I am interested in the circumstances that would lead to the fixation of a higher mutation rate in populations. A high mutation rate will typically be maladaptive (there are more mutations are detrimental in nature than beneficial), but if a mutator causes a rare beneficial mutation, that mutator may hitchhike to fixation. Using digital organisms in Avida, I can identify conditions under which a population will fix a higher mutation rate if it is easy to mutate to a higher mutation rate but difficult to go back to a lower mutation rate. This experiment closely resembles what occurred in the Lenski long-term evolution experiment where six of the twelve populations have become mutator lines due to damaged repair systems, which have increased their effective mutation rates by a hundred fold. My study focuses on the effects of changing environments, which will help us understand the conditions under which a higher mutation rate is beneficial for a population.
I am also interested in seeing if parasites or antibiotics can lead a population to fix a higher mutation rate as well. I will use Avida to see what external negative parameters can lead a population to fix a higher mutation rate as compared to the original.
- neem [snail] uw [period] edu -> mailto:neem [snail] uw [period] edu
- 456 Kincaid Hall