Simone Des Roches, PhD


novel habitats


climate change



human society

Research Scientist

Wetland Ecosystem Team
School of Aquatic and Fisheries Sciences
College of the Environment
University of Washington, Seattle


contact me

intraspecific variation | eco-evo dynamics | rapid adaptation | ecomorphology | conservation

watercolour image of fucus seaweed

evolutionary ecology and

Human Society

working with

community scientists

city planners & managers

We cannot study ecology and evolution in the Anthropocene without including the influence of human society - how we as humans affect eco-evolutionary processes through habitat change, harvest, and movement of organisms, and how those processes feed back toward us through nature's contributions to people.
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 shoreline restoration with community scientists.

View my presentation on the importance of shoreline restoration for the Burien Environmental Science Center!

Related publications:

Des Roches et al 2021 Nature Ecology & EvolutionDes Roches et al 2020 Evolutionary Applications; Schell et al 2020 Science; Alberti et al 2020 Bioscience


evolutionary ecology with

Climate Change

working 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.

Related publications:

Stuble et al. 2021 BioScience; Des Roches et al 2020 Global Change Biology; Wasserman et al 2020 Oikos


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.

View an interview with the White Sands National Park about my PhD work on lizard evolution!

Related publications:

Des Roches et al 2017 Molec Ecol; Des Roches et al 2016 Oikos; Des Roches et al 2015 Evol Ecol; Des Roches et al 2014 BJLS; Des Roches et al 2011 Ecol & Evol 

evolutionary ecology in

Novel Habitats

working with

national parks

a huge team of undergrads

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