of polyandry. Genetica 134, 45-54.
  • Zeh, J.A. & D.W. Zeh. 2008. Viviparity-driven conflict: more to speciation than meets the fly. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences 1133, 126-148.
  • 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, 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. 2003. Toward a new sexual selection paradigm: polyandry, conflict and incompatibility. Ethology 109, 929-950.
  • Zeh, J.A. & D.W. Zeh. 1996. The evolution of polyandry I: intragenomic conflict and genetic incompatibility. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London B 263, 1711-1717.