REU research foci: Interactions between ecological and evolutionary processes in contemporary time (years to decades), including 1) how anthropogenic changes cause rapid evolution in nature, and 2) how such rapid evolution affects physiology (waste excretion) and species interactions (e.g. predator-prey).
Typical REU project: Climate change shapes contemporary evolution in many species and ecosystems, but general relationships are largely unknown. A student could investigate if climate change causes pond eutrophication via the contemporary evolution of fish body size, by selecting for smaller fish (via higher mortality of larger fish). Smaller fish have high waste excretion rates, potentially increasing nutrient availability and algal production, and causing eutrophication. From museum specimens (CAS, Museum of Vertebrate Zoology at UC Berkeley), a student would measure size of fish in ponds across California; assess correlations between rates of trait and environmental change; and experimentally test for ecosystem consequences of waste excretion rates, nutrient availability, and algal production.
Website: Palkovacs Research Lab