Simone Des Roches, PhD
Wetland Ecosystem Team
School of Aquatic and Fisheries Sciences
College of the Environment
University of Washington, Seattle
intraspecific variation | eco-evo dynamics | rapid adaptation | ecomorphology | conservation
evolutionary ecology and
city planners & managers
We cannot study ecology and evolution in the Anthropocene without incorporating the influence of human society - how we as humans affect eco-evolutionary processes through habitat change, harvest, and movement of organisms, for example - and how those processes feed back toward us through nature's contributions to people, ecosystem services, and disservices.
Relationships among human society, ecology, and evolution are especially important in urban ecosystems, which are quintessentially built by and for our species - a highly social and omnipresent ecosystem engineer. As such, evolutionary ecology, conservation, and restoration in urban ecosystems must involve novel approaches that integrate humans and our society.
I take an multi-faceted approach to studying urban eco-evo; first, working with the Urban Ecology and Evolution Network to understand the functioning of urban ecosystems by and with human society, and second, working with the Wetland Ecosystem Team to study urban shoreline restoration with community scientists.
evolutionary ecology with
natural history museums
spatial & weather data
Our planet is facing unprecedented climate change and its species are experiencing novel, and sometimes dramatic, shifts in their surrounding habitats. I study if and how species adapt to these habitat shifts using a combination of historical museum collections, long term weather and spatial habitat data.
I explore the relationship among climate change, habitat, and intraspecific trait variation using Threespine Stickleback in Californian bar-built estuaries. My work shows that stickleback armour (a heritable trait), which is strongly associated with a latitudinal climate gradient, has also changed over the last 100 years.
Using "space-for-time" substitutions, I discovered that this shift in armour is likely due to stickleback adapting to estuaries with less water flow and more vegetation caused by drier and hotter weather.
Studying how multiple species adapt to the same novel environmental conditions can teach us a lot about the repeatability of evolution. Yet, studying the ecological dissimilarities among these species can also reveal how they experience the very same conditions in drastically different ways - sometimes as a result of interactions among them.
The geologically unique dunes of White Sands, New Mexico are home to three lizard species that independently evolved "blanched" colouration after colonizing < 6000 years ago. I examine how these lizards differ ecologically (what they eat, how they escape from predators) from one another and from their darker counterparts living off the dunes.
I also study intraspecific variation in colour and anatomical traits in two species at the White Sands ecotone - how natural selection acts on these traits in different ways as a result of their demography and ecology.
You can see me talk about my PhD work in this iconic system here!
evolutionary ecology in
a huge team of undergrads