I've moved to the University of Vienna...

Look for my lab website in upcoming months at the Botany and Biodiversity department at the University of Vienna.

Research Interests

My research centres on the evolution of natural populations, focusing on the interplay between evolutionary and ecological processes, and the mechanisms by which they impact genetic variation. I address fundamental questions related to local adaptation, speciation, population genetics, mating systems, polyploidy and genetic rescue.

  • Which genetic differences contribute to reproductive isolation and how did they arise?

  • Can new species form in the face of gene flow?

  • What is the structure of the fitness landscape?

  • How can we detect selection and infer past history from current patterns of sequence data?

  • What is the best strategy for genetic rescue, and how does trait complexity influence the outcome?

My research generates and test hypothesis using a variety of approaches and model (and non-model) plant systems. This integrated approach includes, large-scale ecological field surveys and manipulative experiments, quantitative genetics, genomics, theory and comparative analyses. The study systems span three continents with diverse life histories, including Eucalypts, Sorrel (Rumex) and Snapdragons (Antirrhinum).

 A major goal of evolutionary biology is to understand how diverging populations become distinct species. With Prof. Nick Barton, I am studying the ecological and genetic mechanisms underlying reproductive isolation and speciation between subspecies of Antirrhinum majus (snapdragons). Here, flower colour differences are the major isolating barrier and are controlled primarily by the interaction of a few loci of major affect. When they meet, narrow hybrid zones form, providing natural laboratories to study the genetics of reproductive isolation in nature. In the genus, flower colour transitions are thought to play a major role in speciation. This still raises the question as to how the alleles that control the distinct phenotypes arise and spread despite strong barriers to invasion into parental populations. In order to understand how the hybrid zone is maintained, I am using a large multi-generational pedigree (n = 15,000) to examine the fitness landscape for these interacting flower colour (speciation) genes. Direct estimates of the fitness of phenotypes can then be linked to their underlying genotypes and compared with indirect estimates of selection (i.e. clines and changes in allele frequencies through time). In collaboration with researchers at the John Innes Centre, I am also using Whole Genome Sequencing (WGS) to investigate divergence across the genome to determine how these barrier genes arose.

For more details see my Research Page.

 

Career

2016-              Assistant Professor, University of Vienna, Austria

2011-2016       Postdoctoral Fellow, IST Austria (Prof. Nick Barton)

2008-2011       Postdoctoral Fellow, University of Toronto (Prof. Spencer Barrett)

2002-2008       PhD, CSIRO Plant Industry & University of Wollongong (Prof. Andrew Young)

Publications

Ellis TJ, Field DL (accepted). Repeated gains in yellow and anthocyanin pigmentation in flower colour transitions in the Antirrhineae. Annals of Botany.

Teitel Z, Pickup M, Field DL, Barrett SCH (2015) The dynamics of resource allocation and costs of reproduction in a sexually dimorphic wind-pollinated annual plant. Plant Biology

Field DL, Pickup M, Barrett SCH (2013) Ecological context and metapopulation dynamics affect sex-ratio variation among dioecious plant populations. Annals of Botany. 111: 917923.

Pickup M, Field DL, Rowell, D.M, Young, A.G (2013) The importance of source population for heterosis in fragmented plant populations. Proceedings of the Royal Society B. 5: 913–924.

Field DL, Pickup M, Barrett SCH (2013) Comparative analyses of sex-ratio variation in dioecious flowering plants. Evolution. 67: 661–672.

Pickup M, Field DL, Rowell, D.M, Young, A.G (2012) Predicting local adaptation in fragmented plant populations: implications for restoration genetics. Evolutionary Applications, 5: 913–924.

Field DL & Barrett SCH (2012) Disassortative mating and the maintenance of sexual polymorphism in painted maple. Molecular Ecology, 21, 3640-3643.

Field DL, Pickup M, Barrett SCH (2012) The influence of stigmatic pollen load on fertilization success, sex ratio and fitness in a wind pollinated annual dioecious plant. International Journal of Plant Sciences, 173, 184-191.

*Field DL, Ayre DJ, Whelan RJ, Young AG (2011) The importance of pre-mating barriers and the local demographic context for contemporary mating patterns in hybrid zones of Eucalyptus aggregata and E. rubida. Molecular Ecology, 20, 2367-2379. [*featured perspective article by Berthold Heinz]

Field DL, Ayre DJ, Whelan RJ, Young AG (2011) Patterns of hybridization and asymmetrical gene flow in hybrid zones of the rare Eucalyptus aggregata and common E. rubida. Heredity, doi:10.1038/hdy.2010.127

Barrett SCH, Yakimowski SB, Field DL, Pickup M (2010) Ecological genetics of sex ratios in plant populations. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B, 365, 2549-2557

Field DL, Ayre DJ, Whelan RJ, Young AG (2009) Molecular and morphological evidence of natural interspecific hybridization between the uncommon Eucalyptus aggregata and the widespread E. rubida and E. viminalis. Conservation Genetics, 10, 881-896.

Field DL, Ayre DJ, Whelan RJ, Young AG (2008) Relative frequency of sympatric species influences interspecific hybridization rates, seed production and seedling performance in fragmented populations of Eucalyptus aggregata. Journal of Ecology, 96, 1198-1210.

Field, DL, Ayre, DJ and Whelan, RJ (2005). Local plant density and its impact on the pollinator behaviour and the breeding system of Persoonia bargoensis. International Journal of Plant Sciences, 166, 969-977.