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Sun et al. 2018 (click image to view full size)
Sun et al. 2018. Demonstrating genomic differences between ZAL2 and ZAL2m. Dan's mom drew the sparrows.
Sun et al. 2018 (click image to view full size)

Linking Genomes & Phenotypes

In collaboration with Dr. Donna Maney at Emory University, we are investigating how a prevalent chromosomal polymorphism in the white-throated sparrow (Zonotrichia albicollis) leads to two distinctive phenotypes. In this species, social behavior and plumage morph has been affected by an inversion polymorphism on chromosome 2. Individuals homozygous and heterozygous for this inversion exhibit contrasting patterns of behavior at many levels, including response to aggression, parental care, and extra-pair copulations. Because it predicts social behaviors, the inversion represents a powerful tool for understanding how genetic sequence encodes complex phenotypes. In collaboration with Dr. Maney’s lab, we are investigating genetic differences between the inverted and non-inverted chromosomes and how we can connect the genotypic differences to phenotypes. The long-term goal of this research is to understand how naturally occurring, heritable changes in genetic sequence have large, downstream effects on complex behavioral phenotypes.


An evolutionary biologist who uses genomic and epigenomic approaches.
Postdoctoral Scholar
A talented and multi-faceted neuroscientist using interdisciplinary methods to investigate proximate mechanisms of social behavior.
Graduate Student Researcher
Genomic scientist studying evolution of human brains and many other organisms.