Jeanne Zeh

Jeanne Zeh

Associate Professor

Summary

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.

Education

  • 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