We are an international group of evolutionary biologists. Together, we investigate how populations evolve and adapt to environmental stress. We are especially interested in the genetic and phenotypic responses of populations to life in deteriorating or poor quality environments and the role of hybridization in evolution.

We use the microbe Baker’s yeast (aka Brewer’s or budding yeast – Saccharomyces cerevisiae) and its wild relatives, and a combination of experimental evolution and genome sequencing to understand what drives the dynamics of adaptation. We work with populations that range in genetic variation from clonal (i.e. genetically identical individuals) to extremely diverse (for instance hybrid swarms made from crossing different species) and evolve these populations for hundreds of generations in stressful environments. This allows us to watch evolution in action and freezing populations at different time points gives us a yeasty “fossil record”. We use this to parse the contributions of the four population genetic processes – mutation, genetic drift, recombination and selection – to adaptation.

Thanks to the Awesome Power of Yeast Genetics, and the fact that it reproduces asexually and sexually, yeast is a great system to study what constrains and drives evolutionary adaptation. It is also a perfect experimental system to scrutinize the role of hybridization in evolution.

Some of the questions we are currently working on:

  • What is the genetic architecture of fitness and adaptation under environmental stress?
  • How likely is parallel evolution when populations adapt from standing genetic variation?
  • How do the type and rate of environmental change affect adaptation dynamics?
  • What is the evolutionary significance of structural genomic variation (e.g. aneuploidy), and how does it affect (hybrid) fitness?
  • Is the distribution of fitness effects (DFE) comparable across environments and systems? This is a collaboration with great colleagues at the Math Dept (Chun-Biu Li).
  • We’re also working with insects (at least bioinformatically). Together with David Berger at Uppsala University, we are looking at temperature adaptation and the evolution of phenotypic plasticity in seed beetles (Callosobruchus maculatus).

If you are interested in any of the above or related questions, please contact

We currently have a 2-year postdoc position available in “Genomics of Temperature Adaptation”. You will explore the genetic basis of adaptation to heat stress under relevant global warming scenarios, using long-term experimental evolution with eight yeast species from diverse ecological and geographic backgrounds, and functionally validate putative thermotolerance genes. Applications are due 30 April 2023. Start date in spring/summer 2023. Get in touch with Rike for any informal inquiries.

We are also always looking for interested Master’s students, who want to join the lab. See examples for available MSc projects here, but we are happy to discuss your own interesting project ideas, too!

Where_the_wild_things_are28Illustration by Susanne Landis: